Reconsidering Facebook

Take a Break. Facebook Sreen Shot

I take a bit of time off from Facebook’s toxic noise.

Good gods, I really should posting more often. However, I might cast some of the blame to the topic of this very post. Facebook. Lately, I have been keeping Facebook at arms distance – with hazmat gloves. Other than my duties as an Admin or a Moderator on various Pages and Groups, including work for clients, I have largely been leaving Facebook the hell alone, or at the very least, trying to limit my dosage.

Over the past two years, especially since the Trump era, Facebook has descended from a somewhat weird and warped community space, to a terrifying echo chamber of screaming, flames, and snarky memes. It’s essentially devolved to two tribes of monkeys with different colored asses flinging monkey poo and shrieking at each other at the top of their lungs, and not noticing they’re in the same cage. I characterize myself somewhat left of center, like many art people, leaning liberal, but have some conservative views too. I suppose, I follow –  “Tax fairly. Spend wisely, Try to balance the budget. Defend the nation. Protect the people. Equality before the Law. Help people where we can. Show respect for others differences. Stay the hell out of my worship and my bedroom, and your liberty stops the moment you stretch your arms and put your finger in my eye.” For this, acquaintances on the F-list seem to lose their freakin’ minds – on the Right and the Left.

The News Feed is a lot of noise and damn little signal these days. it’s become distracting and a serious waste of my time. Skimming down my News Feed, I have taken a nod of wisdom from the U.S.M.C – DO NOT ENGAGE, TARGET IS UNHINGED. Does rather speed up the process a bit, tho’.

Over the past few years, I try to remind people, often forcefully – if an internet service is “free” – Users are not the Customers, we are the PRODUCT.

Make no mistake, Facebook is absolutely purposefully designed to inflame whatever “heat of the moment” of users – in order to promote “engagement.” The more engaged, the more user data for FB to harvest, in order to sell to their real customers, and that is NOT FB users. We’ve been over this ground before, but we need to understand this with absolute clarity. Facebook is a private, for profit, massive, multinational corporation, with no national loyalties, or any form of social compact, or moral compass whatsoever. Their loyalties, like any modern large corporate entity, are entirely to themselves, their profits, and their stockholders. Mike Zukerberg may cry crocodile tears to Congress about social responsibility, but do not forget for a moment that he is protecting his company, and their freedom to operate as they see fit with little to no oversight or understanding by outsiders, and especially by users or potential regulators.

One of my observations about FB works, is when people post something calm, thoughtful, contextual and well researched – the post will receive few likes or comments. But if you post some inflammatory clickbait bullshit, emotional meme, waving arms hair-on-fire rant, … or kitty pics – the likes and comments come pouring in. FB will elevate that content to people’s news feeds, the calm stuff will stay buried on your timeline, unseen unless users come your own page to view it. That’s how the algorithms work, and how “fake news” and sensationalism plays better than most actual journalism. And FB does not care, so long as there is “engagement,” and they get to harvest eyeballs and user data to sell to their real customers.

if you want a look into how destructive FB can be, read this BuzzFeed item
 – How Duterte Used Facebook To Fuel the Philippine Drug War. 

Aljezeera asks, “From violence to hate speech, self-harm to child abuse, is Facebook putting profit before safety?”

“From Facebook’s point of view…[this is] the crack cocaine of their product,” says Roger McNamee, a former mentor to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “It’s the really extreme, really dangerous form of content that attracts the most highly engaged people on the platform…Facebook has learned that the people on the extremes are the really valuable ones because one person on either extreme can often provoke 50 or 100 other people and so they want as much extreme content as they can get.”

– Aljezeera –Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network

Another aspect that we have to bear in mind is that FB’s algorithms also promote engagement by bumping up posts with high levels of “engagement” to the top of groups and users news feeds. That means posts that devolve into toxic screaming fights stay on top and visible – because it promotes … engagement. Or in other words, more psychometric data for FB’s machines to harvest and sell. But that sure as blip does not serve our needs.

Most recently, Facebook fell back into the news concerning their behaviors during the run-up to the election. The Cambride Analytica affair proved they were completely content to take suitcases full of money and hand over terabytes of user psychometric data to any comers. “Have fun, you crzy kids.” Lately, it seems some of those suitcases were filled with Russian rubles.

“But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.” –

Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis, NY Times

Of course, Facebook’s response to these revelations was not to make any serious effort to fix them beyond fuzzy feel good sounding tech fixes, or take real responsibility for the massive power they wield, but to spend millions to shovel bullshit. Every appearance by Mark Zukerberg before Congress seems to be an exercise in blowing smoke up lawmakers technically challenged and internet clueless asses. Any hint of regulation of or oversight threatens FBs ability to do what they gorram please with the mountains of psychometric user data that they hover up daily. This must be protected at all costs.

“Amid growing pressure from lawmakers over its role in Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Facebook increasingly turned to Definers Public Affairs, a Washington DC based political consultancy founded by Republican operatives and specializing in opposition research, according to the report.

“One of Definers’ tactics was to publish dozens of negative articles about other tech companies, including Google and Apple, in order to try to distract attention from Facebook’s public relations woes. Definers published the content on NTKNetwork.com, a website that looks like a news site but is actually run by the PR firm. The narratives pushed on NTK Network were often picked up by conservative sites such as Breitbart.

“Another tactic was to cast Soros as the driving force behind groups critical of Facebook. The firm circulated a research document connecting Soros to “a broad anti-Facebook movement”, the Times reported, and pressed reporters to look into financial links between Soros and groups such as Freedom from Facebook and Color of Change.” –
Facebook reportedly discredited critics by linking them to George Soros, Julie Carrie Wong, The Guardian

Anybody paying attention needs to realize that Facebook has no particular commitment to truth, fairness, or journalism. As a massive multinational corporation, they have no national loyalties. Their only allegiance is to their profits, their stockholders and their Market Cap. Period. The do not much care if they modify reality or undermine societies around the world. Once again, any “free” internet service, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Users are not the Customers. Users are the PRODUCT. We are sold to advertisers who pay the bills and make their CEOs and executives rich.

Behave accordingly, and moderate your dosage. Wear hazmat gloves. Take every sensational post with a 50 kilo salt lick. Think two or three times before you hit “Share” or comment.” Never forget that FB harvests “like.” I have cut back my FB time a lot. A few min to check in, and tend to my duties as Admins or Moderators on some pages and groups. But I find my brain meats less fuddled, and suddenly have WAY more time to … well, like um… work and write blog posts!

 

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