Tag: Facebook (page 2 of 16)

Big Tech companies may change their names but they will not voluntarily change their economics

I based a good deal of Truth, Lies, and Digital Fluency, a talk I gave in NYC in December 2019, on the work of Shoshana Zuboff. Writing in The New York Times, she starts to get a bit more practical as to what we do about surveillance capitalism.

As Zuboff points out, Big Tech didn’t set out to cause the harms it has any more than fossil fuel companies set out to destroy the earth. The problem is that they are following economic incentives. They’ve found a metaphorical goldmine in hoovering up and selling personal data to advertisers.

Legislating for that core issue looks like it could be more fruitful in terms of long-term consequences. Other calls like “breaking up Big Tech” are the equivalent of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Democratic societies riven by economic inequality, climate crisis, social exclusion, racism, public health emergency, and weakened institutions have a long climb toward healing. We can’t fix all our problems at once, but we won’t fix any of them, ever, unless we reclaim the sanctity of information integrity and trustworthy communications. The abdication of our information and communication spaces to surveillance capitalism has become the meta-crisis of every republic, because it obstructs solutions to all other crises.

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We can’t rid ourselves of later-stage social harms unless we outlaw their foundational economic causes. This means we move beyond the current focus on downstream issues such as content moderation and policing illegal content. Such “remedies” only treat the symptoms without challenging the illegitimacy of the human data extraction that funds private control over society’s information spaces. Similarly, structural solutions like “breaking up” the tech giants may be valuable in some cases, but they will not affect the underlying economic operations of surveillance capitalism.

Instead, discussions about regulating big tech should focus on the bedrock of surveillance economics: the secret extraction of human data from realms of life once called “private.” Remedies that focus on regulating extraction are content neutral. They do not threaten freedom of expression. Instead, they liberate social discourse and information flows from the “artificial selection” of profit-maximizing commercial operations that favor information corruption over integrity. They restore the sanctity of social communications and individual expression.

No secret extraction means no illegitimate concentrations of knowledge about people. No concentrations of knowledge means no targeting algorithms. No targeting means that corporations can no longer control and curate information flows and social speech or shape human behavior to favor their interests. Regulating extraction would eliminate the surveillance dividend and with it the financial incentives for surveillance.

Source: You Are the Object of Facebook’s Secret Extraction Operation | The New York Times

Facebook isn’t just anti-competitive, it’s anti-consumer

I can’t quite understand why people still use Facebook’s services, other than vendor lock-in?

The tool I created, a browser extension called Unfollow Everything, allowed users to delete their News Feed by unfollowing their friends, groups, and pages. The News Feed, as users of Facebook know, is that never-ending page that greets you when you log in. It’s the central hub of Facebook. It’s also a major source of revenue. As a Facebook whistleblower observed on 60 Minutes on Sunday, time spent on the platform translates to ads viewed and clicked on, which in turn translates to billions of dollars for Facebook. The News Feed is the thing that keeps people glued to the platform for hours on end, often on a daily basis; without it, time spent on the network would drop considerably.

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Facebook’s behavior isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer. We are being locked into platforms by virtue of their undeniable usefulness, and then prevented from making legitimate choices over how we use them—not just through the squashing of tools like Unfollow Everything, but through the highly manipulative designs and features platforms adopt in the first place. The loser here is the user, and the cost is counted in billions of wasted hours spent on Facebook.

Source: Facebook banned me for life because I created the tool Unfollow Everything | Slate

Traffic to news sites went up during the Facebook outage.

It’s really problematic that most people get their news via algorithmic news feeds.

On August 3, 2018, Facebook went down for 45 minutes. That’s a little baby outage compared to the one this week, when, on October 4, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for more than five hours. Three years ago, the 45-minute Facebook break was enough to get people to go read news elsewhere, Chartbeat‘s Josh Schwartz wrote for us at the time.

So what happened this time around? For a whopping five-hours-plus, people read news, according to data Chartbeat gave us this week. (And they went to Twitter; Chartbeat saw Twitter traffic up 72%. If Bad Art Friend had been published on the same day as the Facebook outage, Twitter would have literally exploded, presumably.)

Source: When Facebook went down this week, traffic to news sites went up » Nieman Journalism Lab