I have lost track of the times Facebook has annoyed me.
A lot of it you’ve seen in ResearchBuzz, from Please Don’t Like Us On Facebook (Because There’s No Damned Point) to More Advertising Bullshit from Facebook (plus another one about fake Facebook ads featuring lies about Michelle Obama) to The Problem of Fake News Is Not Recent, But Our Current Internet Ecosystem Is. Often when I wrote about Facebook I would provide some kind of codicil to the tune of, “But I CAN’T leave, there’s TOO MUCH of my life wrapped up in it, I’ll MISS MY FRIENDS, etc etc!”
Well guess what, y’all: I’m an idiot.
That was brought home to me in bright neon letters after I read Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis in the New York Times, featuring gems like this:
When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem. And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and it faced a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.
Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.
This is the perspective that came to me after reading this: a company with a market cap of over $400 billion at this helmed by a CEO so rich he can spend over $100 million for property in Hawaii spent its money trying to rewrite reality instead of fixing the problem. It decided to use smears instead of offering transparency.
I don’t like using the word evil because of its ambiguity and the many different ways it is applied. But hey, this is pretty damn evil.
Looking back at the articles I wrote about Facebook’s gaffes in advertising and content removal, I’m appalled at my own foolishness. I had honestly thought that Facebook’s problems were those of scale. But the New York Times article and subsequent reporting has revised my opinion. I now believe that Facebook simply doesn’t want to address its problems. Its status as a publicly-owned company, accountable to Wall Street which means accountable to the money gods, means any attempt to be open will invite backlash. Ethics and transparency are being shunned as a baseball bat that might kill the golden goose.
Revising my perspective this way has added a new, scary dimension to other Facebook controversies: the lynchings in India triggered by WhatsApp Rumors, its role in the Rohingya Muslim attacks in Myanmar, the whole Facebook Free Basics controversy. If Facebook can’t or won’t address these problems directly for fear of upsetting its stock price… I go from appalled to horrified.
If this were a TV show, with unambiguous delineations and 30-minute plots, I would at this point write, “So I’ve left Facebook and I’m gone forever! Woo hoo! Liberated!” But the sad truth is I cannot yet sever my ties to Facebook. I’m not going to call my mother in law and say, “Hi Mom, I’m woke and not on Facebook anymore so you have to move to a whole new platform now.” I can’t call my stepdaughter and say, “I’m demanding you post pictures of your daughter on other social media networks because I’m anti-Facebook.” All I can do is share with them my perspectives and limit my own use of Facebook until the day I can delete it altogether.
(I will also continue to mention and note Facebook news in ResearchBuzz, simply because it has too many users to just ignore.)
So what am I doing? I’m on MeWe. Connect if you like at https://mewe.com/i/taracalishain . Come for the stupid cat stories, stay for the — well, stay for the stupid cat stories. I’m also on Mastodon, as I want to cut down on my Twitter use as well. If there’s interest on a use guide to MeWe I’ll put one together.
I’m not here to tell you what social networks to use or how to conduct your online life and if you want to continue using Facebook, I’m not going to judge. What I will do is apologize. In my previous writings I conveyed the perspective I had of Facebook. I believed it to be neutral if not benevolent, with an honest corporate desire to be a positive force in the world. Further, I believed that it was doing everything in its power to resolve its essential problems.
I no longer believe either of those things.