more on privacy in this IMS blog
Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.
We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.
It is time to break up Facebook.
America was built on the idea that power should not be concentrated in any one person, because we are all fallible. That’s why the founders created a system of checks and balances.
More legislation followed in the 20th century, creating legal and regulatory structures to promote competition and hold the biggest companies accountable.
Starting in the 1970s, a small but dedicated group of economists, lawyers and policymakers sowed the seeds of our cynicism. Over the next 40 years, they financed a network of think tanks, journals, social clubs, academic centers and media outlets to teach an emerging generation that private interests should take precedence over public ones. Their gospel was simple: “Free” markets are dynamic and productive, while government is bureaucratic and ineffective.
American industries, from airlines to pharmaceuticals, have experienced increased concentration, and the average size of public companies has tripled. The results are a decline in entrepreneurship, stalled productivity growth, and higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.
From our earliest days, Mark used the word “domination” to describe our ambitions, with no hint of irony or humility.
Facebook’s monopoly is also visible in its usage statistics. About 70 percent of American adults use social media, and a vast majority are on Facebook products. Over two-thirds use the core site, a third use Instagram, and a fifth use WhatsApp. By contrast, fewer than a third report using Pinterest, LinkedIn or Snapchat. What started out as lighthearted entertainment has become the primary way that people of all ages communicate online.
The F.T.C.’s biggest mistake was to allow Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp. In 2012, the newer platforms were nipping at Facebook’s heels because they had been built for the smartphone, where Facebook was still struggling to gain traction. Mark responded by buying them, and the F.T.C. approved.
The News Feed algorithm reportedly prioritized videos created through Facebook over videos from competitors, like YouTube and Vimeo. In 2012, Twitter introduced a video network called Vine that featured six-second videos. That same day, Facebook blocked Vine from hosting a tool that let its users search for their Facebook friends while on the new network. The decision hobbled Vine, which shut down four years later.
unlike Vine, Snapchat wasn’t interfacing with the Facebook ecosystem; there was no obvious way to handicap the company or shut it out. So Facebook simply copied it. (opyright law does not extend to the abstract concept itself.)
As markets become more concentrated, the number of new start-up businesses declines. This holds true in other high-tech areas dominated by single companies, like search (controlled by Google) and e-commerce (taken over by Amazon). Meanwhile, there has been plenty of innovation in areas where there is no monopolistic domination, such as in workplace productivity (Slack, Trello, Asana), urban transportation (Lyft, Uber, Lime, Bird) and cryptocurrency exchanges (Ripple, Coinbase, Circle).
The choice is mine, but it doesn’t feel like a choice. Facebook seeps into every corner of our lives to capture as much of our attention and data as possible and, without any alternative, we make the trade.
Just last month, Facebook seemingly tried to bury news that it had stored tens of millions of user passwords in plain text format, which thousands of Facebook employees could see. Competition alone wouldn’t necessarily spur privacy protection — regulation is required to ensure accountability — but Facebook’s lock on the market guarantees that users can’t protest by moving to alternative platforms.
Mark used to insist that Facebook was just a “social utility,” a neutral platform for people to communicate what they wished. Now he recognizes that Facebook is both a platform and a publisher and that it is inevitably making decisions about values. The company’s own lawyers have argued in court that Facebook is a publisher and thus entitled to First Amendment protection.
As if Facebook’s opaque algorithms weren’t enough, last year we learned that Facebook executives had permanently deleted their own messages from the platform, erasing them from the inboxes of recipients; the justification was corporate security concerns.
Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power. The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.
We Don’t Need Social Media
The push to regulate or break up Facebook ignores the fact that its services do more harm than good
Colin Horgan, May 13, 2019
Hughes joins a growing chorus of former Silicon Valley unicorn riders who’ve recently had second thoughts about the utility or benefit of the surveillance-attention economy their products and platforms have helped create. He is also not the first to suggest that government might need to step in to clean up the mess they made
Nick Srnicek, author of the book Platform Capitalism and a lecturer in digital economy at King’s College London, wrotelast month, “[I]t’s competition — not size — that demands more data, more attention, more engagement and more profits at all costs
more on Facebook in this IMS blog
Facebook’s new general counsel is a Trump adviser who helped author Patriot Act
infamous former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo wrote in his 2006 book that Newstead was the “day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress”.
The Patriot Act was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and brought in a series of new federal crimes related to terrorism. The legislation was broad and much of the government’s expanded surveillance powers stemmed from parts of the act. It enabled, among other things, the controversial Section 215, which was used to justify the National Security Agency’s phone records collection programme.
It also had a “roving wiretap” provision, which allowed government to place a tap on all of an individual’s personal devices based purely on the approval of the notoriously permissive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
As The Verge points out, the Patriot Act also initiated the practice of “national security letters”, a procedure by which intelligence agencies can informally request data without any kind of court or ex parte authorisation, citing threats to national security. Facebook fields thousands of these requests every year, the content of which is generally subject to gag orders and therefore remains publicly unknown. In her capacity as general counsel, Newstead will be able to approve or deny these requests.
more on privacy in this IMS blog
Propaganda, Hate Speech, Violence: The Working Lives Of Facebook’s Content Moderators
In a recent article for The Verge titled “The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America,” a dozen current and former employees of one of the company’s contractors, Cognizant, talked to Newton about the mental health costs of spending hour after hour monitoring graphic content.
Perhaps the most surprising find from his investigation, the reporter said, was how the majority of the employees he talked to started to believe some of the conspiracy theories they reviewed.
more on Facebook in this iMS blog
This Is Your Brain Off Facebook
Planning on quitting the social platform? A major new study offers a glimpse of what unplugging might do for your life. (Spoiler: It’s not so bad.)
Benedict Carey, Jan 30, 2019
This Is Your Brain Off Facebook by BENEDICT CAREY
So what happens if you actually do quit? A new study, the most comprehensive to date, offers a preview.
Well before news broke that Facebook had shared users’ data without consent, scientists and habitual users debated how the platform had changed the experience of daily life.
the use of Facebook and other social media is linked to mental distress, especially in adolescents.
Others have likened habitual Facebook use to a mental disorder, comparing it to drug addiction and even publishing magnetic-resonance images of what Facebook addiction “looks like in the brain.”
When Facebook has published its own analyses to test such claims, the company has been roundly criticized.
For abstainers, breaking up with Facebook freed up about an hour a day, on average, and more than twice that for the heaviest users.
research led by Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has found that high levels of passive browsing on social media predict lowered moods, compared to more active engagement.
more on Facebook in this IMS blog
How Data Privacy Lessons in Alternative Reality Games Can Help Kids In Real Life
Ubiquitous social media platforms—including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—have created a venue for people to share and connect with others. We use these services by clicking “I Agree” on Terms of Service screens, trading off some of our private and personal data for seemingly free services. While these services say data collection helps create a better user experience, that data is also potentially exploitable.
The news about how third parties obtain and use Facebook users’ data to wage political campaigns and the mounting evidence of election interference have shined a spotlight on just how secure our data is when we share online. Educating youth about data security can fall under the larger umbrella of digital citizenship, such as social media uses and misuses and learning how not to embarrass or endanger oneself while using the internet.
Darvasi’s students in Toronto can pool together 55 faux bitcoins to purchase and launch the BOTTING protocol against an opponent. The student targeted at Fallon’s school in Connecticut would then have 48 hours to record audio of 10 words of Darvasi’s students choosing and send it back to them through an intermediary (Darvasi or Fallon). For a higher price of 65 faux bitcoins, students can launch MORPHLING, which would give the opponent 48 hours to record a one-minute video explaining three ways to stay safe while using Facebook, while making their school mascot (or a close approximation of) appear in the video in some way during the entire minute.
more on digital citizenship in this IMS blog
IT’S THE (DEMOCRACY-POISONING) GOLDEN AGE OF FREE SPEECH
Jan 16, 2018
My note: the author uses the 1960 military junta in Turkey as an example. Here it is the 2014 “modern” ideological fight of increasingly becoming dictatorial Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan against his citizens by shutting off Twitter: http://time.com/33393/turkey-recep-tayyip-erdogan-twitter/
Here is more on civil disobedience and social media: http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims?s=civil+disobedience
until recently, broadcasting and publishing were difficult and expensive affairs, their infrastructures riddled with bottlenecks and concentrated in a few hands.
When protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, a single livestreamer named Mustafa Hussein reportedly garnered an audience comparable in size to CNN’s for a short while. If a Bosnian Croat war criminal drinks poison in a courtroom, all of Twitter knows about it in minutes.
In today’s networked environment, when anyone can broadcast live or post their thoughts to a social network, it would seem that censorship ought to be impossible. This should be the golden age of free speech.
And sure, it is a golden age of free speech—if you can believe your lying eyes. Is that footage you’re watching real? Was it really filmed where and when it says it was? Is it being shared by alt-right trolls or a swarm of Russian bots?
My note: see the ability to create fake audio and video footage:
HERE’S HOW THIS golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.
at their core, their business is mundane: They’re ad brokers
They use massive surveillance of our behavior, online and off, to generate increasingly accurate, automated predictions of what advertisements we are most susceptible to and what content will keep us clicking, tapping, and scrolling down a bottomless feed.
in reality, posts are targeted and delivered privately, screen by screen by screen. Today’s phantom public sphere has been fragmented and submerged into billions of individual capillaries. Yes, mass discourse has become far easier for everyone to participate in—but it has simultaneously become a set of private conversations happening behind your back. Behind everyone’s backs.
It’s important to realize that, in using these dark posts, the Trump campaign wasn’t deviantly weaponizing an innocent tool. It was simply using Facebook exactly as it was designed to be used. The campaign did it cheaply, with Facebook staffers assisting right there in the office, as the tech company does for most large advertisers and political campaigns.
more on privacy in this IMS blog
more on free speech in this IMS blog