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!
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.
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…
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
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.
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!
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.
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.
A quick guide on how to exorcise Facebook from your computer and send it back to the data privacy hell from when it came… permanently.
This is a guide for macOS, but it’s about editing
hosts, so it will work under any operating system. For Windows users, your hosts file lives in
C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc (it’s the file in there literally just called
hosts, no file extension, but it’s just a text file). Just copy-paste the list of domain from page two of the Mac guide into that file. Note you’ll probably need to open a text editor as Administrator first (right click on it, then find the “Run as Administrator” option).
Because the hosts file works at the OS network layer, making changes here will impact everything on the computer. If you block Facebook in
hosts, no app or browser will ever be able to resolve it ever again. Also note that this technique works for literally any domain, and also means you can redirect arbitrary domains to arbitrary IP addresses so, like… I’m not saying that the opportunities to prank people by editing their hosts file exists, but…