Facebook runs on one simple principle: "What's Good for Zuck is Good for Zuck." More yacht-feet. More... actually, I've no idea what he actually cares about, beyond more ZuckBucks.
Everything else is secondary to, and subservient to that. Big conspiracy? "We are so, so sorry that you caught us doing that, because if you think we're evil, you might view fewer ads by spending less time engaged in the site. We promise to tell you that we're going to do the work to learn how to get caught less often doing that thing you found us doing."
Facebook isn't your friend. They're not your companion in your quest to... whatever. They are purely interested in how much money you can bring them, either directly through ad spend, or indirectly through being super engaging such that other people spend more time on Facebook viewing ads. Anything else you think of them is simply wrong.
Simple truths. If we just took for-profit corporations for what they are, things would be easier to comprehend.
As far as I understand it, Facebook is a private, not public, space, and they can technically delete anything they want on their own platform. The big mistake is for us to pretend that they are a public space and that they owe us some kind of fairness and equal treatment. Why do we expect this? The sole reason for their existence is profit, they owe us nothing. Rather than taking the platform for granted as the new norm of social and political life, I think we would all be better off destroying it and creating a true, public cyberspace in its place.
Facebook does not need to be fixed, it just needs to be destroyed.
The problem of Facebook has nothing to do with it being for-profit. This is an issue specific to companies whose paying customers are not the users of its supposed product—a situation that distorts how the market is supposed to work (behold a whole new level of information asymmetry, famously not good for markets except now it’s the entire premise of a huge business).
The belief that free social is the norm is part of it. The promise of the free leaves users at the mercy of the provider serving advertisers. We can’t vote with our money (free!); all our friends are here (free); a competitor who makes its users its paying customers can’t survive against a free offer.
The issues with the "free" paradigm you point out are interesting indeed, and I think I have read some of your points elsewhere. I have also thought that the "free" model -- advertising -- is a creator of bad products, and like you said, it distorts many of the assumptions that make the market work.
I had also exaggerated my point on "all for-profits" and "simple" truths. Like I commented below, I do not believe that all for-profits or capitalism are necessarily evil; it's just that the American version of it often makes it look that way.
I see the same engagement issues everywhere on the internet, including this site where discussions constantly veer off into the same old fights. I realize it's tempting to focus more blame and hate on facebook (I don't like it either, and Zuckerberg especially seems like a first-rate snake). But this idea that they "infect people with mind-viruses", or whatever, is just too reductionist and misses how they actually operate, which is simply "fill a need people have so those people will use the product and you can sell ads". It just happens to be a baser need we'd rather people not go fill. I have read that in the past everyone just drank alcohol constantly to escape, so maybe it's progress.
As for this person's specific complaint of hypocrisy or whatever, I don't actually think the imposition of "silicon valley values" or whatever into their operation is at all beneficial to IT companies' finances. I'd place it under the category of hackers, who are abusing/corrupting the automated moderation systems and forcing the company to waste money trying to actually be fair and not alienate half their potential customers, not earn more money by it.
Well I mean it's no more of a defense of Facebook than of a liquor store or whatever. But I don't follow your logic. If you shut down the restaurant on the corner here I will go somewhere else too. Doesn't mean I'm necessarily fine with people granting themselves the right to shut places down.
The subject of this story is both a user and a customer. But apart from cases (like this one) where the advertising is for political campaigns, the goal of advertisers is to sell products to facebook's users. So instead of being customers of Facebook, they are customers of Facebook's customers. The money trail simply has an extra step in the middle. There are surely be some nuanced differences in that more-complex relationship, but overall the motivation for facebook is the same as if they were trying to sell their own products directly to users, which presumably they do sometimes also. Though they probably have to deal with a higher risk of antitrust accusations when they operate that way.
It’s not that simple, behind the company are people. While earning money might be probably the biggest goal there are a lot of other goals by the people working there.
Workers act on their beliefs up to a certain point (because they have a lot of discretion about things that don’t hurt the bottom line), managers often want to feel in power, Mark Zuckerberg wants to be like a roman emperor.
> It’s not that simple, behind the company are people.
I get your sentiment, really. But where is the tipping point? When does it become the responsibility of an employee to quit? Which atrocity has to be committed after which i cannot claim personal innocence as an employee? (in a general sense, not only facebook)
The sliding scale goes from minor concerns about freedom of speech to the gas chambers. I don’t say this to exaggerate — I really think that’s how things spun out of control in Germany.
There’s a somewhat terrifying book on said topic: Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.
A book review reads: “[this is] a shocking account of how a unit of average middle-aged Germans became the cold-blooded murderers of tens of thousands of Jews”.
The real lesson of the book is that each and any of us could be these ordinary men.
So I’m not sure there really is a tipping point. Maybe we can invent one in retrospect, but as the slow-motion train wreck happens, it’s hard to find any one point where things really go awry. It’s an integrated process.
It’s possible to pass the the buck back forever. The root cause of WW1 is that a group of primitive apes became intelligent and migrated through and out of Africa.
The only thing we can hope to do is fix things as they stand now. We’re probably far past the tipping point already, what with all the damage social media has caused our society.
> Simple truths. If we just took for-profit corporations for what they are, things would be easier to comprehend.
Context: I strongly dislike Facebook; I left years ago. I'm fairly interested in novel socialist, anarchist and resource-focused models for organisation as necessary improvements over current mixed mode we use in many countries currently (I just don't know any that will "work" at the required scale).
I don't think it's _that_ simple. Under capitalism, most systems are for-profit. Even governments and charities operate to raise capital to fund projects, so at the interface with people and most other organisations they have to operate similarly to capitalists (protectionism, hoarding, cost-cutting).
Because of this, you can't point to money-making as the only cause of the malpractice, without also implicating the person you're trying to convince.
There are things I don't like about capitalism, can we try this crappier economic model that has the exact same issues of concentrated authority only exaggerated 10 fold. I swear its an improvement, just give me control and I'll show you.
> Under capitalism, most systems are for-profit. Even governments and charities operate to raise capital to fund projects.
I think we're mixing things up here. A non-profit raises funds to run its operations; it does not seek to make profit, it does not have any private ownership of the means of production (the literal meaning of capitalism), and it does not seek to grow its profits YoY, rule out competition to sooth investors, and the usual day-to-day business of for-profits. That it needs money to run does not equate it to actual for-profit corporations in a capitalist society.
I agree with your last point though. For-profit corporations are not necessarily evil if they can put ethics before profit; it's just that American Big Tech chooses not to do so.
In America we have a concept known as “the rule of law”. An independent judiciary prevents mob justice from simply seizing wealth from people and private entities. We even prevent the government from doing so (at least theoretically).
To see a counter-example, look at China. Their system is completely opaque and politicians can easily stymie even the strongest business entities. The judiciary is not independent but subject to the latest dictator’s whims.
If you are reading this and live in a Western country, feel appreciative that simple solutions are not applied quickly to complex problems.
> In America we have a concept known as “the rule of law”.
We do. And in America, that set of laws includes things like "Thou Shalt Not Buy Up All Thine Competitors Into One Giant Monopoly."
Unfortunately, the groups in charge of enforcing those laws have been asleep at the wheel for the last 20 years or so. Were they working, Facebook wouldn't have reasonably been allowed to buy up nearly as many successful competitors as they've been allowed to, and wouldn't have nearly the stranglehold on "social" that they do.
Same goes for Google and Amazon as well - I don't pick on Facebook alone here, except for the fact that they're the topic of discussion in this thread.
> “The FTC’s Complaint says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had, and still has, in a properly defined antitrust product market,” the filing reads. “It is almost as if the agency expects the Court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist.”
I agree with the courts, speaking as someone that hasn't used FB in almost a decade (never used IG, might use whatsapp every couple of months) and same with twitter.
It's just nonsense to me because people have convinced themselves they can't live without them… addicted to their centralized social media skinner boxes to the degree they are no longer capable of rational thoughts on such subjects.
I guess I get part of your point, but let me also joke a little:
> To see a counter-example, look at China. Their system is completely opaque and politicians can easily stymie even the strongest business entities. The judiciary is not independent but subject to the latest dictator’s whims.
To see a counter-example, look at America. Their system is completely opaque and corporations can easily stymie even the strongest of political entities. The legislative is not independent but subject to the latest corporation's whims.
If the point you're making is that Facebook cannot be trusted, then sure, I get it. I dislike Facebook too, but if you've ever used it before, you'd know that pages are independent of ads. All users have an expectation that their pages stay up for no fees whatsoever. Usually that is the case unless they are voluntarily removed or taken down after multiple ToS violations. Under normal operation, the pages stay up.
>I've no idea what he actually cares about, beyond more ZuckBucks
Do you really believe he cares about money at this point?
Regarding another (not quite as) super wealthy CEO:
"did he come to the board and say “hey I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ve had a good run, I’ve accomplished most of what I want to accomplish, I’ve provided well for my family what with my $2.1 billion fortune, and now I’d like to retire and spend more time with them” and the board was like “oh no, we need you to stick around for another decade, would increasing your net worth by 2.4% change your mind” and he was like “oh man I could really use 50 million more dollars, I’ll do it"
"...these are people who have moved beyond being motivated by money, who cannot realistically buy any more lifestyle with more money, but it’s still nice to feel loved, and the love language of a public-company board is pretty much always going to be options grants. My model is that the board got together and said “hey Jamie has been doing a great job lately but he looks a little tired, we should do something to cheer him up and let him know that we’re thinking of him,” and one director suggested leaving a Post-It note on his monitor saying “just wanted to say that we appreciate you,” and another director was like “hey that's a great idea but let's also put $50 million under the note” and everyone else was like “oh well of course yes $50 million.” And he walked in to see the filing and was like “oh that was nice of them” and smiled for a minute and got back to work and never thought of the $50 million again, it's just $50 million, who cares."
I think maybe people are avoiding seeing that Facebook at this point (or Amazon, etc) are machines whose drive for profit comes from the middle and upper management but only inasmuch as they are cogs in the machine and because it's not centralized in one person is exactly why it's so implacable and ruthless.
No business can get huge without being a self-sustaining cycle, almost an artificial organism. Look at Apple. Lots of people thought Jobs was essential, but no, it's literally ten times as valuable now as when he died.
A handful of nerds on some nerd news site, most of which probably don't use Facebook anyway, are whining about how terrible Facebook is.
They can point to it in their aggregate "extremist election manipulation content removed" numbers, reasonable or not, and claim they're Doing Something(TM). It doesn't matter if it was extremist, manipulation, or not. If their systems count it that way, it counts.
And if it is a really big deal, and upsets enough people, then some humans see it through Twitter, CNN, somewhere, reinstate the pages, claim it was "an algorithm malfunction that they're very sorry about" or something (you've seen the chorus before endlessly), and everyone takes their word and goes on with life.
As long as the people addicted to Facebook stay on Facebook, they quite literally can do no wrong. I've attempted to have a conversation with an older relative about it recently, who was banned from Facebook ("for nothing I did!"), created a new account, has found it hard to re-friend people ("They think I'm a hacker or something!"), and yet will not consider the concept that Facebook is more harm than good. "But how will I keep up with my high school friends?" This, from someone who has been out of high school for many, many decades...
I can't claim to do the math on their actions, but presumably they can - and as long as nobody cares (and, quite frankly, topping HN still counts as "nobody cares" globally), they'll keep doing that which they're doing.
Don't work at Facebook anymore, but most things on your list (including this) are not nefarious in any way. Sometimes it's automation gone wrong, sometimes it's a good, intentional takedown and the blog/news lies. When I worked there I was able to "look behind the curtain" on a lot of these, and often the mods of groups and pages that were taken down were basically spamming hate speech at people.
In this case, my guess is that the takedown was caused by rule-violating activity on the pages, and the takedown was delayed until after the election for legal reasons.
Some are more ethical than others, so I don't think that generalization holds in practical terms. Corporations that draw their revenue from surveillance, however, are off to a bad start on the spectrum of ethics.
This is so true. We are living through an era of massive, global, black-box corporations, with ability to directly feed into the brains of its users.
The kind dystopian stories talk about.
Yet, we struggle to regulate them in archaic laws pertaining to old school monopolies.
The Standard Oil of yesterday, is nothing compared to the FB of today.
There needs to be a revision of laws and regulatory compliances regarding these companies. And, I really think, they should happen at an international level.
I mean, probably a 100 engineers who work on algorithms have control over billions of views and what is shown to whom. A small change in a couple of numbers probably changes how much of "counter-point" articles I see on my feed.
That is the definition of monopoly. Not, hurr durr, everyone is free to start a social network.
And we all know how Zuck bootlicked Trump when it came to the threat of breaking up facebook.
I have a family member who was in national politics in an EU country. I spent a lot of time talking about the role of Facebook in the political process with him. Some takeaways:
1. Facebook is essential in their country to have a chance getting elected; especially so if (due to your policy stances) you rely on the younger portions of the electorate for your votes. AFAIK in the US this is not entirely the case, since Twitter provides strong competition in this space, but in our (EU) country your options are Facebook and Instagram.
2. This is particularly annoying situation for the politicians themselves, since they need to engage social media specialists and optimise their political presence to "engage" on these platforms. Apparently this means mostly short, casual videos. This takes up a lot of time which is not going to serious policy based discussions and more in-depth write ups. So in some sense it directly contributes (involuntarily in the case of my relative) to a trivialisation of politics and turning it more entertainment oriented. I hate to see what happens when the Tik-Tok generation starts voting...
3. Aggressive politics also do really well. My relative had a post with some strong criticism of another public figure that was (IIRC) their most popular post by far.
4. The geo-political implications are troubling. Democracy is fragile enough (our country saw its top politician buy up all the top newspapers), without the political process being strongly influenced by a private company in a foreign power block. No offence to our honoured American allies of course...
Murdoch did own a controlling share of the Sky Group until 2018 when it became a subsidiary of Comcast.
I guess "Murdoch owns Sky News" is one of those facts you learn about and then forget that they can change over time, like I distinctly "know" there are 6 billion humans on Earth although the current number is closer to 8.
I guess it depends. A counter example would be the kind of grassroots organization Mozemo from Croatia whose candidate recently was elected the mayor of Zagreb, and they hold almost the majority in the city hall (which is difficult for a single party as there are many parties).They also did well in multiple cities. I checked their Twitter a while back, and they only had about 6k followers. On Facebook, they have 50k likes, but this is in general not a lot since they were a major regional story. I wouldn't be surprised if half of those likes came from outside the country. I don't think their good result is really powered by social media.
So I don't think communicating with voters is a solved problem, and I don't think Facebook / social media is the only channel you have. It's important maybe, but I'm not sure if it's definitely "essential".
I'm sorry, am I supposed to feel bad about this or something?
It just feels like we should all be well past naively thinking that Facebook is something like a "fair and balanced social media platform in which advertising dollars spent equals decent reach, and now buyers and sellers are happy!"
This silly little complaint exemplifies "tip of the iceberg."
For those unfamiliar with the country, this is likely not a post against Facebook. In fact Facebook was instrumental in this party's campaign.
The country ranks at the bottom in the EU in media freedom. In the last 10 years, all mainstream TV channels got into the hands of a handful of people that also happen to receive plenty of funds from the government. As a result, an opposition party had no media coverage at all, or if there was anything, maybe negative one. I don't think parallels to some TV channels in the US capture the extent of the problem. But by using Facebook, this party managed to win in the capital and now they are part of the parliament (not anywhere near ranked first still, and btw I am not affiliated with them).
Despite all its problems, Facebook was not painted as something bad here. Also they were not painted good, because they were paid for the promotions. Still, some of these policies are puzzling. It is unlikely to be related to the end of the election cycle, because (due to the composition of the parliament now) the next elections may by as close as 3 months away or as far as 4 years away.
>As a result, an opposition party had no media coverage at all
The party in question is supported by an entire media conglomerate, Ikonomedia, and they have always supported first and foremost the interests of the local oligarch Prokopiev who owns Ikonomedia.
This is not a story of the good underdogs being oppressed by the evil system, those are politically motivated players with an aggressive and often provocative political message, pursuing goals that favor specific people.
Let me check. According to similarweb, dnevnik.bg is number 39 in the country and capital is not in top 50. There are more than 10 other news websites with higher engagement. At the same time the top 3 TV networks still support the previous government.
A million times this. And it's true not just of Facebook, but all other companies that provide similar services. It's a mistake to treat such services as if they are in some way permanent or under your control.
Does the page "belong" to the ad campaign, or does it "belong" to the user/company?
If it is the former, then I can understand why facebook would close it when the ad campaign is over. If it is the latter, then it should not be tied to the campaign, and should not be closed when the campaign is over.
In the latter case, if I set up a page about a product/service and decided to pay for some advertising to drive traffic to that page, I wouldnt expect my page to be deleted after the ad spend is discontinued. In fact, I would argue that the ad spend in that case was a waste of money - all the users that I have driven to my page, are no longer able to access that page. As an individual, I would likely seek recompense through the courts in that case. T&Cs don't give you immunity from being a dick - at least in the EU. Not sure what the situation is for companies.
A Facebook "page" is a collection of posts and other content. Think of it as similar to a website or blog, except that it's hosted right on Facebook and has additional Facebook specific features. Facebook allows people to set up "pages" for businesses, famous individuals (including celebrities and politicians), locations, groups, etc
There are a lot (millions?) of Facebook pages that keep the Facebook community alive and thriving and a lot of them are probably not even aware of, or use, paid or sponsored promotions to "boost" their content.
It seems bizarre to me -- but not unheard of -- that Facebook would keep their page running right until the very moment they stopped running their ad campaigns. Having said that, given Facebook's past and especially more recent behavior, I am not surprised at all by this story given the power Facebook has over its platform and how it has managed to abuse it recently.
As the post says, paying accounts are less likely to be "accidentally" removed.
I'd guess political opponents were reporting the page as spam or racist or something, and while the candidate was a paying customer he got a higher level of protection from such attacks. Perhaps human moderation versus automated.
Good that this happened, really! I was sick of all the online propaganda the tools from DB had ordered for these elections. Back in the day I actually closed my facebook page as I was getting targeted messages and invites to their facebook groups. It’s funny how the guys claims they dint have objectionable content, all their content is buzz-words, lies and empty promises. Also funny that they spent a fortune on facebooks ads, since facebook is a DB echo-chamber anyway…
Same thing happens right now across the Danube, in Romania (I'm Romanian myself).
It doesn't affect any political parties directly but two of the media entities that strongly favour DB-like parties here have been suspended/have had their traffic coming from FB drastically reduced, cue the complaints and the cries of "Facebook is censoring us!". I have no sympathy for them whatsoever, one of the reasons being that they were actually cheering on Facebook (and Twitter) actively censoring one side of the US political debate late last year.
There seems to be a fundamental problem with outsourcing your content moderation. If one of your rather semi-highly trusted mods strongly dislikes what others are saying and your policy is on the vague side the mods could take down content primarily just because they don't like it as seems to be in this case. Not a huge issue if you're FB and as long as the masses don't find out about most of the deleted content, a real issue for the society.
Investors: "... so, how, exactly, are you planning to make money again?"
Facebook: "Well, we could... collect data from the like buttons scattered across the internet, and aggregate user behavior across a huge swath of internet, build shadow profiles, and figure out what people like... and sell ads! Yeah, let's do that!"
I mean, at least they never had "Don't be Evil" as a motto or something. It's entirely consistent with their character.
Doesn’t leaning on the scales in this manner (banning users or pages or other content) constitute election interference? Removing content from the digital public square (which I feel Facebook constitutes is the same as donating to whatever the opposite side is.
But it doesn't explain why they would delete an entire page and all its contents?? This is equivalent to saying that it's alright for Facebook to delete the pages and all the content of the Democratic Party, Republican Party AND individual politicians in the US right after a big election (say the 2020 election.)