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.
more on Facebook in this IMS blog
How To Keep Google From Collecting Your Data
Megan E. Holstein Dec 21, 2018 https://medium.com/swlh/how-to-keep-google-from-collecting-your-data-5fd97a6bf929
here are two places where you can turn off how Google tracks you: Activity Controls and Ad Settings.
Along with turning off Ad Personalization, you should turn off Shared Endorsements.
Part 2: Deleting The Data They Already Have
Part 3: Don’t Use Your Google Account for More Than You Have To
- Don’t use Sign In With Google
- Don’t use your Gmail, even for junk email
more on privacy 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
The Digital Destruction of Democracy
ANYA SCHIFFRIN JANUARY 21, 2019
Social media is the best friend disinformation ever had, and the cure is far from obvious.
Anya Schiffrin is an adjunct faculty member at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She worked in Hanoi from 1997 to 1999 as the bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.
Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics
By Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, & Hal Roberts
Oxford University Press
A Harvard law professor who is a well-known theorist of the digital age, Benkler and colleagues have produced an authoritative tome that includes multiple taxonomies and literature reviews as well as visualizations of the flow of disinformation.
white supremacist and alt-right trolls
a history of the scholarship on propaganda, reminding the reader that much of the discussion began in the 1930s.
Benkler’s optimistic 2007 book, The Wealth of Networks, predicted that the Internet would bring people together and transform the way information is created and spread. Today, Benkler is far less sanguine and has become one of the foremost researchers of disinformation networks.
Fox News, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, InfoWars, and Zero Hedge
As a result, mainstream journalists repeat and amplify the falsehoods even as they debunk them.
There is no clear line, they argue, between Russian propaganda, Breitbart lies, and the Trump victory. They add that Fox News is probably more influential than Facebook.
after George Soros gave a speech in January 2018 calling for regulation of the social media platforms, Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to shovel dirt at George Soros.
The European Union has not yet tried to regulate disinformation (although they do have codes of practice for the platforms), instead focusing on taxation, competition regulation, and protection of privacy. But Germany has strengthened its regulations regarding online hate speech, including the liability of the social media platforms.
disclosure of the sources of online political advertising.It’s a bit toothless because, just as with offshore bank accounts, it may be possible to register which U.S. entity is paying for online political advertising, but it’s impossible to know whether that entity is getting its funds from overseas. Even the Honest Ads bill was too much for Facebook to take.
more on the issues of digital world and democracy in this IMS blog
Facebook labelled ‘digital gangsters’ by report on fake news
Company broke privacy and competition law and should be regulated urgently, say MPs
See also: http://blog.stcloudstate.edu/ims/2019/02/20/digital-destruction-of-democracy/
more on Facebook in this IMS blog
Nothing Can Stop Google. DuckDuckGo Is Trying Anyway.
2019 may finally be the year for ‘The Search Engine That Doesn’t Track You’
Drew Millard, Jan 15, 2019
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
Chinese Facial Recognition Will Take over the World in 2019
Michael K. Spencer Jan 14, 2018
The best facial recognition startups are in China, by a long-shot. As their software is less biased, global adoption is occurring via their software. This is evidenced in 2019 by the New York Police department in NYC for example, according to the South China Morning Post.
The mass surveillance state of data harvesting in real-time is coming. Facebook already rates and profiles us.
The Tech Wars come down to an AI-War
Whether the NYC police angle is true or not (it’s being hotly disputed), Facebook and Google are thinking along lines that follow the whims of the Chinese Government.
SenseTime and Megvii won’t just be worth $5 Billion, they will be worth many times that in the future. This is because a facial recognition data-harvesting of everything is the future of consumerism and capitalism, and in some places, the central tenet of social order (think Asia).
China has already ‘won’ the trade-war, because its winning the race to innovation. America doesn’t regulate Amazon, Microsoft, Google or Facebook properly, that stunts innovation and ethics in technology where the West is now forced to copy China just to keep up.
more about facial recognition in schools