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Sen. Josh Hawley Accuses Facebook of Addiction and Calls Social Media Worth-Less

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WASHINGTON, May 2, 2019 – Social media and technology platform companies are wasting the talents of a generation, addicting and impoverishing middle America, and even driving teenagers to commit suicide in record numbers, Sen. Josh Hawley said Thursday.

In a blistering speech attacking Facebook, Google, and the supposed “crown jewel” of the American economy known culturally as “Silicon Valley,” the Missouri Republican slammed Facebook’s business model, and also suggested some narrow political fixes.

“The evidence more and more strongly suggests that there is something deeply troubling, and maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy,” Hawley said.

While concurring that social media “presents so many novel problems” and that “none of them admit of easy answers,” he set his aim squarely on this bigger question: What is “the worth of these social media platforms, and the social media business, to the American economy and to American society?”

Hawley did not hide his conclusion: Facebook is pretty much worth-less.

Hawley began his critique by latching onto the basic business model of the dominant social media platforms: “attention arbitrage,” or aggregating the interests of billions of users and selling them to advertisers.

With other intermediaries, such as financial institutions engaged in arbitrage, the value of the arbitrage eventually narrows. Not so with “attention arbitrage,” said Hawley.

“How is that that the attention arbitrage is preserved and renewed?”

These companies maintain their leverage by “hijacking users’ neural circuitry. What to click and where to spend time is preserved through addiction,” said Hawley.

“Social media only works as a business model if consumers’ usage times and attention increase day after day. It needs to replace the activities we once did perfectly well – with itself,” he said.

“You don’t log on to Facebook” to reach out to friend, which he said you could easily do by calling or text messaging the friend. “You log on to Facebook to be on Facebook. The attention arbitration market becomes the destination.”

This is why, he said, Facebook owners and shareholders are no better that drug lords: “They are investing in the addiction.”

Social media is linked to loneliness, depression and teen suicide

Hawley tied Facebook and growing use of social media to loneliness, depression, and even teen suicide. He said that the surge of suicide among younger teenagers coincided with the introduction of smart phones optimized for the use of social media platforms.

“It could just be correlation, not causation,” he said. But there is a “strong correlation” between social media use and teen suicide.

And for those young people who don’t fall prey to suicide, Hawley said, social media has drained value and talent from the best and brightest, and from middle America.

“An entire generation [has succumbed to activities of] little or no productive value” in developing apps for social media, he said. As to technology talent, the tech giants are “sucking them from communities that need talent to outposts on the coasts.”

“Social media platforms might define the future of our economy, but it doesn’t value the things that matter. It produces a society that is shaped in its own image.”

‘No one answer’ to the problems wrought by social media

When it came to specific political proposals to restrain or throttle the power of such social media networks, Hawley was less specific.

He said there was “no one answer” to the many problems created by social media.

“We need to have a broader conversation about whether these business models are truly beneficial not so that we ban them, [but so that] we can decide to what we give our attention and our time.”

At a minimum, antitrust laws need to be brought to bear: “What do we need to do to make the market function in a way that is free, fair and open,” he asked.

As attorney general of Missouri before he was elected senator, Hawley initiated the first state-level antitrust inquiry of Google.

Additionally, Hawley supports privacy regulation, particularly as it related to children. He cited legislation he had introduced to ban online tracking of and advertising focused on children. It would also allow parents to hit the “eraser button” for all posts by their children, up to the age of 15.

He also criticized Silicon Valley companies for their lack of patriotism, saying that “they don’t view themselves as American,” so much as they look to their “global bottom line.” While he said he would not force them to work with the U.S. military, he did strongly criticize their cooperation with China and the Chinese military.

Changes to Section 230 may not fix the problem of powerful incumbents

Asked by this reporter about his views regarding Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a provision that has been judicially interpreted as giving immunity from liability to internet platforms, Hawley was cautious.

On the same afternoon that Hawley was speaking, Facebook announced that it had banned an array of speakers considered by some to be extremist, including Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan.

Hawley said that Section 230 is “predicated on [platforms] providing open, fair and free platforms. If they are not going to do that, but insert their own political biases, then they start to look a lot more like a newspaper, or TV station, but don’t qualify for Section 230.”

At the same time, limiting the scope of the existing immunity might hurt startup social platforms at the expense of Facebook and Google. “We need to make sure that [changes to Section 230 are] not a benefit to incumbency.”

Hawley spoke at the Washington outpost of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank based at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley. Hawley is a graduate of the university’s law school.

(Photo of Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, by Drew Clark.)

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Health

Telehealth Has Potential to Shift Medical Focus to Preventative Care and Wellness

Experts say continued investment in telehealth is necessary to improve care systems.

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John Halamka, David Rice, Angela Moore, Jeffrey Neal and Peter Ku

WASHINGTON, December 24, 2021 – Medical experts say continued investment in telehealth systems expanded during the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to improve medicine’s focus on preventative care and wellness.

However, some concern exists over what will happen to telehealth advances made during the pandemic should Congress fail to renew waivers that allowed telehealth provision in government-aligned health programs such as Medicare.

Experts discussed this current juncture in telehealth at a Federal Communications Bar Association event last week.

They remarked on just how quickly telehealth systems were able to grow in the past two years because of Congress’ waivers and the major impacts revoking these waivers could have for these systems and the access of many individuals to healthcare.

A discussed example of virtual medicine’s growth was observed “exponential” increases in new overall patient engagement at Veterans Affairs medical providers through telehealth during some of the deadliest phases of the pandemic.

During a Senate hearing in October, witnesses such as Deanna Larson, president of Avel eCARE, testified that regulatory flexibility from Congress is necessary to address telehealth access, as well as that broadband affordability issues often prevent access to telehealth.

Witnesses also raised that telehealth’s prevalence would increase emergency room bed availability during the pandemic

At the FCBA event, Miller Nash attorney David Rice emphasized that beyond giving medical access to individuals that face obstacles in traveling to medical facilities for treatment, telehealth is simply more convenient than in-person treatment for almost everyone and allows patients to fit medical appointment attendance more easily in their schedules.

In terms of challenges robust telehealth systems would face going forward, Mayo Clinic Platform President John Halamka cited potential licensure issues for providing care, and some argument existed between Rice and Jeffrey Neal, T-Mobile for Government’s national director of federal sales, over whether data privacy issues are likely to be a serious hindrance to virtual treatment.

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission announced $42.7 million in awards from its COVID-19 Telehealth Program which supports continued care for patients by reimbursing them for telecommunications services, information services and connected devices.

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FCC Announces $43 Million in COVID-19 Telehealth Subsidies

The Federal Communication said the awards will help connect patients to critical health services during a new wave of Covid-19.

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WASHINGTON, December 22, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday over $42.7 million in awards from its COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

The agency approved 68 additional applications in a fifth announcement for the second round of the program, bringing the total approved to over $208 million for health care providers in each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.

The program supports the efforts of health care providers to continue serving their patients by providing reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices.

“As the impact of new variants continue to challenge our healthcare system, the FCC has worked diligently to review and approve funding commitments as part of our COVID-19 Telehealth Program,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “As we head into 2022, the ability to treat patients and loved ones from the safety of their home is of vital importance.”

Some of the biggest awards went to large health care providers such as the County of Los Angeles Department of Health, which received $1 million for the purchase of telehealth software, services, and equipment to deliver real-time video visits with patients.

Sinai Health System, a consortium of five hospitals in Chicago, Illinois, was awarded $1 million for the purchase of devices, such as laptops, tablets, and webcams, along with telehealth software. The award “will allow healthcare providers to offer remote care to vulnerable patients and reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure,” said the FCC.

The awards also reimburse health care organizations for innovative ideas that connect patients to quality care with broadband. The Westchester County Health Care Corporation in Valhalla, New York, was awarded $1 million for the purchase of remote monitoring software and video equipment, which will allow for the creation of a “tele-ICU” for the provision of remote care for hospitalized patients.

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Ask Me Anything! Friday with Craig Settles, Community Telehealth Pioneer at 2:30 p.m. ET

Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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Visit Broadband.Money to register for the Ask Me Anything! event on Friday, December 3, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Craig’s tireless work has helped transform the last mile of broadband in the U.S., through his influence among national, state, and corporate decision makers, and his on-the-ground work building community broadband coalitions. Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark will interview Craig Settles in this Broadband.Money Ask Me Anything!

Read the Broadband.Money profile of Craig Settles

About Our Distinguished Guest

Saved from a stroke by telehealth, Craig Settles pays it forward by uniting community broadband teams and healthcare stakeholders through telehealth projects that transform healthcare delivery.

Mr. Settles conducts needs analyses with community stakeholders who want broadband networks and/or telehealth to improve economic development, healthcare, education and local government. Mr. Settles’ needs analyses opens up additional opportunities to raise money for networks, as well as increase the financial sustainability of your network. He’s been doing this work since 2006.

A community telehealth champion

Mr. Settles views telehealth as the “Killer App” that can close the digital divide because everyone experiences illness or cares for someone who is ill. Every home that telehealth touches must have good broadband. Telehealth technology and broadband in the home provide avenues for other home-based technology services that can improve quality of life, such as companion distance-learning apps, a home business app, and home entertainment apps.

He authored Fighting the Good Fight for Municipal Wireless in 2005, and since then, Mr. Settles has provided community broadband consulting services. His public-sector client list includes Ottumwa, IA, Riverside, Benicia and Glendale, CA and the State of California. Calix, Ciena and Juniper Networks are among those on his private sector client list. In addition, he has testified for the FCC and on Capital Hill.

Craig around the web

Mr. Settles hosts the radio talk show Gigabit Nation, His in-depth analysis reports are valuable resources for community broadband project teams and stakeholders. Building the Gigabit City, Mr. Settles’ blog, further showcases his expertise in this area.

Follow Mr. Settles on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Mr. Settles is frequently called upon as a municipal broadband expert for journalists at CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time Magazine and a host of business, technology and local media outlets. He has spoken at various conferences in the U.S, Europe, South America, Australia and Asia.


About Ask Me Anything! (AMA)

AMA invites broadband industry leaders from all corners to share their knowledge and perspectives with our community.

The format is simple:

  1. A one hour live webinar with our distinguished guest
  2. Interactive questions from attendees in the comments below this post
    • See a question you also wonder about? “Like” it to upvote it
    • Have more questions? Add them as comments to this post.
  3. Our guest will answer as many questions as time permits, in order of upvotes
    • A community moderator will paraphrase our guest’s answers and post as reply
    • Want to weigh in with your perspective? You’re welcome to share your replies!

Please be respectful of our distinguished guest. It’s okay to disagree, but thank you for being kind. Trolls will be banned.

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