Social media as a public utility is a theory that suggests social networking sites should be regulated by the government in a similar manner to utilities such a power and phone. The argument for it stems after they started censoring and banning people like Alex Jones. That’s when they entered the domain of should the government regulate this because they’re censoring free speech. They said they wouldn’t intervene in what users say, but they act like journalistic entities that are providing news. So the free speech argument is where this is bordering on, not for the sake of arguing whether they should or shouldn’t be a public utility, that alone wouldn’t stand on its own leg.
Advocates for the theory that these social media sites should be regulated by the government believe that these sites already act as public utilities, therefore need regulation. These advocates also argue that in the technological age that we are currently in, these websites are imperative to communication such as telephone was before the popularization of the internet. The supporters of this argument suggest that social media sites are as necessary to everyday life as gas and electricity and therefore need government regulations placed on them.
The main argument for regulations on social media, on an individual level, is placed on the needs and rights of the users. Supporters of this theory claim that without governmental regulations in place, it’s impossible to protect the constitutional rights of users such as their right to express free speech. On a business level, advocates for social media as public utilities claim that these services dominate the free internet and are owned by three or four companies that have the power to shape interaction, creating natural monopolies. To oppose these natural monopolies, supports of this theory feel that restrictions can be imposed on these sites that benefit competitors and rivals, which would help to counteract the natural monopolies that are in place.
The opposition to this theory argue that social media should not be regulated by the government because these platforms are constantly changing and evolving and are not essential to the survival of their users on a day to day basis, the way power, electricity and water are needed. Another counterargument to this theory is the fear that imposing utility regulations on social media might lock these sites into a real monopoly which will stop innovation and counteract competition. Since these sites are constantly evolving to adapt to the needs of the users, it is important that these sites evolve, innovate and compete.
Counterarguments, on the individual level, feel that treating social media services as public utilities would harm the welfare of consumers because regulations stifle innovation and competition. They argue that while social media sites are extremely popular, they are not essential to the survival of our social and economic functions on a day to day basis. There is also an emphasis placed on the fact that while social media is relatively new, new ones displace old ones. This displacement of websites means that social media is not a public utility because it proves they are not an essential facility that has no alternatives.
On a business level, opposition to transitioning these sites to public utilities claim that imposing regulations would halt innovation and competition, and that said regulations would be expensive. These regulations would allow competitors to innovate for the sake of innovation, rather than for the sake of consumer needs and user experience. At its very essence, opposers to this theory claim that public utilities are essential to everyday life such as water and electricity which is not the case for social media. While these sites are large pieces to our everyday lives, they are not essential to our survival and life would go on if they were to disappear.
It is really a matter of opinion if sites such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google should be treated as public utilities.