Facebook has been weathering a series of disapproving news cycles after clarifying that its disinformation policies exempt political ads from review for truthfulness. There are now reports that the company is considering reducing the targeting options available to political advertisers.
No matter how Facebook and its counterparts tweak their policies, whatever these companies do will prompt broad anxiety and disapprobation among experts and their own users. That’s because there are two fundamental problems underlying the debate. First, we the public don’t agree on what we want. And second, we don’t trust anyone to give it to us. At one moment someone can reasonably question how Facebook thinks itself king, deciding what each of its 2.4 billion users can see or post—and at another ask how Facebook can make a profit of $22 billion a year from distributing others’ content, and yet take no consistent responsibility for what’s inside it.