Meta's threats are a huge opportunity. The EU must NOT waste them

I mean, what would Clint say?

In these hours, the Web is full of articles like this or this, about the fact that “Facebook and Instagram may be shut down across Europe”.

What the press says

Meta's threats are a huge opportunity. The EU must NOT waste them /img/no-meta-in-europe.jpg

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, just warned that if the current EU legal framework remains, and other law proposals now discussed by the EU are approved, the company would “probably have to walk away from the continent”.

The basic reasons (see the articles above for details) are that:

  • The EU inexplicably expects that META respect the EU laws that (simplifying) give EU citizens more privacy than the USA ones and, above all, demand that data about EU citizens are stored and processed on EU-based servers
  • But Meta simply does not want to do that, because the capability to process data from its European users on its U.S.-based servers is “crucial for business and advert targeting”

Cool. What’s not to like here?

Imagine having the most obnoxious in-laws one could have. You know, the kind of folks that show up to your door any moment, always uninvited, always try to eavesdrop, always stir up quarrels between you and everybody else for the fun of it, always spoil your kids, and in the best case always are a huge waste of your time.

Yes, I know this can be real hard to imagine, but stay with me for a minute. Imagine relatives like this saying, by their own initiative, “unless you always eat all the cake we bring, every time WE bring, we won’t visit anymore”. What would you do?

Shutting down THIS social networking? Go ahead…

In and by themselves, social networking via the Web is not a bad idea. If done right, that is. But there are countless examples, here and elsewhere, of the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram (1) on productivity, sane political discourse, hate speech, anxiety and general mental health (2). WHY is it a problem if THEY decide to walk away? Why on Earth should EU not answer “MY way, or your sorry excuse for an information superhighway? My way, of course”?

Meta's threats are a huge opportunity. The EU must NOT waste them /img/go-ahead-meta.jpg

Seriously. This feels like good old Clint, just with Meta pointing that pistol to its own head.

Lost money, you say? True, there are many thousands of medium and small businesses, all across Europe, who where misguided to build their online presence and network only inside Facebook or Instagram. But we are talking of one of the main companies that made of Ireland their own “launderette for tax avoidance”. Add to that all the money that EU citizens would surely gain both directly (productivity) and indirectly (saner political discourse, less anxiolithics, less sleep deprivation, less ego inflation…) and it’s pretty sure an indignant retreat of Meta from Europe would be a net economical gain of the latter.

How the EU could and SHOULD answer. NOW

The EU could and should immediately launch some Horizon-style program to develop alternative forms of social networking, fully based on open standards and Free/Open Source Software. Just as examples of such alternatives, check out my own Percloud proposal, that is also explained in many posts here, and the CommonsCloud already developed by FKI and others (disclosure: I am an FKI Board Member).

The EU could and should fund universities, and associations of european hosting and internet providers… to develop and then actually host several types of “personal clouds” like those, useable as more than adequate sane replacements for Facebook, Instagram and even Gmail. All fully interoperable, of course. Basic accounts should be free of charge for EU citizens, funded by any combination of EU money and non targeted advertising. Accounts that want to have more storage space, minimum guaranteed bandwidth, extra services… could be provided for a fee.

Dear EU policymakers…

Check out the links above, even if just as inspiration. There is a lot that can be already done today, without getting lost into web3 or similarly debatable chimeras. There is a lot that can be done today by using already existing, already proven, realistic open technology that would be more than adequate for the real needs of at least 90% of European citizens. It would be a shame to waste the current threats by Meta. As that old proverb says, the best moment to let Meta (1) go was (at least) ten years ago. The next best moment is now. Let’s thank Meta for their gracious offer to walk away, and replace them, before they change their mind.

If I can help… just call

Of course, I would be very happy to concretely contribute in any way I can to implement the proposals above. Just contact me. But I am just one of the many, many thousands of Europeans that could do the same, often much better than me. Whoever does it, I’ll be happy, as long as it’s done. Soon.

Request for diffusion AND translation

Please share this request to welcome Meta’s threats as much as you see fit, everywhere. Thanks in advance also to whoever will sending me translations of this post in any language. I will immediately publish them here, obviously with full attribution of the translator.

Notes, and suggested reading

  1. yes, of course, this also applies to Google, and others. But let’s get started in the right direction, and then proceed.
  2. In case you need specific proofs of why and how the sooner everybody replaces Facebook/Instagram way to social networking with something else, browse what I wrote on this matter in the last years. Or just trust Facebook’s own acknowledgment that Instagram is bad for teenagers
  3. Or you may also support my work in any of the ways described in the footer of this post.

Image source: Petapixel, “Zuckerberg Threatens to Shut Down Facebook and Instagram in Europe”