social media

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One of the reasons I love Mastodon is that any time any tries to do shit like this they pretty much get immediately defederated by everyone…

2019-10-03T08:09:28+10:0019th January, 2020|Tags: amazon, culture, social media|

Government 101.

It’s not like Congress would say “we want to regulate your data collection practices” and Facebook would say “hmm no we’d rather you didn’t” and Congress would say “okay you have good lawyers we give up.” Facebook’s main leverage against the FTC—“we don’t think we did anything wrong and if you insist on restricting our data collection we will see you in court”—just wouldn’t work to stop Congress from making a law, because it is irrelevant. Congress can make a law about data privacy even if no one has broken any previous laws. In fact that’s the best reason to make a law! “There is a bad thing that is happening, and there is no law against it, so we should make a law against it”: That is a perfectly sensible line of reasoning!


The idea of passing a law to ban bad stuff is not to give the FTC more power to negotiate stricter settlement conditions. The idea of passing a law to ban bad stuff is to ban the bad stuff. If Congress passed a law restricting social media companies’ data collection practices, then the FTC wouldn’t need to include those restrictions in a consent decree with Facebook, because those restrictions would be in the law. Facebook would be bound by them, not because it agreed to them, but because they would be the law. Twitter and Google and other yet-to-be-invented internet services would also be bound by them, even without agreeing to them, because they would be generally applicable national rules about internet privacy passed by the legislative body in the name of the people, rather than the product of negotiations with one company.

Matt Levine on the law.

It’s almost like there’s been half a century of a concerted effort towards getting the public to stop thinking about the government as a tool through which it may use its collective will to curb the excesses of multi-million-dollar corporations and instead replacing that with an arrangement whereby the entire legislative and executive branches of government are replaced by the judicial. I mean. Almost. You remember that thing about the GOP not letting Obama appoint a SCOTUS judge? It’s almost like this is exactly the reason why. Who needs the affect of a representative democracy when you can have a panel of life-appointed plutocrats running the country as a kritocracy where he who has the most expensive lawyers almost always by-default wins?

2019-12-18T09:52:56+11:008th January, 2020|Tags: government, 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|

Boiling over.

What we hear from companies like T— and F— and Y— is that monitoring communication at this scale, preventing that harm, is an unprecedented technical challenge.

That’s correct. However… no one asked for communication at this scale!

To be clear, it’s a challenge these companies designed for themselves; a challenge they enlarged through relentless, ingenious growth; a challenge they now invoke as if it’s some longstanding problem in fundamental physics.

Like heating a pot to a boil, then complaining the water’s too hot to drink 🤔

“What do we do about this scalding hot substance??” the operators of social media platforms exclaim… as the burners roar on their highest setting.

Here’s a simple solution:

Cool it down.

Robin Sloan on breakers.

My favorite part about this thread is that everyone who encounters it immediately seems to want to try and sign up for the service it’s “hosted” on…1

(Also: I take great objection to the “weird crow“… which is very obviously an Australian Raven and the most common type of corvid where I live!)

  1. Spoiler alert: it’s a static website. The essay is basically a found-object narrative made to look like a social media thread. []
2019-09-04T11:14:55+10:001st January, 2020|Tags: social media, tech|

Small social.

On the subject of the small, personal web: how to run a small-scale social network. (It’s not as hard as you think!)

For what it’s worth, I ten to think the approach described in the link is a bit too small, with the risk that the resulting networks are too cliquish/insular, and can lead to both disenfranchisement of marginalized people (who don’t fit the right “party mold”), as well as can foster an environment of hyper-vigilance where everyone is policing everyone else and/or feeling policed (think, e.g. every dysfunctional apartment block/small town you’ve ever lived in or, worse, been on some kind of management body for).

The approach I take for for example is a bit more open while still being relatively small (we sit at around a hundred active users a week as I’m writing this), and it’s been working fairly well so far…

2019-12-18T10:13:49+11:0017th December, 2019|Tags: fediverse, social media, tech|

Dragons’ hoards.

Our discourse around privacy needs to expand to address foundational questions about the role of automation: To what extent is living in a surveillance-saturated world compatible with pluralism and democracy? What are the consequences of raising a generation of children whose every action feeds into a corporate database? What does it mean to be manipulated from an early age by machine learning algorithms that adaptively learn to shape our behavior?

That is not the conversation Facebook or Google want us to have. Their totalizing vision is of a world with no ambient privacy and strong data protections, dominated by the few companies that can manage to hoard information at a planetary scale. They correctly see the new round of privacy laws as a weapon to deploy against smaller rivals, further consolidating their control over the algorithmic panopticon.

Maciej Cegłowski on agendas.

2019-07-11T09:56:01+10:0019th November, 2019|Tags: privacy, social media, tech|

Community standards.

On the unbearable straight male gaze of commercial social media.

This is from Michael Stokes, a commercial photographer, regarding how his male nudes (we’re talking, like, sports magazine cover nude) and images of same-sex intimacy (e.g. kissing) are treated as inherently “against community standards” when compared to similar images featuring women or opposite-sex couples. There are, obviously, lots of photos illustrating the supposedly “problematic” content, which it feels oddly hypocritical to warn for, given the circumstances. But, like. Content warning if you’re somewhere someone’s going to get super upset about like, ripped dudes with only their junk covered, or shiny Kardashian bums or something.1

More seriously, there are also examples of homophobic comments and harassment Stokes has received, so content warning for that as well. Also, you… might wanna stop reading before the last paragraph, which includes a pretty hot take of the impact of outsourcing content moderation which, uh… yeah.

Tl;dr, corporate social media platforms still suck.

  1. Like Facebook, apparently… []
2019-06-04T07:34:15+10:0015th October, 2019|Tags: culture, quiltbag, social media|


By merging all updates from all the accounts you followed into a single continuous surface and having that serve as the default screen, Facebook News Feed simultaneously increased the efficiency of distribution of new posts and pitted all such posts against each other in what was effectively a single giant attention arena, complete with live updating scoreboards on each post. It was as if the panopticon inverted itself overnight, as if a giant spotlight turned on and suddenly all of us performing on Facebook for approval realized we were all in the same auditorium, on one large, connected infinite stage, singing karaoke to the same audience at the same time.

It’s difficult to overstate what a momentous sea change it was for hundreds of millions, and eventually billions, of humans who had grown up competing for status in small tribes, to suddenly be dropped into a talent show competing against EVERY PERSON THEY HAD EVER MET.

Eugene Wei on performance.

Quite long (so set aside some time), but really interesting look at the emerging status-as-a-service business, a.k.a. social media.

Also: Watching TikTok videos makes me feel Extremely Old™.

2019-04-30T09:24:36+10:009th October, 2019|Tags: culture, social media|