November 05, 2017

We need a contact-tax to make sure social media profiles us more adequately, and leave us some time-off to think.

Sir, Tim Harford writes: “fake news entrepreneurs have realised that it is far more profitable to invent eye-catching fables than to research and confirm the everyday truth”, “How to poke Facebook off its perch”, November 4.

The real reason for that, a bit hard to acknowledge, is that most of us (me included) find it much more amusing to read eye-catching fables than blah-blah truths.

So given our weaknesses of falling for fables; and given our de-facto limited attention span, 60 minutes times 24 hours per day; and given our need for some time-off so we do not forget how to think and reflect on what we are being fed with, we must put up some very high walls or dig some very deep moats as self-defense.

At this moment Facebook can send out a message to two billion users at basically zero marginal cost!

So one way could be forcing social media and their colleagues to pay a minuscule fee for any message sent to us that does not originate directly from our private friends; call it a contact-tax.

That would at least force Facebook to target us more carefully. “Profiling us more carefully”? That might sound awful, but being wrongly profiled should be worse… or perhaps not.

But of course the revenues of any contact-tax should not go to increase the redistribution profiteers’ franchise value, but be shared out among us all by means of a Universal Basic Income.

PS. This does not mean I give up on my right to strive for an intellectual property right, a copyright on my own preferences, in order to have something more to bargain with in this data driven world.