I've known Chris Cox since freshman year of college and he was an informal advisor to my first startup. The NYT article referenced in hashberry's earlier comment includes a key quote:
“For over a decade, I’ve been sharing the same message that Mark and I have always believed: Social media’s history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral,” Mr. Cox said in a note to employees on Thursday. “As its builders we must endeavor to understand its impact — all the good, and all the bad — and take up the daily work of bending it towards the positive, and towards the good.”
“This is our greatest responsibility,” he added.'
When the Chief Product Officer says on his way out that "social media is not neutral" and encourages all employees to bend it towards the good... you barely have to read between the lines to understand what's really happening.
The real story here isn't the "spin" from the NYT. It's the fact that Facebook is hemorrhaging its best people as those on the inside finally start waking up to the fact that Zuckerberg's vision of Facebook as a good thing for the world was a lie.
If the guy who is officially in charge of product and who has been there since 2005 can't make a difference, what chance does anyone else have?
"Zuckerberg's vision of Facebook as a good thing for the world was a lie" - That is such a broad generalization. In the developing world where I live Facebook gives me the opportunity to maintain contact with my family who live on the other side of the world, as I walk the streets of São Paulo, for free. There are hundreds of millions of others like me who keep in contact with their family because of Facebook (and the companies they own). The alternative (cel phone calls and sms) is literally an inch away on our smartphone, but it is such bad quality and so expensive its unusable. For all of us, Facebook is definitely a good thing.
Actually this was possible already, and most of Facebook's primary features existed before Facebook. Facebook can really be described as the time wasting, addiction-inducing, feature-sets on top of standard social communication features, driven by their main goal of delivering and monetizing ads. Helping you communicate with your friends and family? That's just an ad vector.
Recently my friend group switched over to a non-facebook-owned messaging service, and the hardest part was breaking old habits. The facebook specific features? Messenger actually had fewer features to help us communicate and more features designed to distract us and make us mindlessly consume.
In reality it's hard to get all of your friends and family to switch services, because all of their circles also have to change and most of them don't really care about the negatives of FB. In the end you end up with 10 different messengers. The big convenience about FB is that everyone is on it and you don't need their mobile phone number.
To my mind the killer is event organisation. Put it this way: Meetup is apparently a viable business while charging money for a less-good version of something Facebook offers for free-at-point-of-use. No-one else really competes in that space at all (group chats aren't suitable because people who can't make a given event end up being spammed with all the details of it anyway, while people who join late miss out on details that were posted earlier).
Where I live, everyone uses either email, whatsapp or public spaces to advertise and organize meetups, from my sister I know that most parties are orgnaized over WA or Instagram, nobody likes using FB for it.
Everyone is on WA and i prefer it too, but I still need their mobile number, so it's more for close friends/family. I communicate with some coworkers i hang out with on Messenger because i haven't bothered to ask them for their number yet. However, i have definitely reduced my FB usage to an absolute minimum, which is mostly a couple of bigger groups I am part of. Instagram is kind of limited as a messenger.
At the end of the day, be it FB, WA, IG ...it is still FB your giving your data to ;)
And yours is a broad generalization, too, about the impact Facebook has on society. You cheer all the good and mention none of the negative consequences of this model. Google also makes much about the internet less frustrating and easier for novices, but I also understand what is being given up in that compromise.
I'm not even saying the "open" experience is not often without frustration. It absolutely is. Part of Facebook's success is connecting the frustrating parts about the internet and making it usable for normal people. But it's not like Facebook achieved some amazing technological advancement, nor is connecting the communication mechanisms of the world something that cannot be done without harvesting all of our personal data.
I don't think that "broad generalization" fairly characterizes the gp. They are saying they observe a lot of benefit in Facebook - if you read the post, that's all they say.
Maybe Facebook also produces a lot of ill. Any claim about the final impact of Facebook is claim to be able to sum up the good and the evil FB does and get a definite value. That's a pretty challenging argument.
Perhaps, but that person is responding to another about the impact Facebook has on society, good or bad, and that person only highlights the good essentially. I do think it's important to remember that Facebook is really doing nothing technologically amazing to allow that communication -- voice or text -- across geographical borders.
The internet forms the basis of this core technology and Facebook simply made it easier to use.
It's not like if Facebook goes away we're going to go back to SMS and expensive international phone calls. This method of communication was going to happen regardless. And there are clearly alternatives that exist today with different funding models.
You say, "Facebook is really doing nothing technologically amazing to allow that communication," but you're kind of glossing over the immense complexity of building systems to support private and public communication (for free), and prevent an incredible variety and volume of abusive traffic.
Can you name a single alternative at their scale with a business plan that is viable long term and not state run or state supported?
Provided by some company via a paid service or ads. Most commonly an ISP monopoly or oligopoly, or a large service monopoly, in nearly all nations. Even if you run your own email server, it's not free, you're paying for the network access to do it.
> MSN video calls
Subsidized by an operating system monopoly.
> Google Talk
Subsidized by a search monopoly.
Which was never able stand on its own profitable two feet. It was subsidized first by investor money, then by an auction monopoly, then by an operating system monopoly.
"Perhaps, but that person is responding to another about the impact Facebook has on society, good or bad, and that person only highlights the good essentially."
But that's the structure of any logical argument. If someone says X is only A, I will describe how I see plenty of B in X, which by itself doesn't say there is not plenty of A in X too. IE, One person makes a generalization, another points to an exception or several exceptions.
I do think it's important to remember that Facebook is really doing nothing technologically amazing to allow that communication -- voice or text -- across geographical borders.
Indeed, Facebook pretty much only amalgamates blogs, chat, forums and such. But given it's only making technological steps of some small-to-medium degrees, if the love isn't justified, then neither should the hate be justified? Currently, Facebook gets both.
The hate is because they collect so much data, and share and sell it so carelessly. Google collects at least as much data, for sure. But as far as I know, they just monetize it through their ad services, and don't actually provide it to others.
> I'm not even saying the "open" experience is not often without frustration. It absolutely is. Part of Facebook's success is connecting the frustrating parts about the internet and making it usable for normal people. But it's not like Facebook achieved some amazing technological advancement
Facebook did a lot of difficult things (if they weren't difficult others would have done them sooner) whose end result is that humans around the world get a lot of benefit. Focusing on whether Facebook's advances were "technological" is beside the point. (If anything packaging the technology in such a way that people can actually use it can easily be more of an "amazing advancement" than making the technology in the first place).
> nor is connecting the communication mechanisms of the world something that cannot be done without harvesting all of our personal data.
I'm not convinced. Making communication usable may well require an interface that adapts to the individual user. Again, ultimately, if it's so easy to do it better then why hasn't anyone else managed it?
> For all of us, Facebook is definitely a good thing.
And also a bad thing, is a major theme of the parent comment you replied to.
"Lie" is a stark word for what Zuck is doing, but it's not wrong assuming he understands the dark side of his monster. But he also may not know if he's actively deluding himself, and eliminating everyone around him that doesn't support that pretend worldview.
"Evil, or insane?" is a dilemma with a poor history. Once you descend to that standard it's better just to throw the whole thing out and start over. They can't get themselves out of this situation with the same brains that got them into it.
As much as I distrust his motives, there is this in TFA:
> Now, Mr. Zuckerberg is barreling ahead with his shift to focus Facebook on private messaging and away from public broadcasting, even if it means shedding some of his top lieutenants.
That sounds a lot like "understand[ing] the dark side of his monster". Maybe an extreme overreaction, it's true. But a clear acknowledgment that "sharing will make the world a better place" is rather too idealistic.
Yes, I think so too. But it sounds like he's renounced that. And of course, it could be bullshit to deflect criticism.
Even so, I've done lots of work with est / Landmark Education, and some with Lifespring, Tony Robbins and NLP. So I'm familiar with concepts of building relationships with family and friends, and broader social networking and community building. And a major aspect of that it honesty and open sharing, both 1:1 and in groups. it helps us see how much we're all the same, and builds empathy and love.
So when he talks about social hacking through sharing and strengthening relationships, I hear it through those filters. But I also hear his cynical comments about oversharing fools that sucks into Facebook.
so anyway, I'm curious where this will go. Facebook now allows signups via Tor, apparently with no texted authentication. And if he creates a privacy-frirndly version that emphasiuzes P2P communuication, that woutld be very cool.
The fact that your mobile internet is so expensive and such bad quality, and Facebook traffic is prioritized and free, is not a coincidence.
You are trading ease of use and convenience for the next generation's walled garden where Facebook sees and provides everything.
Sure, the impact doesn't feel as such. And supporting Facebook's plan by talking to your relatives on it doesn't seem like a big deal. Neither did it feel like a big deal when the generations before us decided to sacrifice our entire planet for a few decades of economic advantage.
Facebook is certainly not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. What they want to do is essentially exploit the fact that data is so expensive in so many countries, in order to make Facebook equal 'the internet' there.
I understand somewhat why it's working, but still find it kind of depressing that it's being actively cheered on.
"not doing it out of the goodness of their heart" is such an irritating cliche that makes me cringe.
FB was founded in 2004 as a crappy for-profit startup. How many for-profit businesses born out of the goodness of the owner's heart? Yet you seem to make it sound like it's FB's fault.
> I understand somewhat why it's working, but still find it kind of depressing that it's being actively cheered on.
Social network has enormous benefit because we human being are social animal. Simple as that. I'm surprised that you only "understand somewhat why it's working". Just because there are bad sides of it doesn't make it a mistake. In fact I firmly believe the benefits it brings to the society should be cheered on.
Condemn FB for their shady tactics, but don't forget the positive effect. Get out of your bubble. Put yourself in regular people's shoes.
> Yet you seem to make it sound like it's FB's fault.
I judge Facebook by its actions and the intent of the Free Basics program is clearly shady, I was responding to a parent who was presenting it as a god thing full stop, so am simply pointing out that there is more to FB's motivation here.
> Social network has enormous benefit because we human being are social animal. Simple as that.
I was talking more about the various free data deals Facebook has set up in developing countries, which effectively make it so that a lot of people see only Facebook when they first get online. I was not talking about "social networks" as a concept being bad.
> I'm surprised that you only "understand somewhat why it's working". Just because there are bad sides of it doesn't make it a mistake.
I understand it has short-term benefits, however over the long term, do you really want billions of people to assume that Facebook is the internet, to have everything they ever said, every picture ever taken stored there? Maybe even more, considering a lot of them are unlikely to have access to timely information on internet privacy, given they're pretty much limited to FB, a party not known for its strong stance on such matters?
And how about startups from the very countries affected? You're hardly going to compete against FB in such a situation.
> Condemn FB for their shady tactics, but don't forget the positive effect.
I am doing precisely that; condemning shady tactics. The benefits of FB are achievable without these tactics, or even without FB itself for that matter.
What is the point of this comment? You cant justify the bad by pointing at the good. Murderers dont get let off just because they do charity work. ExxonMobile are still responsible for supressing climate change awareness even though oil is a useful commodity.
Fair point. To clarify, I’m not saying that Facebook can’t be used for good things. It’s a tool. The “knives can be used to chop vegetables or to kill people” analogy is a cliche at this point, but it’s still true.
What I am calling out as a lie is the premise that Facebook’s guiding principle was “for the greater good” (which was how it was sold to us at the beginning, in sharp contrast to other corporate entities), as opposed to “win at all costs” (which it has demonstrated again and again, from the “move fast and break things” mantra to the infamous Boz memo).
It’s fine if your corporate values are to win at all costs. I mean, it’s how most companies operate in our society. The problem is that they pretended to be something else, something inherently virtuous, and capitalized on this perception to win the early battles for top talent.
> Facebook gives me the opportunity to maintain contact with my family who live on the other side of the world, as I walk the streets of São Paulo, for free. [...] The alternative (cel phone calls and sms)
I use email to keep in contact with my family. CC everyone, then reply all. No Facebook required.
Well, as I far as I can tell, a significant portion of negative qualities attributed to Facebook also can be, have been, attributed to email.
It seems like the situation of Facebook-anger today involves some people looking at particular interface of details that allegedly make Facebook in particular "more addictive" than email (or whatever unspecified social activity) but with this group with this narrow critique being joined by those with a broader critique of social media that essentially calls for nothing but face-to-face contact.
We face a difficult question of "at what point is a communication medium a tool of its users and at what point does a communication medium merely act on the users without them being truly conscious agents". I don't think we can really address this question by demonizing Facebook (the problem has existed since the dawn of mass media, with nearly all these media forms accused of doing terrible things and with the accusations at least have some support). Just for example, Zuckerberg may indeed have made some terrible choices but Facebook seems to signal a desire to take on this difficult question.
> Well, as I far as I can tell, a significant portion of negative qualities attributed to Facebook also can be, have been, attributed to email.
I disagree, for me this isn't about being addictive. Email doesn't quietly let websites I visit add themselves to my apps list and periodically reset/redefine my permissions so everyone can see my (and my friend's/family's) personal information.
If Facebook was just addictive I would still use it (I ditched it over 10 years ago).
Please stop CCing me about that party that I can't make. I don't need to know who's bringing what, I already know that I can't make it and hearing about all the details over and over again is just going to make me sad.
Also you missed my sister off the last reply, please re-add her and resend your message, again. But without me in the CC list.
> The alternative (cel phone calls and sms) is literally an inch away on our smartphone, but it is such bad quality and so expensive its unusable. For all of us, Facebook is definitely a good thing.
I'm sorry but I don't buy this at all. There are so many alternatives to facebook that are also free (i.e. skype or email) beyond "cel phone calls and sms".
You've simply become accustomed to the __convenience__ of facebook. That convenience has enabled you to interact with more people, and given you a sense of increased / improved connection with the world. But has the quality of those interactions improved? The world (including these execs) says no, on the contrary, interactions on facebook are oftentimes shallow and insignificant.
Whilst I agree with your general thought, I don't think you realise that in certain regions Facebook subsidises it's data usage so it is 100% free whereas Skype and email cost data. I hope that helps you understand where the parent is coming from. Though I obviously know that Facebook is doing this for market share and not to be "good" to people.
If you can get online to use Facebook, you can use any other service - email for example, or chat, or just WhatsApp / Signal. If you have an internet connection in your pocket why use one companies walled garden? I know everyone seems to be using it, but look at what Facebook has done to public discourse in the developed world - alot of people in the US and Europe thought it was great at first too.
When discussing the bad impacts of things like these, It's important to remember that we are under no impression that it is bad for everyone. But it is bad for SOME people. And that is enough. Some people will have their life ruined because of exploitative companies. Because their model promote unhealthy behavior that will consume their lives. Everyone knows that this is true. Some people out there are consuming too much time on facebook and having their live ruined as consequence. Just because it's not "everyone", or even a big percentage of the user, doesn't mean that we should be indifferent.
> "Zuckerberg's vision of Facebook as a good thing for the world was a lie" - That is such a broad generalization. In the developing world where I live Facebook gives me the opportunity to maintain contact with my family who live on the other side of the world, as I walk the streets of São Paulo, for free.
Both can be true of course. Zuckerberg may well have been driven by a less than altruistic vision but nonetheless still enabled some to benefit from the service.
The fact that Facebook as _a_ benefit, doesn't make Facebook _a good thing_ as a whole. Of course it's nice to stay in contact with your friends around the world for free, when just some 20 years ago this - if available to you at all - would have cost you loads of money.
Without defaulting to listing what bad Facebook does: Do those benefits really justify all the negative impacts? I hardly think so.
That's all fine until some special interest with money wants to launch a targeted propaganda campaign in your country. That can and has lead to effects ranging from detrimental government policy to outright genocide.
Nobody argues that Facebook keeping families in touch is a bad thing. It's the rest of it - the collecting and selling of data, the paid targeted propaganda campaigns, the intentional manipulation of user emotion - that people say is bad.
But if you don't believe the number of Facebook employees who have quit in protest, even Chris Cox, then I guess my comment here isn't going to persuade you.
Ironically the fear-mongering about the propaganda campaign you are describing is intended to turn Facebook into an instrument of US government propaganda. Zuckerberg has been resisting that, which is why Facebook is being attacked from all sides at the moment.
The US government has unlimited resources. If they want to use Facebook as a propaganda platform, they would do so, and Facebook would happily accept their cash.
The Russian campaign that you’re dismissive of is consistent with the heritage of Russian intelligence services. Lenin’s newspaper was called “Iskra” (spark) in the context of “from a spark a fire will flare up.” The army of trolls is there to foment dissent, motivate nutcases on the right and left and create scenarios difficult for the battleship that is American democracy to navigate.
Facebook is being attacked because it’s controlled with an iron fist by a guy who is over his head and possess extreme power without the foresight and vision to be a steward of it or the humility to delegate it. The company is harming the republic and the world.
It's not so simple, because not all employees would go along with it. It's possible that Zuck is stalling so he can figure out how to deliver what he's being asked for without creating too much turmoil.
> consistent with the heritage of Russian intelligence services
And also consistent with US intelligence services and a historic tit for tat. Russia's alleged $150K spend is being amplified because it fits the desired narrative, which is that social media needs to be much better controlled/censored, in this case for alleged national security reasons.
> guy who is over his head ... without the foresight and vision to be a steward of it or the humility to delegate it... harming the republic and the world
I would rephrase this as follows: A guy built an incredibly successful great firewall with built-in social credit system. In spite of his youth and inexperience he created something that governments have sought to create and control since before the modern information age. Now that he's created it and its value is (finally) understood by political leaders, there exists a desire to confiscate/control it to use it for the benefit of the republic.
The impact of FB's news feed algorithm on the 2016 election dramatically accelerated the power grab. Zuck saw this move early which is why he testified to congress that "Facebook should probably be regulated". He is insisting on overt, public regulation of something he sees as a public utility, but officials have their eye on the much bigger prize which is the great firewall + social credit system. Such a thing requires secrecy and of course does not resemble Zuck's concept of a public utility.
It's disingenuous to suggest that Facebook's current problems aren't at least in part due to their being more impartial in 2016 election cycle than they were in 2012 (when they let the Obama campaign download their entire social graph, and were praised for it).
If Zuck is trying to do distance the company from this shit and make it _more_ impartial, he's making the right choice for the long run. From what I've seen of him in congressional testimonies, he knows this is a problem, and he deliberately chooses not to pick a side as the company's CEO, even though he's under severe pressure to do so.
> In other developing countries it lead to a massacre.
That's like saying that telephones or the postal service lead to massacres when evil people call each other or mail propaganda flyers to the public. Yes Facebook should have done more to remove that content, but you can't really say Facebook caused the problems, and they probably would have happened on other platforms if Facebook didn't exist or had better moderation.
Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Whatsapp have all been (and continue to be) exploited to spread messages of hate and ignorance. It seems strange to me that Facebook is coming under so much criticism relative to the other platforms when, from my perspective, they've also been the most proactive about trying to address these issues. I haven't heard anything from Twitter recently regarding trying to minimize hate speech and ignorance on its platform (and its the worst service for divisiveness, in my opinion). Google only just recently demonetized anti-Semitic and anti-vax material on YouTube and only after significant backlash from its advertisers (not its users who have been calling for a response for years). Why is this?
That article doesn't really say what Facebook's "role" was. The closest thing is this:
> "It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultranationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities," she said.
It basically sounds like the bad guys were using Facebook groups to communicate. They could have done the same thing on IRC or anywhere else on the internet.
Maybe you are reading between the lines too much. Maybe he really just wants to do something else or spend more time with his family, and if he felt like Facebook was bending things the wrong way he'd say so. His point is more that progress in the right direction requires effort, and that instead of complaining we should take up our banner and work to make the future what we want it to be.
“if he felt like Facebook was bending things the wrong way he'd say so”
I wish that were true, but this is a rather naive perspective.
Facebook has a well documented history of requiring outgoing employees to sign non-disparagement clauses. For someone as high up as Chief Product Officer you’d better believe that they would have Chris sign something expressly forbidding any overt criticism of the company. Any severance package which in this case is worth millions or tens of millions would be contingent on signing.
I’m actually surprised he was able to say as much as he did.
A non-disparagement clause is so fucking bonkers. I read these things and would never sign something like that. It’s a blatant corporate attack on your freedom of speech and absolutely insulting as a human. You pay me. You do not control me!
Flip it around. If you are an employee partly compensated in stock, is it fair for a multi-billionaire who was one of your former bosses to flippantly trash talk the company in public after he cashes out, potentially damaging the value of your stock...? Wouldn't you want your employer to put some controls into place to prevent that kind of pointless harm to you?
You can still talk about literally anything else if you sign a non-disparagement clause or an NDA.
> You can still talk about literally anything else if you sign a non-disparagement clause or an NDA.
Why does this matter? It reminds me of the joke about how in America we value free speech so much that we can badmouth our leaders in public, but so what, in Soviet Russia they can badmouth the American leaders in public too. The question of how free your speech is, is determined by what you can't say, or can't get away with saying, without paying some hefty consequence (a punch, a fine, losing your job, imprisonment, forfeiting RSUs...).
> @tedlieu I am authorized to make the following statement: If you feel silenced by an NDA and need help from a Congressional committee, please contact, or have your attorney contact, the House Judiciary Committee.
For topics of societal and national concern, House subpoenas could be a good way to force disclosure — of things companies are trying to hide, via paying off employees in exchange for NDAs.
Maybe he simply isn't that confident in that opinion to state it so bluntly. I agree with the "reading between the lines" interpretation that this guy probably thinks facebook is a bad thing. But, thinking that, and coming out strongly with that position while holding such an influential position are two very different things.
If I had such influence I'd certainly be hesitant to just go all guns blazing, and I'm someone that strongly believes social media (primarily facebook) is a serious threat to civilized society.
Brian Acton and Palmer Luckey are not even close to the level of "high profile departure" as Chris Cox.
Acton and Luckey both joined Facebook in 2014 as part of multibillion dollar acquisitions. They are like hired mercenaries and were never on the inside, or even close. Chris Cox joined in 2005, fresh out of college. He has been a true believer and one of Zuck's most trusted lieutenants since almost day one.
Of the people who worked there early, like pre 2008, I am not aware of a single one who is outspoken in criticism of Facebook.
I can't believe anyone was unable to see through the bullshit on FB from the very very beginning. Does ANYONE there now, or at any time in the past, have any real belief that what they're doing is connecting the world? It's a money making machine, plain and simple. (Money making machines are not bad, as long as there is never any dog and pony show about being some higher form of existence)
I think that the people leaving also knew this all along, but now they are finally coming to terms with the impact that FB has really had on people, the world, privacy, and the way it has desensitized everyone to this type of behavior.
Facebook hasn't changed, that's not why people are leaving. They're leaving because they've finally been able to look in the mirror and realize that this isn't worth the paycheck anymore. That's gonna be a tough pill to swallow for most.
It's easy to believe the bullshit when that money machine is funding your six figure salary, free meals, unlimited vacation, recreational and health services, and 401K and Roth. That's why there are engineers at Google right now working on a censorship machine at the directive of the Chinese government. I find it highly doubtful that they would still believe the project is a net good on the world and not motivated by pure greed if they weren't getting paid so well. Similarly at Facebook.
That might be true for whatever moral principals you personally choose for yourself, however if I can't hold anyone accountable for immoral behaviour, because they might have just chosen another set of morals for themselves, that's nihilism.
Let's be honest it's not looking in the mirror and realizing the paycheck isn't worth it. It's looking in the mirror, then at their bank account balance, then realizing they don't need the paycheck at all.
These are people who were part of the first scaling out of single platform to 2 billion people. Their skill was in building out such a network and keeping it running. The skills required to do that well, came from people with business and compsci backgrounds. That work is done.
Now what matters is who joins. And what happens next to such a network.
Compsci and biz people won't make a difference to vision. The next phase will be driven by ideas from social sciene, ecology, history, psychology, economics, politics, religion etc. People who have a deep understanding of the value of human networks and what they can do, will drive the next chapter of where Facebook goes.
Can a for-profit company that even went public, that offers it's product "for free" to it's users really be good? I think at the heart of the problem is Facebook's business model. It can't be good and still sustain itself.
I think, at the very least, it would have to be a not-for-profit organization.
There's something called Social Purpose Corporation, at least in some states, which would probably fit to this case (a for-profit, but not profit-maximizing entity that exists to "do good" for a specified clause instead).
So, there are two ways of looking at Zuckerberg's idealistic positioning of Facebook as a force for good, which is how he pitched to me when I was recruited as a PM there in 2007 (and offered a job which I ultimately declined due to a counter offer, much to the detriment of my current net worth, but that is irrelevant to the current discussion):
1. Either this reflected a sincere belief by Zuck to build a different kind of product/corporate entity governed more by ethics than by money and power, or
2. This utopian positioning was a calculated recruiting strategy to attract the best and brightest recent grads from Stanford and other elite universities, who were extremely attracted by the idea of getting paid six figures to work on a fascinating product without having to sell our soul, like our friends in finance etc.
Or it could be some combination of those two.
My point is that if the underlying motivation were truly to do good, Facebook would have done something differently over the last 5+ years as the capacity for its product to cause harm became abundantly evident.
Instead, at every crisis/opportunity to fix the underlying issues, Facebook chose to brush problems under the rug in the pursuit of growth.
From my perspective, as someone who drank the Facebook kool-aid more than just about anyone in the early days, this represents a painful betrayal. I feel like one of the "dumb fucks" who trusted Zuckerberg's pitch to me back in the day.
We've already had a look inside his head, because he joked with his friends about how naive the people giving their information to him were for trusting, and how they were dumb fucks that he looked forward to fucking in the ear.
Sure, he might have changed since, but there's nothing wrong with rational speculation. Selfishness and greed are real phenomena in human relations so it would be as foolish to ignore such possibilities as to believe them uncritically.
> We've already had a look inside his head, because he joked with his friends about how naive the people giving their information to him were for trusting, and how they were dumb fucks that he looked forward to fucking in the ear.
You're reading a lot into a (admittedly stupid) quip/jab/whatever-you-want-to-call it by a 19 year old.
I don't even disagree with your fundamental assertion here, just that this is incredibly weak evidence.
No I'm not. I'm using it as an easy-to-recognize reference to a body of knowledge about the early stages of Facebook, which I feel no need to retype in full every time someone declares themselves innocent of any contextual knowledge. The name for this literary device is synecdoche, and I think you know perfectly well what the ancillary context is.
Or maybe people are complicated and they use tools to connect and amplify natural behavior. All this digital technology and instant communication with everyone is still very new and the human species is still learning how to best use it. If Facebook didn't exist then something else would've taken its place. This is part of technological progress and similar things happened with the invention of radio, tv and telecom.
It's very presumptuous to think a single person or company knows better than the entire world on whether something is "good" or not.
Well, the people who argue that these networks have an overall negative impact have plenty of examples to draw from - ranging from the last US election, to the genocide in Myanmar, the extremely fine ad targeting it enables perpetuating sociology economical discrimination, etc.
People who argue for its value mostly point to the fact that grandma can see pictures of the kids and other pedestrian examples of things that were just as feasible over email/instant chat before planetary scale social networks.
At this point it’s becoming pretty clear that open by default social networks à la Twitter/Facebook are generally a bad thing for our societies.
It's not clear at all, you just picked a random example of grandma when the reality is billions of people have and connected to each other and there are many examples of people avoiding censorship, exposing crimes, finding loved ones, getting help, and spreading news that otherwise wouldn't have happened.
The real issue is human nature. Social media is just a new medium that facilitates instant (and optionally public) communication but its still the same people at the end of the day. Email, chat and phone calls still have have vast amounts of scammers and propaganda and that will continue into any new comms that people use. There's no magic solution for that and never will be.
So is theft, murder, and the intentional infliction of pain for amusement. You can't dodge responsibility that way.
You're also ignoring several aspects that makes FB different in kind than a lot of what came before it. As but one example, they are the world's largest blackmail machine. Maybe you trust Zuckerberg & pals now, what happens when they're gone? When FB goes in to decline? When an internal threat hacks them? When Singapore or Russia or worse approaches FB systems folks with carrots and sticks? Has that happened already? How would we know?
I'm personally of the opinion that it was a terrible idea to build it in the first place.
Those actions are already crimes. You can use a knife to cut vegetables or stab someone but it's a stretch to say we shouldn't have invented knives because someone did something bad with it.
Likewise social media is not just Facebook but a tool for communicating, and any use for good or evil is up to the individual. Facebook is also just one company and has at least a dozen major competitors. The companies will come and go but the tech is here to stay.
There is no magic solution to preventing people from being people, but it’s still a good thing to not build systems that allow any entity with an internet connection to find, connect, and share content instantly to anyone and everyone all over the world.
Mark Zuckerberg has long held the belief that a more connected world is a better world - and 10 years ago, I was as optimistic as he was. Today, I know for a fact that connecting my grandpa to people in Russia paid a few hundred dollars a month by activists to spread FUD is a terrible idea.
Yes, email, chat, IMs, etc are also being abused - but they all have a certain amount of friction and properties that put them nowhere near the kind of scales that social networks enable.
You can only have one phone conversation at a time due to the nature of the medium, and when it’s over, it’s over - whereas partaking in a Facebook/Twitter thread will feed you an addictive slow drip of notifications over the next few days. People don’t really get their news (in the formal sense) by phone conversations, so media companies aren’t incentivized to flood you with phone conversations about increasingly controversial topics to keep you engaged to generate ad dollars. Because phone conversations are real time and decentralized, no entity can prevent anyone from saying a certain word or mentioning a certain event for instance, the way social networks can and have.
Email is an interesting one - sure there’s spams and scams, but it’s fairly non instantaneous, and the decentralized aspect means that no single entity can choose what emails people will see. Email users also don’t expect their email server to be injecting content in their email queue, or reordering their emails to try to get them to read things that will generate dollars for them. It has its flaws, but people just don’t feel manipulated by their email as a medium (although of course individual emails can manipulate people) .
Social media is just the perfect storm of tapping into human compulsions, a product controlled by a single company which seeks to derive profit above all else, misaligned free market incentives between platforms, advertisers and consumers, etc. This all makes for formidably harmful forces, and responding to the fact that these social networks have determining roles in genocides with vague platitudes such as “but they enable people to find loved ones and report crimes” comes across as a tad disconnected.
And avoiding censorship? Facebook, Twitter, etc cooperate with governments to enable censorship! If you want to avoid censorship, you are much better served by the broader, open, decentralized internet.
In case it isn’t clear, I’m a huge fan of the internet, email, instant messaging, message boards, and so on. Social networks in their current incarnation though are a very destructive virus for human culture.
You need to separate the communications medium from the corporation providing it. Facebook is not the only social network. There are hundreds of them and when one falls, another takes its place. Technological progress is unending.
There's no use in trying to argue why something shouldn't be done when it inevitably will be and already has, what we need is to think of ways we can adapt as a species and society to handle it with the proper care and concern.
As I just said, you're conflating the social network with Facebook the company.
Instant feed-based communications with varying levels of follower/friendship levels is a new technology provided by many organizations. Some are massive monopolies and others are indie apps, it doesn't matter but the tech is not going away so yes, we the people will need to learn how to deal with it.
No, I’m not. Facebook’s scale and business practices is the problem, not the social graph or feed. Facebook sought to make friction re: sharing and signaling as low as possible. The result is obvious. But that outcome is not inevitable or fundamental to the technology, it’s a conscious engineering decision made by the firm.
Unrestricted broadcast access was understood as a problem with radio 100 years ago. Society controlled that with a regulatory stick and will likely do so again.
So Twitter is fine? Reddit is fine? Youtube? Instagram? Whatsapp? Gab? Tumblr? Wechat? QQ? Snapchat? Sina Weibo? VKontakte?
If you're comparing to radio then it's back to talking about the medium instead of a specific company and the same fundamental problems are inherent in all of them because of the social feed concept allowing for instant communications spread through a graph of connections. We've never had this same model before. Radio had interference and physical limitations but digital networks allow ideas to spread with infinite capacity and following 1:1 conversations until they reach everyone.
Sure Facebook has made their own tweaks like every other network, and maybe regulation can solve some of those issues and get everyone to the same base utility, but that's going to be a very hard battle that's limited to certain regions and doesn't affect anything about the underlying communications concept.
We still need to learn to live with social media regardless of who is providing and in what variation.
Sharing photos with your family and aquintances has been feasible since the invention of snail mail and photography, yet it wasn’t done at nowhere near this scale. Ultimately people get enough value out of Facebook to use it for a billion hours a day, but it’s easy to forget that and just focus on the negative effects.
How do we know that examples are not polluted by the biases. Not so long ago FB/Twitter was hailed for its role in Obama's campaign and Arab Spring. It is still being used same except now we don't like the side using it.
So, do you read this quote as a very mild-mannered 'fuck you' to the current facebook modus operandi? I obviously know nothing of Chris, but the message doesn't feel that different from the grand but empty proclamations that Zuck spouts in his posts. Also, he has worked there for fourteen years and in the most senior leadership positions, how can he be not complicit?
I 100% view his quote as a mild-mannered 'fuck you' as you suggest. I also do see him as complicit to a certain degree. That said, there has been a very strong reality distortion field involved in being a Facebook executive since the beginning. I personally experienced this while being recruited there in 2007 and it took me years to work through the cognitive dissonance involved in understanding that a dream you deeply believe in is actually more of a nightmare.
From a psychological perspective, when you escape a cult, there is a process known as "exit counseling" which is often required to help former members process their experiences and return to reality. I suspect that former Facebook insiders will undergo a similar process. And I view Chris' quote as an indication that he has begun his own transition.
I think it has more to do with high skepticism towards Zuckerberg. Combine that with lots of internal struggles and high level executives that openly stood up against Zuckerberg, and Chris Cox comes out as a hero by default.
At least, it’s probably something along these lines.
In the end we don’t have enough information, and probably never will.
I’ve been saying this since 2009. A lot of what’s wrong with Facebook started when it tried to copy Twitter in 2009: making posts public by default and preferring news articles over user generated content.
I don't think it was a lie. A mistake, a delusion, quite possibly... but lbh nobody quite expected where this thing ultimately ended up going and tbh^2, a lot of the problems aren't facebook in particular, but rather what happens when humanity collides with one of, if not the, single biggest singularity in human communication (beyond speech and language itself) since the beginning of humanity. (ie. the internet)
These people are vested, super rich and probably a little bored.
As long as FB is a 'darling' they can ride that - now when the narrative is darker, it's just a grind for them. They can move on, do nothing, do something fun, and possibly get out before any ugly things happen.
Just as FB was over-hyped on the way up, the negative narrative is also a little too much. There's a lot of grey in the details.
I think Zuck has made some mistakes, but FB is not trying to do evil.
Also: FB may have been a fad, not a trend. It may be kind of slowly dying as other things take it place, and while they continue to make money, some of the underlying metrics might be heading down. Usership certainly is. So it's easy to see people wanting to move on as FB moves into a more 'grind' stage of either limited growth, maturation into a boring corporation, or even downward stagnation.
The koolaid party is definitely over, the money is in the bank, so the impetus to stay is much less.
Also I suspect facebook is in decline in term of engagement, I hardly know anyone around me who still uses it. That sounds like a more plausible rationale for top employees leaving than them worrying about facebook “being good for the world”.
My guess is that these are all unintended consequences of very big systems. If you have so many actors in your playground as Facebook, then it just becomes impossible to foresee the results of your actions, and how people will use the platform.
I don't consider people that oversaw one of the biggest cases of user data misuse in history which, by the way, could've been easily prevented, as the "best people". Sounds like Facebook is making the changes necessary to rectify the mess they oversaw.
Chris was one of the rare people who understood both the technical side and business side of a product/business. There were so many times where an engineer would start blabbling big terms to avoid doing something or an PM spouts MBA Bullshit and Chris just shuts it down.
What outsiders who focused on the PR never knew is that there was a balance of power in FB that kept things going forward. Now, with these changes along with Jan Koum leaving last year, I don't know if there is anyone with enough influence to counterbalance the Sheryl-driven short-termism view.
For people without real defined values, "privacy centric" is yet another empty cover to do exactly the opposite.
As the leader of Facebook's products he essentially was directly responsible for the total neglect of the Facebook Developer program which caused the biggest PR disaster in FB's history; not to mention, the misuse of user data collected through the program by Cambridge Analytica.
I fail to see how he was a good leader vs riding the wave of Facebook's success. Sounds like Facebook eventually outgrew him anyway so they fired him.
Not exactly. Tobacco has no benefits to society except possibly a dopamine hit for the user.
Facebook has a lot of positives to go along with its negatives. For me, it's the only way I stay in touch with a lot of my friends from high school. And I know that it's only because of Facebook, because Facebook didn't exist for the first 10 years after I graduated, and most of my friends didn't get on it until about 15 years after graduation. It was great finally reconnecting them with them all.
They are people whose company I enjoyed, but we just didn't have the time to have individual conversations every week with the 50 people we knew from school. Having a way for them to broadcast updates has been super helpful.
Also, the Portal is great. I got a pair when they came out, and it's easy enough that my four year old will call her grandparents regularly without my help. It's the only platform that we've found that is easy enough for both the four year old and my parents.
I use messenger and WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends in other countries. They are easy to find because we're friends on Facebook.
So yeah, Facebook still has a lot of positives for society. I don't judge someone who works there just for working there. I hope that they are working to enhance the positives and minimize the negatives. From what I've seen with the folks I've talked to, that is always the case.
Of all the people who smoke never once have I heard the social argument as you describe it. I'm not trying to comment on the subject of the analogy, but just on the fact that I trying to apply the analogy to this space is a bit of a stretch.
I've heard the argument of "I don't care what it does to me", or "I'm gonna die anyway, what gives if I shed a few years at the end", but never "I won't be able to connect to other people if I quit smoking" (in fact, I know people who quit smoking due to social reasons).
I know people who think they look cool when they smoke, or who get thoughtful when they smoke, but I've never heard of tobacco as a "social" activity like drinking alcohol is, for example.
I was a non habitual smoker for years and did it for the social connection. I also smoked habitually for a year and stopped. I'll likely continue to smoke with a friend or stranger under the right circumstances, but I don't want it to be every day or even once a week.
I'm not advocating others smoke, nor am I saying this is a reason most other smokers do. The GP's claim was simply familiar and valid, which is why I'm sharing.
I hope you are aware that the positive effect you describe also has a negative side. Those people who refuse to join Facebook (for good reasons as we were taught) are getting isolated. So who can tell what the net result is?
Yes exaggerate the claim to be completely different from the real situation. If you think Facebook has it's demerits then be consistent and say the same about all of the Internet. Because your Grandparents aren't on HN, HN should be banned as well.
Facebook is not that thing for sure. There is someone comparing it to Tobacco in some other comment. HN really is too much sometimes and often in its own bubble. The same arguments can be made against the Internet as a whole.
I hear this quite a lot from the people who have worked at "damaging" companies (facebook, reddit, twitter, uber) but I still have to wonder if the personal benefits these platforms bring are really worth the societal cost, and if people are just using the idea that they can "change things from inside" as a justification for taking money to damage the world.
Don't get me wrong, I think that communication is great. It's fantastic that grandchildren can talk to their grandparents without their parents having to get off the couch and help. But is it worth people literally dying? Is being able to post funny memes worth giving violent communities a place to thrive?
At the end of the day people have to make their own decisions about things, but I think that tech workers as a whole are way to eager to wash their hands of the matter, take a paycheck, and blame others while ignoring that these companies could not function without them.
Big tobacco had "benefits to society" w/r/t the number of jobs it created, and the aggregated money that it re-invested in other businesses.
Rationalizing around individual experience buries the fact that the consumer well being is absolutely not necessary in a quarterly report: you individually gain something with FB or big tobacco; I individually loose something with FB or big tobacco. And vice-versa. In the end, the forces that matter are not tied to us as individual but to the company (or even, the industry) as a whole. Which is to say it is tied to performance, stake holders, legislation, and so on.
The only self-regulation that a company like FB (or Philip Morris) is willing to apply, is one that improve it's financial performance. Why would it do otherwise? Morality, good or bad, is a not a product of capitalism. The fact that you gain and I loose from these decisions is a happy accident, not an intentional result.
Regulating tobacco requires regulating the sale of a substance. Regulating facebook requires regulating speech (that is what advertising and a like button are) that happens to incite an emotional response. I'm very uncomfortable with regulating that.
If anything your comment speaks to the weird paradox of who is responsible for a corporation's actions. Is it the shareholders? Is it the CEO? Is it the employees? Is it the board? Is it the customers?
It almost ends up that there are so many people with a thread of responsibility that everyone involved has someone else to blame. Resulting in there being no one to blame.
> It almost ends up that there are so many people with a thread of responsibility that everyone involved has someone else to blame. Resulting in there being no one to blame.
They can claim this, but if everyone is responsible, everyone is responsible. If this structure is the case, everyone shares in a little bit of the claim. And then you get into collective action ideas, like recycling persay, where only by many people doing it is there an impact. Except in this case, everyone being complicit means a large negative impact.
I do also think that regardless, the people that allowed such a system of non-responsibility to exist, by whatever means, are inherently more responsible. Especially when they have the power still to change the system and choose not to. This then points to Zuck and other higher ups who kept steering the ship forward and refused to change course. No, Zuck's "omg I like privacy now" PR show does not count as changing course.
Tobacco and Facebook really are a good parallel. The top level leadership knows what they are doing. The rank and file employees take orders but are responsible still to an extent, particularly if they have other employment options. The shareholders are simply greedy investors who value profit over societal effects.
In a couple decades, we will see a Mad Men style show which illustrates life at the world's largest social media company, as well as the kinds of deals that went down, the kind of people that made them, etc., all to a realistic and historically accurate backdrop which connects real events to the scenes in the show.
Why? If they have alternate employment options, they are actively choosing to support their company's work. The "someone else will do it" excuse doesn't mean you throw your hands up in the air and give up on ever caring about ethics, it means you acknowledge that it won't change the world on its own and still try.
I don't think you go attacking individuals publicly but yes, people should absolutely be forced to have conversations about the morality of their job, especially those well off enough to have freedom of choice in where they work. It's not an easy conversation, but we all need to be encouraging this more.
I specifically included, very deliberately, phrasing specifying that this applies only to those that have alternatives. The reality is that many of those working at Facebook have such a luxury. I absolutely do not blame people that are working to survive.
> But to suggest minimum wage earners working at Marlboro should quit because of some vague "morality" is insane and extremely elitist.
Not once did I say this anywhere. There are still high ups at Marbolo that did have the ability though, and plenty of people between minimum wage survival and top level execs. It's a spectrum of both power and responsibility.
Many work at FB have that luxury? How can you prove that? You can't. That's a judgement call on your part, and a bad one at that. You have absolutely no insight into the work/life issues those workers need to consider.
Someone's salary is not a measure to use when attacking them for not resigning.
There is no valid argument to support the claim that Marlboro executives should resign because cigarettes are unhealthy. People resigning does exactly nothing to the market demand for cigarettes.
> Many work at FB have that luxury? How can you prove that? You can't.
> Someone's salary is not a measure to use when attacking them for not resigning.
You don't resign out of the blue, you start looking and interviewing at other places. People with the talent or resume to get hired at Facebook currently do have that ability and should be valued on the current job market.
> That's a judgement call on your part, and a bad one at that. You have absolutely no insight into the work/life issues those workers need to consider.
Okay, so you're just boiling this down to "my judgement is better than yours without evidence" then? If no person can have any insight into anyone ever, how would we ever act on any information or situation? Assumptions and judgements must not be made blindly but they do need to be made in an informed manner. Why you discount my perspective on them without reason is another matter.
> There is no valid argument to support the claim that Marlboro executives should resign because cigarettes are unhealthy. People resigning does exactly nothing to the market demand for cigarettes.
They literally created the market demand through their suppression of information. The argument is not at all "cigarettes are unhealthy", it's that they should not be marketed and supported in the motives of profit above morality.
Please stop rephrasing my arguments to fit your assumptions. I'd love to have a real discussion here instead of talking past each other.
Some people like shooting themselves with guns sometimes. It doesn't mean I should manufacture guns and advertise their effectiveness for that task, or worse, use psychological tricks to sell guns to these people while hiding my motivations.
First, let us not forget it took an entire public health initiative and excessive public regulation for "everyone" to understand the risks. This is not always the case generally and was certainly not when Marbolo employees, some high up with power and freedom of work, were working to lobby against that information regarding their risks coming to light.
As far as guns, again you did not read my full example regarding the marketing. The conditions are to show that making something and selling something happens in a context, not a vacuum. Not all cases are moral or should be encouraged.
I used to be a fan of Facebook, but I was never obsessed with it. I even used to work there.
I'm over it.
It's useful for groups, some of the ads really are useful, it's nice to sometimes keep up with people that are far away, but the news feed has had done way more harm than good for our society, including my own life.
After the 2016 Election, Facebook posts lead to so much drama in my family that certain "branches" of the tree have unfriended and blocked each other and we haven't spoken since. My dad and I constantly argue because he will see some comment I made on someone else's post and have to give his own opinion, or read to me what the other person said back. There is no way to turn this part of the feed off.
Overall, it is a totally unpleasant product to use now. The only reason I want it to succeed is because I own stock from when I worked there.
If the only reason you want the company to succeed is because you own stock, that sounds like a good reason to not own the stock. Besides, if other people start feeling the way you do, the stock is not likely to do very well, so if you believe your feeling is representative, you might want to consider it a sell signal.
> There is no way to turn this part of the feed off.
Unfollow everyone, and you don't get sucked into interacting with the facebook feed. Use it for Messenger, groups, and events. I've been doing that, and facebook is a perfectly good communication utility without any of the grief.
Honestly, we as users should demand a simple switch that entirely disables the feed. It turns facebook from a socially messy skinner box into something benign and generally quite useful.
I don't care about seeing other people's comments, but I'd like to be able to prevent people seeing my comments on other peoples' posts unless it is a mutual friend or something. No matter what it is I comment on, a news article, or a group post, and my dad (and I am sure other FB friends) see it even if we aren't connected to the same groups and sites.
>> The only reason I want it to succeed is because I own stock from when I worked there.
I know the feeling as I HAD the same situation with amazon. The problem with such thinking is that yes you'll make some money off of it by enhancing human misery but when I sell the stock I will still be a human being.
Fortunately, when you are not a part of the company there is a easy justification to sell, its that you are no longer have a 'better sense' than market about the direction of the stock. so for me the question then becomes of the universe of stocks available out there why hold on to this (& if you have a good reason then why not invest more of your 'own' money into it). IMO its just endowment effect.
Why would anyone want to work for Facebook these days? When you are maintaining the largest advertising stream since TV while actively destroying society's discourse, I'm not sure what redeeming qualities it has. I think the most important thing any of us can do is get away from Facebook and move towards pursuits that fix problems, including the ones Facebook helped create.
The people who believe facebook is the most evil company in the world are a fairly small minority. Most people who work at facebook believe the company is positive or neutral, and are happy to be able to work with smart people at a place that is really nice to work at, and get paid a lot for doing it. Some people have qualms about what facebook is doing - I think they move on for the most part. (Source: used to work there, left for personal reasons).
There was also a time when Facebook was just a random website run from a dorm room. Just like Facebook itself grew, so will the group of people who dislike it. And the trend can only go in one direction, because as Tim Cook said "If I were running Facebook, I wouldn't be in this situation".
>>Most people who work at facebook believe the company is positive or neutral
Yeah, you can be smart without having any guts (to demand change). That many Facebook employees still believe the company is positive or neutral is a good example of this.
As long as she doesn’t associate names with those salaries in the conversation, i don’t think it’s unethical. Or she doesn’t act on those salaries and commit some kind of security fraud, it’s just a conversation.
It's no different than with an ER doctor. They can say "some idiot wearing a McDonalds uniform came in with a bottle stuck in his ass" but they cannot say "John Smith came in with a bottle stuck up his ass."
That's great for the ones that make that much, but this kind of information is what's causing Bay Area housing and rent prices to sky-rocket. I have worked with multiple engineers in two large corps and most people make anywhere between 100k and 200k.
Other commenters are saying money. I think they also have a lot of people who joined as a first job, so FB is all they know, and they are not (yet?) cynical. This is true of all the other megacorps as well.
Interesting spin from the NYTimes ("Facebook Loses Top Executives, Including Chris Cox"):
"The departures follow two years of scandals for Facebook around data privacy and disinformation. The issues have buffeted the Silicon Valley company, causing internal turmoil and a redirection in strategy."
This is what pisses me off. I'm more than willing to criticize Facebook when they deserve it but IMO the media blitzkrieg has said more about the media than Facebook. Not that FB hasn't done scummy things but my faith in the whole attack angle has been reduced
They leaked tens of millions of people's personal information to third parties without so much as notifying them. There were congressional hearings about their privacy violations. Facebook is very publicly pivoting to emphasize personal privacy much more than they have before. It seems like a pretty legitimate bit of context more than an attack.
They’re very publicly pivoting to /claiming/ to take privacy seriously. I don’t know why anyone would believe them, given their track record, continued willful ignorance about the actual definition of privacy, and vested interest in mining every detail about their users to achieve better ad targeting.
Why? What level of criticism is acceptable, and what level is not, and why?
This is something I've not really been able to understand about those who defend Facebook against these "attacks". Nothing reported (AFAIK) has been untrue. Facebook is one of the richest and most culturally central companies of the 21st century. It seems fair game to examine what they do.
Significant portions of NYT's reporting have been highly misleading, to the extent that it's difficult to conclude it wasn't intentional.
"Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages." 
Netflix and Spotify have Messenger plugins that allow you to share movie trailers and songs from directly within the Messenger app. Spotify's desktop app also used to connect with Messenger to enable similar functionality. NYT equated having standard "read/write" permissions necessary for basic app functionality with Netflix and Spotify being able to access, store, and modify all of your private messages.
Read the comments on that article and any prior discussion of it on the internet and you'll see that many technology illiterate people misinterpreted what that meant.
Also, it's fair game to examine what Facebook has been doing, but it's also fair game to examine what NYT's motives are for scrutinizing them so closely. When Google, Twitter, Equifax, and others have been largely ignored one naturally begins to wonder if there's an underlying agenda at play.
I'm confused. Netflix and Spotify did have the ability to read anyone's private messages. That's what they reported, and as far as I know none of the involved parties disputed that.
The point isn't that somebody at Spotify was sitting there reading everyone's messages. The point is that they could have been doing that, and Facebook had nothing in place to know if they were doing that, and none of the users sharing a song with friends would think that doing so would enable them to do that, and such extensive privileges were not necessary to implement a simple sharing feature.
Without regulatory oversight and third party auditing of certified access logs, you can't really be sure what was or was not accessed. Of course, if you imposed those kind of requirements on Facebook, that would take a significant amount of resources and therefore reduce their profit margins. Probably not very investor-friendly.
If you read up on FBs response, it's clear that only people who signed into those sites with Facebook would have given Netflix and spotify access to PMs. The user would have to agree to a permission dialog at least before the companies would have access.
My problem is that there is plenty of legitimate things to criticize about Facebook but the media manufactures their own issues and agenda and applies them. I don't know anyone who was or quite frankly is concerned about privacy on FB. I don't think the "Russian ads" had any effectiveness on US politics. The Cambridge Analytica "scandal" was allowing friends lists to be public via the API (something everyone did back then). But when you look a the NYT and other mainstream media coverage, it's 100% Russians, "hacks", privacy...
What do I see as the real issue with FB (and Instagram in particular)? It rots people's brains out. It's like crack. I know multiple people spending their life savings to travel the globe for the perfect Instagram shot. I know many, many relationships that have been utterly destroyed by Facebook. Turns out staying connected to all of your ex-partners on a social network kinda makes it hard to get into new relationships. Facebook has been an absolute blight on humanity, just not for the reasons the mass media tells you.
It's about the media and political actors getting control over the lucrative and politically important social media platforms.
It's not just facebook. Google, Twitter and Reddit have also faced tremendous media pressure. Facebook gets most of the attention because they are by far the largest social media player.
For all the talk about how powerful tech companies are, traditional media is proving they are no slouches. Of course traditional media has far greater political backing so you could say they have an unfair advantage.
All we can do is have ourselves some popcorn and watch the entertainment. One thing that perplexes me is why the social media companies don't band together and help each other from these politically motivated attacks. There is strength in numbers and they'd be able to fend off these attacks better if they acted together. Maybe the tech environment is just too competitive for that?
Both WAPO and NYT have a clear editorial and political agenda against Facebook.
To add two datapoints to your observation above:
"Facebook’s top executive in charge of all products, Chris Cox, the longtime confidant of chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is leaving the company, the highest-level departure at the social media giant amid nearly two years of sustained crises." (WAPO) 
"Two Facebook Inc. senior executives said Thursday that they would leave the company—surprise departures that come days after CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a major shift in direction for the company." (WSJ) 
> Over the past two years they've published ~14,000 articles each on FB
That would mean publishing around 19 articles a day. So, uh, .
I'd say that both WaPo and NYT have a clear editorial and political agenda of questioning those with/in power. Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google (who have had their own fair share of bad coverage) are enormously powerful, rich companies that own a huge amount of data about all of us. It's only right that they are held to account when they do things with that data that users don't want. It's something Wall Street banks and oil companies have had to bear for a long time.
I rechecked my methodology for those estimates after your comment and have now retracted them for being inaccurate. Thank you for the reality check. Based on an unscientific site-limited Google search of each publication, it looks like all 3 have published ~2,000 articles directly on Facebook within the past 2 years (since March 2017). Many of the WSJ articles are with respect to its business prospects while both the NYT and WAPO feature many anti-FB columns and opinion pieces.
I still maintain that NYT in particular has a strong editorial bias against FB and an underlying agenda, but I should definitely do a deeper analysis to support my claim.
I just don't understand how anyone can believe his vision for "a privacy-focused social network" is even possible this late in the game. There is too much money riding precisely on the reductions of privacy Facebook has enabled for this to be realistic anymore. The ad dollars come from knowing you, not concealing you. Plus, once you're a public company, the rules change—you have shareholders to honor—and if you got to that IPO by being shady or unethical, backing out of that position is going to be nigh impossible. Their entire business model developed itself on a privacy-destroying data-suck of colossal proportions so where is profitability without that?
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
A common feature request for my app: remove FB login!
These are users who didn't even use it. But just seeing the Facebook login option there next to email (it was the only OAuth) gave them the creeps. These aren't tech savvy users either, just regular small town businesses
I think Facebook has a long, long, long way to go towards brand repair before anyone can 'trust' it in any way
Why? Some of the most venal, greedy, and ruthless people in history made their money then turned to philanthropy to improve their image. I would argue that it was downright predictable, and so would Alfred Nobel. In fact using charity to either improve your public image (as in Gates and many others) is probably only matched by people like Jimmy Saville using charity to give themselves license to continue committing crimes.
I'm sure the competitive drive to dominate (in generosity) plays a role. Look at the rivalry between Rockefeller and Carnegie for example. Once they grew old and their companies either bought out (Carnegie) or broken up by the feds (Rockefeller) they basically switched to seeing who could get their names put on the most public buildings by building libraries, universities, etc.
Legally, he has a duty to maximize value for his board and investors
You should probably stop using the word "legally" in this context. There have been thousands of companies over the decades that put other things before shareholder value, and somehow managed to not run afoul of the law.
Also, it might help if you provided a citation to this law to bolster your argument.
And there hasn't been a business model that provides a free consumer web product without monetizing user data.
I'd love to read a blog post talking about how to make free consumer web apps without monetizing user data. I really would. That's the crux of the issue here -- is there an alternative to the ad-tech playbook?
There's all the Redhat / enterprise open-source examples, but I'm specifically talking about consumer web products. Redhat's product is enterprise infrastructure.
There's free as in a trial or limited functionality to get you to buy the premium offering, but then the business model isn't really based off a free product... the free product is a promotion, not a business model.
You can have one group of premium users subsidize all the free users. In social, the main examples would be LinkedIn or Angelist, but again, access to the user data is the product these companies eventually sell.
There's Wikipedia, but that's a non-profit. Nothing wrong with that, people make a living that way and we need more like it, but I'm talking about companies where profits can serve as a strong motivator. This also excludes government services.
Maybe Google Maps qualified as free in the beginning, but any free service that Google makes is pretty much some clever way to acquire more user data to support other parts of the enterprise. HN itself falls under this category: HN is an ingestion pipeline for YC (the YC app asks for your HN handle, hello future YC app reviewer!).
I know it's a trite and a tired saying, but it really is true: if you're not paying for it, you are the product. That's not bad per-se... another way of looking at it is in the same way the sharing economy unlocked underutilized physical assets, these services have unlocked a new source of wealth not measured by our wallets: our attention. Lets describe it as we pay for these services with our attention-dollars.
My point is anything that's a "free consumer service" business model is really some kind of machine that converts attention-dollars into cash-dollars.
I would love to see a discussion of non-cash-dollar, non-attention-dollar business models. If you can think of a way of giving away Something that People Want (TM) for free without the corrupting influence of optimizing for their attention, well, you've found the next genuinely interesting unicorn.
> Because that's who a CEO reports to and that's how a CEO gets fired.
That has nothing to do with the legal requirements of the company or the CEO. That would be the same as saying I am "legally required" to go to work tomorrow, because I could get fired for not showing up.
It is not illegal to have other goals than maximizing shareholder value.
For example, Costco. Publicly traded company but the employees are paid well, customers are well taken care of, and the CEO is rewarded for this. In the short-term, Costco could generate an enormous amount of value by automated, reducing wages, and finding cheaper supplies and lowering quality, selling their customer's membership information, etc.
But they don't. And there is nothing illegal about it.
Such is life in the age of post-privacy. By the way, Zuck didn't explicitly renounce that horseshit when he announced the new privacy-focused Facebook. Probably hoping nobody remembers to avoid detracting from the believability of the current horseshit.
All of his fairly recent congressional "testimony" fills in the gaps quite nicely. He might not have used identical curse words, but, to me, the same attitude shown through quite brightly. I really don't see a change whatsoever.
>I just don't understand how anyone can believe his vision for "a privacy-focused social network"...
People need to understand, ANYTHING you use on the internet opens you up wide to privacy violations. Anything you use on the internet can end up in the hands of law enforcement. And certainly any SOCIAL network is, by its very nature, NOT private.
There is no way to be on the internet, and be completely opaque to the larger world at the same time. Zuckerberg is lying to you. So are Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, and Wire. If you're worth it, the US can track you. (Not just the US, several other nations and organizations can as well.)
Your buddy who told you that they couldn't find you behind that pseudonym as long as you were using a VPN? Yeah... he lied.
But here's the real problem, no one cares.
No one cares about privacy, because they all feel that they have nothing to hide. I know the feeling, I understand the feeling. But this is bigger than us as individuals.
The internet needs to be rearchitected, bit by bit. In concert with that effort, we need to agitate for some laws that prevent data sharing. Some laws that have real teeth.
This is another issue, everyone's definition of "privacy" is different. I want total privacy, which I can't have. That said, you're correct to say that there are some people out there who just want a little privacy.
>The ad dollars come from knowing you, not concealing you.
Advertising dollars are far more lucrative if you think you can trust where you're sharing your deepest, darkests...
Imagine what people would share between themselves if it wasn't "public for the world to see". Imagine how many more data points that would produce for targeted advertisements on the Facebook platform, alone.
Edit: Including necessary reference to Bill Hicks.
> Advertising dollars are far more lucrative if you think you can trust where you're sharing your deepest, darkests...
You mean like a Google search?
If you don't mean a Google search, I'm not sure what you could mean. What could possibly be more intimate than a person's lifelong history of general queries in their pursuit of knowledge and personal identity?
Oftentimes those queries are even natural language sentence fragments that directly convey the person's intentions.
What more are you claiming a company could infer by convincing their userbase that their data remains private?
>If you don't mean a Google search, I'm not sure what you could mean.
If you're considering buying a motorcycle and have a friend (or a group of friends) that own(s) a motorcylce, are you more likely to ask that friend (or that group) the pros/cons of owning a motorcycle and for their recommendations or are you far more likely to use "nature language sentences" in Google to illicit that information (e.g.: "I'm thinking of buying a motorcycle")?
I'm going to posit that the former occurs far more frequently than the latter and that this is the potential "untapped market" for targeted advertising that a "private social network" would be after.
Who are the people that aren't already using gmail/facebook/apple to ask their friend group this question in the first place?
Regardless, it's pretty easy to infer from the person's Google searches what their friends told them. And if that user has an Android phone Google also has their location data to cross-reference with it, plus data gleaned from CC purchases and probably lots of other sources I haven't yet read about.
It’s exactly why he/she is pushing for it. Because they can now hide behind the wall that is privacy. People can do whatever they want behind that wall and Facebook can and will not care to monitor any activity. This is their way of copping out.
They pay many people salaries that they’d have trouble getting elsewhere. If these people stick around for the dream even after the money dries up, then I’ll be impressed.
The sentiment I’ve heard so far is “let’s wait this out, and hope it goes back to business as usual.”
The ethical have likely left already. Those who are most talented and in it for the money will likely be next out, if things don’t turn around. Then they’re left with the untalented and overpaid, who will cling on for as long as possible while the ship sinks.
I personally know many people that stayed / have stayed 9-10 years at Facebook, long after the IPO and long after vesting.
I think people really underestimate the value of sheer impact on end users. I know the news about FB hasn't been positive, but as an engineer a lot of people would jump at the opportunity to literally change the world every month.
FAIR is one of the most advanced AI research labs in the world. PyTorch has massively growing adoption because it is substantially better than the competitors and FAIR work consistently pushes the state of the art forward. Calling their AI work 'also ran' is ridiculous.
1. Judging how smart the people there are by their tech stack is like judging how much horsepower a car has based on how many miles it has.
2. Even humoring that assumption, you’re conveniently forgetting React, Hive (+Hbase, hipal), presto, rocksdb, Cassandra, graphql, oauth 2, open compute, phabricator, hhvm, buck, and that’s just the open source stuff.
Sorry, I stopped considering your argument when you claimed the HHVM wasn't anything other than a crime against humanity.
PHP could have died, but no, it got a new lease on life.
Hive is a bad copy of a google tech. Buck is a bad copy of a google tech. Hbase is a bad copy of a google tech. Rocks is cute, but it's a bit sad that it's at the center of literally everything in the company.
Phabricator isn't bad, but it's a pretty close copy to things at google.
And I think Google only joined the open compute initiative to try and talk facebook out of it's weird ideas.
Well Jobs was the first that came to mind, but Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Spotify (I know, not Valley)... all have this identical cult like culture where the employees are fully indoctrinated and feel their execs are the best in the world.
Not to be rude, but this has been my universal experience in the tech industry for the past 20+ years.
Ask some of your friends who work at these companies to see their internal Blind posts. It ranges from pretty upbeat to exceedingly negative, and it also seems to correlate with how the company performs financially. Which makes sense since these people have half a million dollars of RSUs on the line.
At FB you have your first-day orientation and as a part of this Cox came in and gave a speech. I have no idea if it is the same speech to every week's 'class' or an evolving variation on the same themes, but it was a pretty good speech and is probably one reason why people are so eager to drink the kool-aid for the first few years.
(Reposting since the parent comment I replied to was deleted)
Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Whatsapp have all been (and continue to be) exploited to spread messages of hate and ignorance. It seems strange to me that Facebook is coming under so much criticism relative to the other platforms when, from my perspective, they've also been the most proactive about trying to address these issues and dedicated significant resources to moderation. That isn't to say that these moves have been successful or productive, but I haven't heard anything from Twitter recently regarding trying to minimize hate speech and ignorance on its platform (and its the worst service for divisiveness, in my opinion). Google only just recently demonetized anti-Semitic and anti-vax material on YouTube and only after significant backlash from its advertisers (not its users who have been calling for a response for years). Why is this?
They just spent the last 5 years drilling into their employees a culture where online privacy doesn't exist, I think it's going to be pretty steep turn of the ship. Nevertheless I hope the announcement is not merely lip-service. I'd love to see the same commitment out of Google.
> But after 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society
"Primum non nocere."
I cannot help but laugh at this statement. I think Facebook has done, and is still doing, way more harm than good for society. Like many other addiction-based services, it generated massive revenues for very few people, at the expense of society.
The doublespeak is staggering. Fb is in the business of destroying people’s privacy, robbing them of their attention, and manipulating political choices for the highest bidder. It walls off people’s relationships and communication and focuses on making its product as addictive as possible.
Even if we don’t mention some of the darkest practices like defrauding children of money, FB is intentionally evil, and they know it.
I just re-watched Cal Newport’s talk on social media and I’m enjoying my second week without fb and Twitter.
> The differences stemmed from Mr. Zuckerberg’s asserting control over his company and its apps — Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — by rolling out a plan to integrate the services into a single privacy-focused platform, according to six people involved in the situation.
I'm mystified as to why Zuckerberg would let them leave over this. It very simply doesn't seem like a good idea (how many WhatsApp users know FB even owns it? What good does it do to remind them?) and when you've got major product heads disagreeing with you it's time to make a clear argument. So far I haven't seen one.
The rats are leaving the sinking privacy nightmare ship?
If the co-founders of your only significantly growing products (Whatsapp and Instagram) leave (publicly in disgust about product direction) and your Head of Product for similar reasons now too this makes me wonder what working in Product Manaqgement at Facebook is like these days.
It's the Zuck way or the out-the-door way? Why would any semi-creative person want to work under those circumstances?
I don't see how they can make money on truly private communications channels. If they aren't gathering data, and they aren't showing ads (who would put up with ads in IM?), where does the money come from? Is it just a way to hold on to users for future monetization?
I think it's actually just a red herring. I think one could better define "private" in this context to mean "between two individuals", with the false implication that they mean "away from advertisers".
Facebook has proven itself an exception to Hanlon's Razor by this point, so I'd say its probably deliberate.
Has no one heard of planned obsolescence? Facebook has outserved its usefulness; it is little better than a rudderless ship under the current leadership and business model. The bell has tolled; and the Feds are at the gates. Cease operations and move on. There's a plot available in the social media graveyard next to MySpace with Facebook's name on it.
That's not what planned obsolescence is, but there are certainly cycles of capital whereby businesses build great and useful products with the initial help of capital infusions, then slowly degrade the usefulness of said product or increase their exploitativeness in order to reduce costs or increase prices. Perhaps that is happening with facebook now.
This sort of thinking fits into the old mindset of how people envisioned facebook. Just a year or two ago the prevailing consensus was "don't post it if you don't wan't it public".
But people have since realized that facebook collects far more than what you give them. It pays for data. It mines data from millions of web sets. It follows you around in ways people don't understand.
maybe "key part where the host sneakily follows you around on a daily basis to better understand your drinking habits" would be more appropriate.
what would be a manner of having people creating their family and friends comments and photos on an enviroment mostly hosted on one of the group members phone, so information is mostly...let me think...information at a ceartain level of size lets say 1 Giga for example, then it would autosave the oldest data, so in this case no more then for example 10 days of data is stored, because the storage is at local device phone of a member of a group...so the old info is saved on the local server or even at a central server but contained in the access and supervision of the host member of the group...just ideas...no underlines...
I sometimes imagine I would like to see a socialmedia where no need for names, there is a map, like runescape map or mix of google maps and google earth and runescape map and at certain points you can see a mark like a map mark or something and a sign that reads I was here on summer on a rainy sunny morning and started to snow and I was there to meet someone I date in the newspapaer but when I sit on the bench was a brazilian guy and we becaome good friend really and after half hour of talk We realiza I was not talking with the guy I was supose to know , to meet in a casual newspaper date and it was so fun...
Or you see a little pink heart on the map near the lake you use to go as teenager to summer camp or vacations and it says Jenny was sitting near by this tree in the summer of that year...
or you see a little starbucks coffee paper cup on the Map point of your corners coffee place where you saw the red haired girl yesterday and the comment on that arrow says Hey, guy on blue shirt, im the red shirt...
Or just say a name like a given name like...
I was in this school when I was 6 and I remember my friend Alexandre with blue eyes...
on an little icone at the map, righ...
I think it would be a fun social network...
I hope all people and employees on social media jobs around the world be well and confident that things are going better...
Here in New Zealand, facebook handles a lot of the smaller scale commerce (like craigslist or gumtree might in other places), also many organisations and businesses only have presences on facebook. It's unfortunate, but there certainly are people here who are impacted by facebook outages.
I've heard that ebay's culture has a sense of responsibility to the people who make a living on their platform. As an outsider to both, it does seem like they owe their existence to their users so that sense of responsibility is appropriate.
Agree. I don't think something like FB or even Amazon.com going down has huge impact. People just come back later and get what they need done.
OTOH, having a subscription based service in specific going down can be catastrophic because you lose so much customer trust (think Azure, Spotify, etc.). In that sense, I guess amazon.com can be bad too with things like prime video, etc.
Out of the handful of messaging services with end-to-end encryption, I'm pretty sure Whatsapp is the most popular. So the security would probably be the main driver, and the popularity would be why Whatsapp in particular.