by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
A tweet from February 2020 posted by Sacha Baron Cohen (AKA Borat) has been making its rounds on Twitter again this week. His tweet reads “We don’t let 1 person control the water for 2.5 billion people. We don’t let 1 person control electricity for 2.5 billion people. Why do we let 1 man control the information seen by 2.5 billion people? Facebook needs to be regulated by governments, not ruled by an emperor!”
This tweet reemerges out of the Twitter catacombs every time “#DeleteFacebook” starts trending. But, as you’ll notice if you read the tweet, it makes no mention of deleting Facebook. Sacha instead proposes the government regulate Facebook. And an astounding amount of people seemingly agree with Mr. Borat! As of this writing, exactly 53,688 people have liked this tweet, and plenty of people are chiming in with their support for the idea. User Michael Drayton says, “I agree. Nationalize it.” Tami Marshall exclaims, “I co sign this!” And Erobos Abzu Lamashtu calls Cohen’s tweet “#BigFacts.” But there are a LOT of things wrong with this tweet.
For starters, Facebook is not a monopoly. For heaven’s sake, Cohen posted this on Twitter, a Facebook competitor. It is certainly not a monopoly on information seeing as how books, newspapers, cable news stations, encyclopedias, news websites, and the totality of the rest of the internet still exist. Want information on something? Google it (or Yahoo or DuckDuckGo—whatever you prefer). A Facebook post will almost certainly not be the first and only search result.
As an aside, it’s interesting that Sacha not only considers Facebook a reputable source of information, but the only source of information in the world.
Next, as many have pointed out, a social media platform is not really comparable to water and electricity. Those are widely considered necessities; Facebook is certainly not a necessity.
Sacha also writes that “one man” controls all of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg. But obviously, Facebook is not solely controlled by Mr. Zuckerburg. Facebook (parent company Meta) is a publically traded company with an entire C-suite of leadership and shareholders to answer to (plus a user base that they need to keep happy). But we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is referring to Meta the corporation as a person in the legal “corporate personhood” kind of way.
Lastly and most importantly, government control of the media is not a good idea. Having the government decide what information the American public does and doesn’t get to hear is extremely dangerous. State-controlled media is something done in China, North Korea, and Iran (and 1984) to keep citizens ignorant and powerless. Why would Cohen want or trust the “misogynistic” government (his words – not mine) to control what he is or isn’t allowed to see? Government control of the media is and always will be a bad idea. Instead of suggesting it, just #DeleteFacebook.
You can check out more Locke content on regulation here.