Apparently the Honorable Senator was unaware that the Whatsapp service was a messaging platform, not an email service. Perhaps the most pivotal legal question that Facebook is facing right now — whether Facebook is a platform or a publisher — was never directly asked. In short, our representatives have no idea what they are dealing with.
This is incredibly worrying. Our congress and senate are filled with old men and women who don’t know how the world works now and are supposed to pass laws to prepare us for the future. Some of these same concerns have been raised about the Supreme Court in the past: that they don’t understand the technology — and its implications — that they are ruling on. Our judiciary is ruling on the constitutionality of technology that they do not understand and our legislature is attempting to regulate companies whose purpose they cannot comprehend.
In short, our government is not equipped to handle new technology and its implications.
It is somewhat funny, somewhat depressing, to have watched this hearing and listen to our representatives miss the mark by so much. But it becomes even more depressing when you realize that the government has been violating your privacy for years. Whistleblower Edward Snowden — love him or hate him — risked everything to expose the vastness of the surveillance that American intelligence agencies were using to gather data on their own citizens. Not only are our lawmakers fools but, seemingly, hypocrites too.
True, perhaps no one is really prepared to deal with the implications of the rising technologies of the 21st century. Even our most brilliant thinkers cannot agree on what the dangers of the future might hold: see the argument between Elon Musk and Zuckerberg about the dangers of AI. But our government is uniquely unable to handle these radical changes.
That is why they should stay as far away from the problem as possible. The government has no place in determining Facebook’s future in the world. That responsibility lies on us, the consumers and the public. If Facebook has committed crimes — then the government should get involved. Otherwise, let the markets determine the fate of Silicon Valley.
We allowed our data to be taken. We knew it was happening. We just didn’t care. So stop demanding that the government cover for your mistakes.