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Facebookian excuse.

Amazon doesn’t sell cigarettes. Whole Foods doesn’t sell cigarettes. One could argue that this is a Maoist form of overreach, a repudiation of the system of free enterprise, a brazen attempt to enact central planning on a terrifying scale. One could argue that a single person—Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, a gatekeeper among gatekeepers—should not be in a position to decide what average American citizens can or can’t do with their bodies. One could argue that the inalienable rights of smokers, or of tobacco companies, are being violated. But nobody makes these arguments. It seems perfectly natural that Bezos chooses not to sell tobacco. It’s possible that this reflects his principled belief that some things are not worth profiting from, that even world-conquering companies can make moral distinctions when the stakes are clear enough. More likely, it’s a straightforward cost-benefit decision. In any case, it has little to do with gauzy abstractions about freedom.

Andrew Marantz on excuses.

This is, of course, an analogy for Facebook et al.’s continued insistence that it would be a “violation of free speech” to, for example, kick antivaxers or neo-Nazis off their platforms…

2020-01-06T08:54:36+11:004th April, 2020|Tags: culture, facebook, politics, social media, tech|

Sinking blue.

[A]ccording to its last investor slide deck and basic subtraction, Facebook is not growing anymore in the United States, with zero million new accounts in Q1 2019, and only four million new accounts since Q1 2017. That leaves the rest of the world, where Facebook is growing fastest “in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” according to Facebook CFO David Wehner. Wehner didn’t mention the fine print on page 18 of the slide deck, which highlights the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam as countries where there are “meaningfully higher” percentages of, and “episodic spikes” in, fake accounts. In other words, Facebook is growing the fastest in the locations worldwide where one finds the most fraud. In other other words, Facebook isn’t growing anymore at all—it’s shrinking. Even India, Indonesia and the Philippines don’t register as many searches for Facebook as they used to. Many of the “new” users on Instagram are actually old users from the core platform looking to escape the deluge of fakery.

Aaron Greenspan on Fakebook.

Also known as, “What happens to your unregulated market growth when you literally run out of physical market to grow in?”

See also: Late-stage capitalism.

2019-09-11T10:07:54+10:006th January, 2020|Tags: facebook, social media, tech|

New deprogramming.

I’m really… not sure what I feel about this story of an ex-Mormon using targeted Facebook ads to try and subtly de-convert other church members. I mean, on the one hand I always vaguely approve of all religious de-conversion but, on the other hand—and more strongly—I super-duper disapprove of targeted advertising, especially targeted advertising that’s being used covertly by individuals against their immediate friends and family. Which is… yeah. Welcome to our brave new dystopian future, I guess!

2019-02-20T10:35:38+11:0017th August, 2019|Tags: advertising, facebook, privacy, social media|

Hidden bodies.

If you believe moderation is a high-skilled, high-stakes job that presents unique psychological risks to your workforce, you might hire all of those workers as full-time employees. But if you believe that it is a low-skill job that will someday be done primarily by algorithms, you probably would not.

Instead, you would do what Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter have done, and hire companies like Accenture, Genpact, and Cognizant to do the work for you. Leave to them the messy work of finding and training human beings, and of laying them all off when the contract ends. Ask the vendors to hit some just-out-of-reach metric, and let them figure out how to get there.

At Google, contractors like these already represent a majority of its workforce. The system allows tech giants to save billions of dollars a year, while reporting record profits each quarter. Some vendors may turn out to mistreat their workers, threatening the reputation of the tech giant that hired them. But countless more stories will remain hidden behind nondisclosure agreements.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of people around the world go to work each day at an office where taking care of the individual person is always someone else’s job. Where at the highest levels, human content moderators are viewed as a speed bump on the way to an AI-powered future.

Casey Newton on moderation.

Hey y’all remember that article from a while back about how fucking awful it is to be a Facebook moderator?

Guess what? There’s a Part II. Content warning for the full story, which deals with death, workplace harassment and negligence, PTSD, and animal and child cruelty. Also: delete your fucking Facebook.

Also big shout-out to the graphic designers at The Verge, for the subtly filthy page margins, which… eurgh.

2019-06-20T10:22:08+10:0020th June, 2019|Tags: facebook, social media, tech|

Stress.

This post has been doing the rounds today, about what it’s like to be a Facebook content moderator, and it’s absolutely damning.

It’s not necessarily even the stuff about the sorts of content moderators are faced with, or the ridiculously inconsistent rules for dealing with it.1 It’s the little indignities of the actual outsourcer, like the underpayment and the ruthless micromanagement of workers. It’s well-known that a lack of autonomy in a workplace causes the kind of stress that’s psychologically damaging, and that that kind of stress is significantly more common in low-wage jobs.2 Compounded with a workplace where people are constantly confronted by traumatic material, and…

Yeah.

  1. Though they are bad… and also the product of Facebook’s “all things to all people” monopolistic approach to social media, which is a different-but-related issue. []
  2. High-wage jobs tend to come with a different kind of stress, i.e. one associated with having to deal with complex problems and difficult decisions. This type of stress, while still “stressful” is nonetheless not associated with long-term psychological damage in the way of stress originating from a lack of autonomy. []
2019-02-26T15:15:42+11:0026th February, 2019|Tags: facebook, social media|

Facebook is still garbage.

This seems… not particularly great. Even by Facebook standards.

Ironically, I finally deleted both Facebook and Messenger off my phone last night (I never use them, but still had the apps) and ahahaha I do not regret my life choices!

2018-12-19T15:35:52+11:0019th December, 2018|Tags: facebook, privacy, social media|

Zuckerbins.

It’s interesting to ponder the ways in which privacy can be a privilege only for the wealthy. Not everyone can afford an army of hired goons and corporate secret police, an absurd wall in their backyard, and a buffer zone of razed lots around their house. Might similar class privileges someday extend into our digital lives? In the future, who will have the luxury of owning their data?

Jow Veix on stealing Zuckerberg trash.

Also, from this I learnt that there are apparently multiple legal precedents (in the US) that establish curbside trash as public, and because of that there’s a huge industry in the secure disposal of the garbage of rich people. Go figure.

2018-04-16T14:35:28+10:003rd October, 2018|Tags: culture, facebook, privacy|

DELETE!

Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.

[…]

There are, however, age differences in the share of Facebook users who have recently taken some of these actions. Most notably, 44% of younger users (those ages 18 to 29) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the past year, nearly four times the share of users ages 65 and older (12%) who have done so.

Andrew Perrin on Facebook’s changing fortunes.

Yes. Yes! Delete, my pretties! Delete!

2019-04-29T12:03:23+10:007th September, 2018|Tags: facebook, social media|

‘Ware the VPN.

Speaking of the Woes of Latter-Day Social Media sites, Om Malik’s profile on “Facebook’s DNA” is an interesting read, particularly if you’re Old™ like me and remember the company’s “move fast and break things” (as opposed to “sell ads and sell ads”) phase.

Mostly, though, it contains this line:

The VPN data [from Facebook Protect] also allows Facebook to better target its ads — much like how Google Mail and Google Chrome allows Google to better target what ads you see. By the way, Facebook isn’t the only one who is taking data from VPN mobile streams. Other data brokers buy data from other VPN apps.

I’ve mentioned this before, but… If you use a VPN, just how much do you trust it?

Related: I really, really need to migrate to Firefox… oy.

2018-02-23T08:02:42+11:0012th August, 2018|Tags: facebook, privacy, social media, tech|

Facebook still sucks.

Facebook is an absolutely fine repository for the names of people I’ve met in my life, and for photos I have of those people, and it would be a nice memorial to my life when I’m dead. But it has no business being a publisher, and they don’t even like to acknowledge that that’s what they are. Facebook hides behind all of this machinery, when what they’re doing is very human. Recommending things for people is a personal act, and there are people who are good at it. There are critics. There are blogs. It’s not beneficial to us to turn content recommendations over to an algorithm, especially one that’s been optimized for garbage.

Matt Klinman on human interactions.

2018-11-26T08:21:25+11:0027th July, 2018|Tags: facebook, internet, tech|
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