"A panicked billionaire's latest sophomoric attempt to decorate an unpalatable business model grounded in the abuse of human rights with faux moral purpose to stave off regulation."

Aral Balkan:

In his grand vision for humanity, Mark keeps returning to how Facebook fundamentally "brings us closer together" by "connecting friends and families." What Mark fails to mention is that Facebook does not connect people together; Facebook connects people to Facebook, Inc.

Facebook's business model is to be the man in the middle; to track every move you, your family, and your friends make, to store all that information indefinitely, and continuously analyse it to understand you better in order to exploit you by manipulating you for financial and political gain.

Facebook isn't a social network, it is a scanner that digitises human beings. It is, for all intents and purposes, the camera that captures your soul. Facebook's business is to simulate you and to own and control your simulation, thereby owning and controlling you.

I call the business model of Facebook, Google, and the venture-capital-funded long tail of Silicon Valley startups "people farming". Facebook is a factory farm for human beings. And Mark's manifesto is nothing more than a panicked billionaire's latest sophomoric attempt to decorate an unpalatable business model grounded in the abuse of human rights with faux moral purpose to stave off regulation and justify what is unabashedly a colonial desire: to create a global fiefdom by connecting all of us to Facebook, Inc. [...]

It is not the job of a corporation to "develop the social infrastructure for community" as Mark wants to do. Social infrastructure must belong to the commons, not to giant monopolistic corporations like Facebook. The reason we find ourselves in this mess with ubiquitous surveillance, filter bubbles, and fake news (propaganda) is precisely due to the utter and complete destruction of the public sphere by an oligopoly of private infrastructure that poses as public space.

Facebook wants us to think that it is a park when it's actually a shopping mall. The last thing we need is more privately owned centralised digital infrastructure to solve the problems created by an unprecedented concentration of power, wealth, and control in a tiny number of hands. It's way past time we started funding and building the digital equivalents of parks in the digital age instead of building ever-larger shopping malls. [...]

We are sharded beings; the sum total of our various aspects as contained within our biological beings as well as the myriad of technologies that we use to extend our biological abilities. [...] It also follows, then, that any attempt to violate the boundaries of the self must be considered an assault on the cyborg self. It is exactly this abuse that constitutes the everyday business model of Facebook, Google, and mainstream Silicon Valley-inspired technology today. In this model, which Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, what we have lost is individual sovereignty. People have once again become property -- albeit in digital, not biological, form.

Is 'fake news' a fake problem?

Here's what we found. First, the fake news audience is tiny compared to the real news audience -- about 10 times smaller on average. [...] Online news audiences spent more time on average with real news than fake news. [...] We also found that the fake news audience does not exist in a filter bubble. Visitors to fake news sites visited real news sites just as often as visitors to real news sites visited other real news sites. [...]

Last, and perhaps least surprising to everyone but Mark Zuckerberg, we saw that audiences found their way to fake news via social media at a much higher rate than they did to real news. We already know that a majority of US adults get their news via social media platforms. Here, though, we can see that nearly 30 percent of all fake news traffic could be linked back to Facebook, while only 8 percent of real news traffic could.

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5 Responses:

  1. Frank Miller says:

    I would suggest to Aral that he spend less time on Facebook.

  2. Otto says:

    I see where this is coming from, and I agree, albeit in possibly less stark and dire terminology.

    But, then I pretty much feel the same way about GitHub. So... you know...

  3. Avery Goodshoe says:

    I take the claim 'Fake news is not a problem, because we looked at ComScore's extrapolations' with a grain of salt, given that so many publishers have trouble identifying where their traffic comes from. Also I don't think ComScore can accurately measure exposure to content directly delivered by Facebook (or Google Amp articles). I consider the Drudge Report anomaly (AVERAGE VIEWING TIME 275 minutes? REALLY?) also a red flag.

    So how can the authors propose to deduct their claim with such certainty? I consider that is Fake Science.

    However I have to admit that after 10 minutes of trying to find anything about ComScore's methodology among their case studies and advertising whitepapers. I left their website defeated. Maybe they have a sound explanation for their data buried somewhere.

    • Mariachi says:

      > I consider the Drudge Report anomaly (AVERAGE VIEWING TIME 275 minutes? REALLY?) also a red flag.

      Drudge's audience don't read too good. It takes a lot longer when you have to sound out all the words.

  4. DC says:

    > It is, for all intents and purposes, the camera that captures your soul.

    That makes them sound wayyy more badass than they actually are. Facebook is just a Feed.

    Like casinos and cigarette companies, Facebook has perfected making their product as, uh, "engaging" as possible. By constantly A/B testing to maximize metrics like Daily Active Users and Average Session Time, they now have an absolutely astronomical people addicted to feed scrolling.

    * You get an email notification when someone else posts a picture of you. Very hard to resist clicking on that.

    * Your friend's throwing a party? You click to RSVP. Bam, welcome back to FB, here's a bright red "9+" new posts indicator at the top of the page. If you succumb and click it, it sends you back to your Feed.

    * Once you've started reading your Feed daily, it's hard to stop, because you fear you're missing something. That's especially true if, say, your ex likes to post pictures. It hurts but you can't look away.

    For most of its billion Daily Active Users, Facebook is a distraction, a way to procrastinate, hard to say No to; an addictive little scroll feed always at their fingertips.

    Facebook sells those users' time to advertisers for about ten cents an hour. It doesn't have a window into anyone's soul, at all. It just shows the same bullshit ads as any website for a dollar or so per thousand "impressions".


    Unlike other forms of addiction, Facebook doesn't result in anything particularly dramatic. Nobody hits Rock Bottom after a long bout of feed scrolling. Nobody has hungry kids because they blew their whole paycheck on Likes. But still well over a billion people are spending, on average, more than half an hour per day, 365 days a year, on Facebook. The effect of feed addiction is just that lots of people are distracted, wasting time, their lives scrolling by a bit faster than they should.

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