Tag Archives: facebook

CEI Podcast for December 29, 2011: A Record Year for Regulation

Have a listen here.

Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews talks about why 2011 was a record year for both new regulations and their cost. He also talks about his efforts to make the opaque regulatory state more transparent. Besides his annual “Ten Thousand Commandments” report, Wayne has started a new TenThousandCommandments.com website to update regulatory data in real time. There is a also a 10KC Twitter account and a Facebook page to make it as easy as possible to keep an eye on what regulatory agencies are up to.

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Regulation of the Day 194: Facebook Friends

Missouri has a new law that bans teachers from becoming Facebook friends with any current or former student. The goal is to prevent inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

There are several points to make here. The first is that this is what parenting writer Lenore Skenazy calls “worst first” thinking. It’s rooted in black swan bias, a cognitive defect in the human brain that overestimates the frequency of rare but horrifying risks. Black swan bias has led to, among other things, the creation of the TSA.

Here, the concern is pedophilia. Statistically, it is extremely rare. But it is so horrifying that legislators and the parents who vote for them take precautions completely out of proportion to the actual threat. They assume the worst first. Ready, FIRE!, aim.

Another point is that prohibition doesn’t work; if a teacher-student relationship is going to happen, preventing a Facebook friendship won’t stop anything. Such trysts existed long before Facebook did. This law treats a symptom rather than the disease. And the disease is, frankly, not entirely preventable. That doesn’t make it right; that’s just how it is.

The law, though sloppily written, does have a modicum of common sense. If both parties are 18, they are legally allowed to become Facebook friends. As someone who regularly interacts with former grad school professors online, this is a relief.

It’s a bad idea for underage students and their teachers to become Facebook friends. That’s why most teachers don’t allow it. For those that do, a law is unlikely to stop them. Few teacher-student Facebook friendships turn into anything unseemly. And if any do, statutory rape is already illegal.

Are Text Messages an Antitrust Issue?

Text messages cost 20 cents to send, even though they use a fraction of a penny of bandwidth. What gives? Antitrust authorities want to know.

Over at The American Spectator, I explain that it is likely a case of unbundling:

Maybe phone companies are unbundling texting from their other services. That way the only people who pay for text messages are the people who use them. If phone companies don’t have to provide texting service for people who don’t want it, they can keep costs down and charge lower prices.

This is much more fair to customers:

Why not just give all customers unlimited texting and charge a higher monthly bill? That would punish people who don’t text, such as this writer. By eschewing the flat rate and tolerating a few texts per month from family and friends who haven’t been properly trained, non-texters can save $50 or more per year.

Monopolists (and oligopolists) don’t behave that way. Companies competing against each other on price do. Trustbusters are forgetting something else, too. If a monopoly exists at all, it is very temporary.

It turns out that a young company called Beluga makes a free texting application for smartphones. Few things are as temporary as monopoly (or oligopoly) power. Since Beluga bypasses the texting cartel, you can have unlimited texting without the $5 monthly fee. Think of it as Skype for the text messaging set.

Read the whole article here.