If you work for Facebook, quit.

If you work for Facebook, quit. It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Violet Blue: Why I'm sitting at home crying on a Saturday:

Next, Facebook said that to access my account I had to pass a security test to prove it was me, on the grounds of protecting my account's security. These tests, which I attempted to pass for over an hour, were based on inaccurate information and literally impossible to pass. [...] All paths ended with access to my Facebook account being restored in exchange for me uploading a government ID. Not alternate forms of ID, but a strict and specific list of government-only identification. [...]

I had no less than three people approach me in the following days offering to help me get my account back, special favors style, from the inside. Two were private offers and one was public, from Facebook's own head of security. I wonder how many other journalists who -- like me -- have covered Facebook critically in the past and then found themselves in my position, and took the special favor. Facebook, in fact, holds the particular honor of being one of the first entities I broke a story about, then secretly contacted my executive editors with false accusations about my professionalism while working on the story. [...]

I have since tried to contact Facebook's Security, Privacy, Info and Support departments -- without any special favors from Facebook employees. I have been told (alarmingly, with with increasing incompetence) that I must upload my ID. Facebook has not demonstrated that it is responsible enough, trustworthy enough, or even skilled enough at the basics of user security procedure to be handed a copy of my ID. [...]

Do I want my account back? Only for one reason now. I'm prepared to give up the business reasons I kept a Facebook account, though it is going to make some things very difficult (also not possible) for me as a journalist and author. I want my info, so I know what risks I can expect from the shadow profile Facebook keeps on me and can try to mitigate the risks from rogue employees, powerful authorities, and any absolute bungling fuckup incompetency from Facebook itself, as I witnessed going through its "security questions".

But now I just want out. I want my account deleted. I want the bullshit, inaccurate pages Facebook creates about me without my consent gone, too, but that's just a bitter little joke for the ages, isn't it? Facebook is just going to do whatever the fuck it wants to me. And to you.

Of course, Facebook won't let me delete my circa-2007 account until I give up my ID.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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58 Responses:

  1. Jim Service says:

    RMS has a lot to say about computer and Internet issues including reasons not to use Facebook.

    • Just Some Gal says:

      I'd estimate at least 30% of those reasons not to use Facebook are reasons to stop being on the Internet entirely, because they are things that nearly every website does anyway. If you are that paranoid - and I don't fault anyone for that - then turn off JavaScript and use Tor, SOCKs relays, mailinator and turn off browser history and cookies, always. That will put a stop to the majority of that horsecrap.

      • Jim Service says:

        RMS is very paranoid. :-) Some of my FB acquaintances copy and paste the all my postings belong to me "copyright" stuff to which I comment: too late, you didn't read Facebook's Terms and Policies when you registered for an account.

    • Nate says:

      "Free the software hackers, free the software."

      > echo "GET /facebook/photo1.png" | email rms-browser@fsf.org

  2. That's horrible.

    I'm so glad I left Facebook (as a user) - I joined it about 2008-2009 to develop apps for the platform, but quit earlier this year when I realised I wasn't doing any dev with it, it didn't add anything to my life and I'm fairly certain that sometime soon there's going to be a fairly public privacy disaster (which is probably what it's going to take to get people to move on)

  3. James says:

    I had an impostor shadow account back in 2005 which was presumably created to intice me to sign up, but instead convinced me I should never do so, and so I didn't. Eventually the impostor shadow account disappeared. I sure don't feel like there was ever any reason to be on Facebook.

  4. Other Jamie says:

    At what point do we stop believing in them, and move on to reacting to them as we would to, say, acquaintances who were arms dealers, or ibankers, or other careers where people fuck up the world for a living?

  5. Grey Hodge says:

    While I agree with you about FB, Violet Blue is not someone form whom I weep, especially when it comes to identity trouble, seeing as how she took the name of an established porn actress, then sued said actress for trademark infringement, and somehow won. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noname_Jane#Trademark_infringement_issue

    • jwz says:

      Well, you're wrong. She's a close friend, and that porn star was actively attempting to impersonate her. But believe what you want; your non-sequitur does not have anything to do with this article.

  6. Matthew Platte says:

    Maybe a way-showing first step could be removal of the "Connect with Facebook" button here on the JWZ comment form.

    • jwz says:

      Maybe you people should click on a "Previously" link once in a while before posting and realize that I have already considered and rejected your suggestion. Thanks for being so helpful, though.

      • Pope Belushi II says:

        If your job requires you to use facebook, then at least one of two things is true:

        1. No, it doesn't. Or,
        2. You're in a shitty line of work.

        I dropped facebook like the bloated corpse it is a few years ago and things have been fine. Facebook makes money because people pay them to advertise (shame on those people, you too, jwz), and because people who create accounts make that advertising a good investment (shame on all of you).

        Without users, they don't have a product.
        Without advertisers, they don't have money.

        In a capitalist system, dollars are votes. Regardless of how you feel about that, it's the truth. So, you can give lip service to disliking facebook's policies all you want, jwz, but you voted for them. Facebook isn't the supervillain we need right now, but it's the one we deserve. They wouldn't be able to afford employees if people weren't paying those employees' salaries. That having been said, I get that running a nightclub and pizza place is probably pretty stressful and ethical consistency is a luxury good most small business owners are unable to afford. Still, couldn't help but find the hypocrisy bemusing. Most people can't economically afford to provide more than lip service to the causes they support and still have enough left over for food and basic medical care. shrug Fucked up world we live in...

        • Pope Belushi II says:

          Hm. Didn't intend to respond there. Specifically refreshed the page so that the "new comment" dealie would appear at the bottom of the page. Ah well.

      • Lloyd says:

        A "Previously" link? Which one?

      • Leonardo Herrera says:

        But, but.. you rejected it because business.

        I'm sure now someone in the peanut gallery is going to pop up and call me a hypocrite for despising Facebook's business practices, and yet still taking advantage of their services. Well, I don't like it, but I am pretending to run a business here, and that leaves you with something less than absolute moral clarity.

        And yet you are asking people to quit their job. Can't people trying to earn a livelihood get some slack cut? By having "worked on Facebook" in your resumé, are you in a position to easily switch jobs?

        Just trying to understand stuff.

        • Dorian Gray says:

          Because I enjoy invoking Godwin's law...

          I'm sure whoever sold Zyklon B to the German government was also "pretending to run a business here, and that leaves you with something less than absolute moral clarity". Everyone who does something unethical in real life has a practical justification for doing so. Only Disney cartoon villains and full-blown serial killers break that could. The defense "yeah, but I only did it to make more money" warms my heart, it really does, but that's also Facebook's defense, so what does that make you?

        • jwz says:

          The difference between buying ads on their network and working for the company is the difference between spending a hundred bucks a month, and spending 80 hours a week of skill and cognition.

          That is truly one of the most remarkable straw men I've ever seen. I'm not sure if you're actually trying to be obtuse or are just bad at math, but I am impressed by the dramatic black and white color scheme on your planet.

      • jmwr says:

        So if someone derives their sole income from Facebook, they should quit and find other work. If you derive some moderate additional income from using Facebook to promote your business, it's totally defensible "because business".

        I know you preemptively gestured towards the peanut gallery and said "yeah yeah you're going to call me a hypocrite", and you're right, because your stance is hypocritical.

        I don't disagree with you on the whole Facebook-is-evil-and-you-should-quit thing, but the cognitive dissonance here (it's OK when I make money with this evil thing but not you) is pretty funny.

    • Richard Cheese says:

      noscript/requestpolicy will prevent your browser from inadvertently tickling fb/youtube/etc.

      • Lloyd says:

        installing a browser addon to protect you from the facebook login invites of the guy who wrote the first popular browser? Think of it as corporate jwz@aol.com legacy.

        where's the myspace authentication?

    • Matt says:

      Guy on the internet who made the logical fallacy comment before I could make a fool of myself? You da real MVP.

  7. MattyJ says:

    [checks whois, ensures facebook.com is not registered by nsa.gov]

    WTF is this shit? I've been off social media for so long (had to quit it when I turned 40, them's the rules) I had no idea it had gotten this bad.

  8. Jeff Ferland says:

    Here's the thing: there's nothing in this world you can provide a billion people with that doesn't screw things up for somebody. In this case, that somebody is determined to be an edge case and carries a megaphone. I've personally reached out to help Violet Blue in the past when I worked at FB after she confirmed some other account's email address association with an account.

    Now it seems she has somehow gone about locking herself out in a way that prevents alternate device recovery, phone recovery, or friends recovery... the last one probably because she has a large number of professional connections that are impersonal and not recognizable.

    It's a known case that a public figure probably uses things in at least somewhat of an edge case way and there's a support system for that which is different for a reason. Trying to use everything against intent, ignoring alternate channels, and running around with the megaphone saying the world is ending because you're got < .001% behavior pattern on a system that serves a billion people is really just being a jerk at this point. "If you work at Facebook, quit," because you screwed up your credentials and won't work with people is the going full crazy politician trying to stir a pot rather than really looking at things. I get it, Joe Dirt might lock himself out and not get that kind of support, but then he probably wouldn't have gone about consciously defeating every recovery mechanism that has been provided to help you get your account back without giving access to a malicious actor either.

    I've tired of it.

    On a closing note, you can't even GET a URL that's 5 characters or less (facebook.com/vblue) without having a direct line contact to Facebook, which as a public figure she has demonstrably made use of, so now we're really cherry-picking when you want to special case things.

    • jwz says:

      If your think "Violet can't get back into her account" is the reason I say "If you work for Facebook, quit", then you really haven't been paying attention.

    • The question isn't "Is Violet Blue a shit-stirring troublemaker who's making it hard for poor Facebook employees to intervene on her behalf?". It's "Are the problems Violet Blue points out Facebook's policies pose for people with less power and a smaller megaphone than she has an issue we should care about?"

      It would appear that many people think the problems are real.

      • Jeff Ferland says:

        There's a lot of problems with the real name policy, and on my way out the door of Facebook I put some serious effort into raising them. To this day (the last one five hours ago), people I can't help still reach out to me in desperation, and it is desperate when a major connection to your world is taken away from you. It's desperate when the only way to get that back is to use a name that your crazy stalker ex with a restraining order will find. It's desperate in lots of edge cases beyond that which really matter.

        I get it: there's good reason for the policy. It makes long-term spam harder, it increases relative account trust (where trust is used in a technical way that takes a lot of definition), and really no community does well with the screen names we used on AIM or MySpace 10-20 years ago.

        So what's the point? Firstly, "Quit Facebook" isn't the right answer. Facebook isn't running around trying to make the world worse, polluting the (social, technical, legal, or actual) environment, or acting with sheer negligence or malice. They're stuck in figuring out a rough balancing game that affects some people negatively. Secondly, both the conclusion of "Quit Facebook" and Violet Blue's ongoing writing about the woes of her account are both the kind of five minute hate that really takes away from a good and valuable discussion that I think the EFF frames much more nicely than this article.

        • Carlos says:

          > "Quit Facebook" isn't the right answer

          Actually, I think jwz's right, and it is. I've never had a Facebook account, specifically because it was obvious from the start exactly how horrible they would have to end up being to their users.

          > Facebook isn't running around trying to make the world worse, polluting the (social, technical, legal, or actual) environment,

          Uh, yes, they are. They are in the business of selling their product, which is you, the user, to their customers, who are the advertisers. If screwing the users seven new ways from Sunday improves the bottom line, then they absolutely will do it. They're effectively required to, by law.


          • Kyzer says:

            They're effectively required to, by law.

            Please stop spreading this idea, it's wrong.

            A corporation is controlled by its directors, and they are not required by law to "maximize shareholder value". The law applies the Business Judgement Rule, i.e. unless you're actually embezzling, the courts don't care.

            Directors have social pressure to keep shareholders and customers happy, but there's no law compelling faceless corporations to crush the human spirit. If Facebook does something, it's because Fuckerberg wants it done.

            • Carlos says:

              > Please stop spreading this idea, it's wrong.

              It isn't, exactly. No, there isn't actually a law that says they cannot take any action which harms the bottom line.

              However, if fail to take any significant action that obviously would improve the bottom line, they absolutely will be sued by activist investors and fee-hunting bottom-feeding lawyers. And therefore, they will take such actions.

              The remainder of my comment was correct, and the important point, which you didn't respond to, was "If screwing the users seven new ways from Sunday improves the bottom line, then they absolutely will do it."


              • Kyzer says:

                I didn't respond to your claim that corporations would do anything for a quick buck, because I agree with you.

                I just want you to stop claiming corporations have to maximize profits / shareholder value, because they don't.

                Your point is made stronger if you don't include that falsehood, because then it's clear that the blame for corporate malfeasance lies with the directors and shareholders. They willingly chose to their unethical agendas in ruthless pursuit of profit. They were not compelled to do so by law. To say otherwise is a convenient lie that absolves them of personal responsibility.

                Let the activist shareholders sue all they want, because the law says they won't win and their case will be dismissed quickly. Making ethical choices for your company is not a breach of your fiduciary duties.

        • anonnymoose says:

          > ...and really no community does well with the screen names we used on AIM or MySpace 10-20 years ago.

          Metafilter seems to be doing rather well, thankyouverymuch.

    • Chris says:

      "[...] or friends recovery... the last one probably because she has a large number of professional connections that are impersonal and not recognizable."

      Translation: I didn't read the linked post and I'm just some asshole with an axe to grind

      • Jeff Ferland says:

        You're right, I didn't read this linked post. I did read a recent prior post of hers where she explained that account recovery didn't work with the "recognize your friends" flow (one of several ways to recover an account). I've glanced over the article and it appears to be a continuation of the same original event I had read.

        The asshole with an axe to grind comment I'm simply going to walk away from.

        • Rick C says:

          The "recognize your friends" recovery is a legitimate gripe. I got hit by that once when I forgot my password. If you happen to be the kind of person who plays a handful of popular facebook games you might wind up with a bunch of "friends" you don't really know. And if their pictures show up, there's a good shot you can't identify them. This actually happened to me--I had to log into a mule account and look up my own friends list.

        • tobias says:

          Ghost profiles, and having to give training to their facial recognition algorithms to use their website - the two things I detest the most. I find it funny that people cannot imagine a life without it. It's not exactly a powerful force for good in the world.

          However I do feel that paying taxes in America of any description is probably a worse crime than working for Facebook, so feel free to disregard my opinion and carry on about your business.

    • Denny says:

      I have facebook.com/denny

      I don't know anyone who works at Facebook, and I'm not a celebrity. I just claimed it as soon as the custom URLs feature went live.

  9. CrazyCombinator says:

    This is probably going to be a controversial opinion, but I think that Facebook is the least terrible big technology company and I would rather have them "in charge" rather than another. My opinion is primarily motivated by the fact that they have put an innate amount of technology in the "public domain". Of course, the license aren't the most permissive; but the fact that the technology is out there is already a great first move.

    Companies are always going to act like corporations. That's their very nature, we can limit their powers with legal measures and optimize to make sure that the only that "survive" (economically speaking - just to be clear) are the one who are the most benevolent toward freedom, and progress. What do you think?

    • Thomas Lord says:

      > What do you think?

      You're trolling and stupid.


      > Companies are always going to act like corporations.

      Where would we be without trolls to spew random approximate tautologies at us like this? Really, where?

      > Of course, the license aren't the most permissive; but the fact that the technology is out there is already a great first move.

      Yeah. Great. It's fabulous.

      • CrazyCombinator says:

        You are kind of rude, but perhaps genuine? Anyway, can you explain me why do you think I am wrong?

        Maybe my wording is not the best, what I wanted to convey is that corporations are seeking profit first and foremost.

        And because they put profit above anything else, the best strategy (IMHO) is to define a strict legal framework that limit their power (I guess that it the spirit of anti-trust laws, but are they enough though?).

        I like Facebook because they open-source a lot of their stuff and push science forward. Same goes for Google, take a look at Spanner, MapReduce, Golang or even Microsoft... they are actively funding tons of public research.

        Maybe they are not acting ethically, but the basic intuition is that unless it is actively forbidden by law (and enforced) one should not expect them to act "morally" or in the interest of the user - it is just not their purpose, nor their "mission".

      • CrazyCombinator says:

        Oh and, by "rather have them in charge" I did not mean politically - just to be clear. Just saying that they aren't committing the "worst" kind of abuse toward their users and that it's not "all" black because they contribute a lot to public research.

        So, yes they are a "less worse" alternative to the traditional Big Co. Inc.

    • MetaRZA says:

      Translation : I'm OK with the National Socialist party were in power. Better them then the Comunists.

      • CrazyCombinator says:

        What? I don't even see how you could interpret what I wrote in that manner.

        If you care enough to explain, why do you think I am wrong I would be glad to know. Seriously. That will be more constructive than calling people names...

        • MetaRZA says:

          You admit that Facebook is evil. But you imply that's OK because their are more evil companies out there.

          And yes, my statement was needlessly hyperbolic.

  10. My favorite part of this didn't get mentioned here. The "identify a friend" recovery method showed her three pix of a friend and asked her to identify him. They were three different people. Three different Black people. So, yet another image recognition algorithm that is a racist asshole.

  11. joe says:

    These broads need to get the memo that crying in public is lame. Stop telling us you were left "shaking" or in tears. You're a big girl, not a baby.

  12. Anonytrace says:

    Cool geeks aren't on FB anyway.

  13. xmodmap says:

    After years on FB same thing happened to me. The only reason the automated system provided for it was that I was "ineligible". A week after sending emails asking what was going on I was contacted by a service employee who would only tell me that "Your account was disabled because we determined that you are ineligible to use Facebook.[sic]"

    Afterwards some pissed off friends contacted me because they thought they couldn't see my profile because I had blocked them! Good riddance to FB.

  14. Percy says:

    Hey jwz et al.,

    As a soon to be graduate in CS, what company would you say is OK to work for, morally speaking? It seems that all the big guys (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, etc) have some kind of moral issues now or in the past (spying, data-mining, embrace-extend-extinguish, wage-fixing, etc).

    • Google is the least bad large corporation in the history of large corporations. I'm pretty sure the bad press about them is a disinformation campaign funded by Microsoft. Yes really.

      I don't have a problem with Apple although I wouldn't use their products.

      Twitter should be ok. At least they try to be good, even if they don't always succeed.

      • James says:

        There are a few bad things about Google which are genuinely evil in a substantial sense. The whole idea of minimizing tax liability by synthesizing the laws of multiple jurisdictions was always asking for trouble, in the same way that software lawyers were overtaking developers in raw numbers for a while because of software patents, which is one area that Google has been pretty good about. But I get the sense that Hal Varian hasn't been able to explain why trickle down is wrong, so.... They keep trying to dodge taxes, even though their corporate stock liability structure is specifically designed to allow them to be good corporate citizens, they just never got around to invoking that. Meanwhile they were wondering what happened to the several million former customers who lost their jobs after 2008.

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