Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Good in Facebook

I found this article in the New York Times to be very interesting. Author Eduardo Porter discusses the social and economic impact that Facebook has, and it does have a rather large one.

From the social standpoint, at it's most basic level, Facebook is a communication tool. Big sharers on the social network report being happier and healthier. This is not a surprising statistic - people need connection, and it would make sense that if they perceive themselves to have many connections, they would experience a positive feeling surrounding that that would affect other parts of their lives.

From an economic standpoint, the data that Facebook collects and shares with third parties to enable targeted ads has been shown to directly effect economic growth rate. When the EU restricted the use of some of this data sharing, it negatively impacted its growth rate. This is a big deal.

Something that is as yet unmeasurable is the improvement in welfare that comes from the consumer surplus (the benefit we get from a good or service that well exceeds the price paid for it) will continue to increase based on the ability to customize to each customer.

All of this, Porter is quick to point out, does not mean Facebook should continue unregulated, but that understanding what the problems are - the Russian use of Facebook ads to influence the US presidential election, lack of control over how personal information is used, accountability on the part of Facebook and the companies that use its information, etc - will inform exactly what measures need to be taken to ensure the consumer feels safe, but also so that the benefits of these platforms and their data can continue to be experienced and benefitted from.

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