Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
🎵 The song for this post is Don't Stop Me Now, by Queen. 🎵
This week's Facebook Bad News was a pretty big bombshell: Zuck and Sandberg weren't just bad at their jobs, but oversaw employing some pretty awful characters to try to cover their asses after abysmal product failures. In response to criticisms of dealing with bad actors on their platform, they were bad actors in the political arena, muddying the waters with racism and disinformation just as their platform was doing.
Zuck comes out looking like a clueless naif in this profile, and so it's an odd choice that his defense today is to say he didn't know it was happening. When asked about the article, the company position is to say "it's untrue! it's untrue!" but never says specifically what is untrue, just that "it" is. When asked whose heads will roll over this or how they'll prevent it from happening again, there are no specifics. "We did bad shit, but trust us, we have good hearts."
And, like, of course this is the case. In the run-up to the midterms, journalists were able to buy ads and claim they were paid for by ISIS and Mike Pence. This, even after they built a symbolic "war room" that didn't seem to do anything meaningful other than signal intent.
This is the company who put Peter Thiel on their board. This is the company that legitimized Palmer Luckey. This is the company that has Joel Kaplan in high places. Facebook, like Google, protects their top bad actors. When you ascend to a certain level, you can't be touched.
They lied about numbers which led to massive journalism layoffs in their "pivot to video." They are structurally broken against content creators (1, 2).
Facebook sucks and has no incentive to change. They denied that their ads could sway people even when their own research, performed nonconsensually in 2012, said that it could (to say nothing of the fact that their entire value prop is "buy ads on our platform to influence behavior").
Don't believe their promises; they've said kind words for over a decade and its made shit difference.
For that reason, I'm deactivating my Facebook profile as soon as my data download is ready. Will I miss some photos? Sure. Will I miss some news? Yeah, and that sucks. Will it be harder to maintain certain friendships? Totally. Like a tobacco company, they've specifically engineered the product to be hard to leave.
But I have one life, if I'm going to spend it having my own life mirrored back at me with ads to make sociopaths rich, they could at least be better sociopaths.
What are you doing now?
I'll try to blog more. I'll be on Twitter for a bit longer. Twitter also makes me sad and is run by a clueless fascist sympathizer, but it's at least entertaining. I'll figure out a migration plan away from that too.
That said, my email address is at the bottom of all these posts. Get in contact! I'll give my phone number away freely to anyone who asks. I'm on Signal.
At least we got this. (via)
Deactivate? Not Delete? Are you a coward?
There are two major things keeping me from irrevocably killing it all:
My sister's illness Facebook group. When my sister fought autoimmune disease that attacked her brain, my cousin made a Facebook Group. My parents wrote daily emails to interested folks with updates on her condition that we re-posted on Facebook (example). It remains, to my knowledge, the most durable log of that information that I have access to. I meant to dump the data before I left, but it's laborious and I don't know when I'll get the chance.
Unsuprisingly, it's where almost all photos of my life for the past decade are. I should really pull those down. It looks like most tools that could assist with this don't work anymore, largely because Facebook, like most other VC companies, neutered their APIs, in part for security (Cambridge Analytica) but also because they already got what they wanted, which wasn't a better ecosystem, but monopoly power and financial dominance (see the end of ThinkUp, or OAuth of Fealty).
I still hold out some hope I'd write tools to pull these down.
I'll say that if you continue using Facebook, consider using something like Firefox Container Tabs. Without going into the specifics of how it works, it gates all Facebook activity away from the rest of your web browsing, so it limits their ability to spy on you.
You could also install this ProPublica tool to help collect data on their political ads. A blocker (I use uBlock Origin) will also help sanitize your web browsing, and keep their tentacles just a bit further away.
Here's just a bunch of other stories, in one place:
Facebook is being manipulated by bad-faith people who call themselves conservatives:
- Facebook Does Not Understand the Conservative Grift
- Inside Facebook's Stormy Debate Over 'Political Diversity'
Here's a great list of alternative services (not for all of Facebook, just its constituent pieces).
If you're on Android, their 'Malware Scan' operates a lot like malware.
Matthew Yglesias at Vox articulates a case against Facebook.
Piece from beginning of the year by Nick Bilton for Vanity Fair about their disastrous 2017.
"Facebook is happy to do business with nazis and racists on your behalf, because they are wonderful people," in which jwz learns that if you buy Facebook ads they might put them on sites you didn't ask them to.
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