I’ve decided I can no longer support Facebook’s deliberate actions to create divisions in society by promoting hate speech, lies and extremists for profit.
I’ll be using alternatives to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram from now on.
I appreciate that when we use a free service we become the product and that collecting and using our data is part of the trade off but Facebook goes way beyond using data – often illegally. It facilitates illegal activities like child pornography and human rights atrocities, not accidentally but knowingly, and chooses to do nothing about it.
Most people are aware of the scandal of Cambridge Analytica. The personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users were acquired via the 270,000 Facebook users who used a Facebook app called “This Is Your Digital Life.” By giving this third-party app permission to acquire their data back in 2015, this also gave the app access to information on the user’s friends network; this resulted in the collection of data of about 87 million users, the majority of whom had no idea that Cambridge Analytica had access to them.
Despite this incident, Facebook pays scant regard to safeguarding the data of its users and frequent data breaches are common.
These are some of the other reasons I’ve decided to move my businesses away from Facebook:
Creating dissent is a deliberate act
The Wall Street Journal recently published a report based on some internal investigations that Facebook did in 2018.
The Facebook team found that the algorithms they use to gain user attention & increase time on the platform are not bringing people together as they claim, they are driving people apart. The algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.
According to the Facebook internal report, “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools… Our recommendation systems grow the problem.” This was exactly the assertion of Facebook’s harshest critics and by acknowledging it, FB was admitting – at least to itself – that its policies were deeply flawed and seriously dangerous.
Far from changing things, Faceook did nothing and Zuckerberg doubled-down on his absurd assertion that he is not responsible for what appears on his site.
The Wall Street Journal summed up the issue like this… “Facebook is under fire for making the world more divided. Many of its own experts appeared to agree—and they believe Facebook could mitigate many of the problems. The company chooses not to.”
A “virtual walkout” by hundreds of Facebook employees protesting Facebook’s publishing of Trump’s wildly inappropriate posts that were widely interpreted as advocating violence is still not having much effect in changing policies.
Civil rights executives who spoke with Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg said they were “stunned” by the “incomprehensible explanations” of Facebook’s editorial policies.
This goes way beyond harvesting data and accepting money from anyone who wants to publish whatever they like.
The Committee on Homeland Security sent this letter to Mark Zuckerberg in June 2020.
“There is a difference between being a platform that facilitates public discourse and one that peddles incendiary, race-baiting innuendo guised as political speech, for profit…You should decide which side you are on.”
Facebook Admits It Was Used to Incite Violence in Myanmar
The United Nations documented Facebook’s role in the genocide.
An article in The NY Times reports that Facebook failed to prevent its platform from being used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in the country, one of its executives said in a post citing a human rights report commissioned by the company.
In 2018 the inquiry recommended that Facebook adopt a stand-alone human rights policy, establish formalized governance structures to oversee the company’s human rights strategy, and provide regular updates on progress made. So far, this has not been done.
Right wing news sites manipulate Facebooks algorithms and go unchecked.
The Daily Wire is a hard right news channel run by Ben Shapiro whose stated goal is “to unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases”.
His views are classically religious-conservative. He suggests that transgender people suffer a “mental disorder”; he opposes same-sex couples raising children; he has said that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.”
The Daily Wire has an undisclosed relationship with Facebook pages owned by Mad World News — a notorious site that exploits Facebook’s algorithm to promote racism & violence. Mad World News has built its Facebook Pages by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence. They take old stories on incendiary topics, rewrite them, give them a new date, and let Facebook’s algorithm do the rest.
On June 19, 2020, Mad World News published an article about a “patriotoc family” waving a confederate flag on the side of the road who were threatened by a man with a gun. What they didn’t mention was that this was an incident from 2015.
On a per article basis, The Daily Wire received more distribution on Facebook than any other publisher.
The Daily Wire was the seventh-ranked publisher on Facebook, according to the analytics service NewsWhip. Articles published in The Daily Wire attracted 60,616,745 engagements in May. Engagement is a combination of shares, likes, and comments, and is a way of quantifying distribution on Facebook.
The undisclosed relationship between Ben Shapiro and Mad World News violates Facebook’s rules. You are required to disclose when you are posting content for money. Facebook also bans “artificially boosting the popularity of content.”
Facebook says it investigated and found no violation of its rules. This isn’t the first time Facebook has chosen not to act against Shapiro.
Brands boycotting Facebook
We’re a tiny fish in this pond and we’re taking a stand more on principle and in support of our members than in any real hope of making a difference but what is interesting is that big advertisers seem to have got Facebook rattled at last.
There have been boycotts before but the brands generally don’t stay away very long. This time, the pressure for the boycott isn’t coming from consumers or marketing agencies, its coming from within the brands themselves – from their employees who are the ones suffering from the hate and violence.
Verizon is the latest company to join the boycott according to this article in The Guardian and there will no doubt be more.
Whatever happens long term, life feels a little cleaner now.
Here are some of Facebook’s highlights from 2019 courtesy of Bob Hoffman AdContrarian
|1. January: It was discovered that Facebook-owned WhatsApp was being used to spread illegal child pornography.
2. January: Researcher Aaron Greenspan, former running mate of Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, said that Facebook’s claim of reaching 2 billion people is a lie and said Zuckerberg “may be the greatest con man in history.”
3. January: Zuckerberg writes a Wall Street Journal op ed defending Facebook and gets roundly roasted for it.
4. January: British health minister threatens to close down social media after 14-year-old girl commits suicide after seeing disturbing content on Facebook-owned Instagram.
5. February: It was discovered that Facebook was paying kids as young as 13 to install spyware on their phones.
6. February: A committee of Parliament in England denounced Facebook as “digital gangsters” and said, “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’…”
7. February: The Wall Street Journal discovered that people were entering private information into apps and, unknown to them, the apps were feeding the info to Facebook.
8. March: Federal investigators summoned a grand jury to investigate criminal implications of Facebook’s agreement with over 100 tech companies to provide them with information about 100s of millions of FB users without their knowledge or consent.x
9. March: Facebook leaves hundreds of millions of user passwords unencrypted.
10. March: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sued Facebook for allowing “advertisers to exclude people from seeing housing ads based on their race, religion, background and other characteristics”
11. March: In the wake of the massacre of 50 people in New Zealand which was live-streamed on FB, the Prime Minister of Australia threatened to jail social media execs.
12: April: It was discovered that a Mexican company had stored over 500 million Facebook records in plain site on the Amazon cloud for anyone to access.
13: April: Bloomberg reported that almost 400,000 crooks have been using Facebook for as long as eight years as a marketplace to buy and sell criminal materials.
14: April: The Daily Beast reported that “Child Brides in Africa Are Advertised on Facebook and Sold to Old Men.”
15. April: The New York Times reported that “Regulators on four continents are preparing for a long-awaited showdown with Facebook...”
16. May: In an article in the NY Times, Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, called for its breakup.
17: July: FTC fines Facebook $5 billion for Cambridge Analytica scandal.
18: August: Netflix airs “The Great Hack” about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. PBS airs “The Facebook Dilemma,” savaging the company and claiming it has blood on its hands.
19: September: TechCrunch found another unprotected data base online which contained the phone numbers and user IDs of 419 million Facebook users.
20: September: The BBC reported that a study by Privacy International determined that “Intimate data, including when people have had sex, is being shared with Facebook.”
21: September: Massachusetts attorney general found that Facebook lied when they said they suspended 400 apps to remediate after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In fact, they suspended 69,000 questionable apps.
22: September: A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University found that “Facebook remains the No. 1 social network for disinformation…Organized propaganda campaigns were found on the platform in 56 countries.”
23: October: Facebook agreed to pay a group of advertisers $40 million to settle a suit which claimed that Facebook had inflated its video metrics by as much as 900%.
24: October: Zuckerberg gave a speech at Georgetown University defending Facebook’s policy of airing political advertising they know to be false.
25: October: BuzzFeed reported “How A Massive Facebook Scam Siphoned Millions Of Dollars From Unsuspecting Boomers.”
26: October: P&G’s announced that they had built their own data base of 1.5 billion people because they don’t trust the numbers of Facebook or Google.
27: November: Aaron Sorkin, writer of the movie “The Social Network,” savaged Zuckerberg’s “free speech” hypocrisy in a NY Times op ed.
28: December: CNET reported “more than 267 million Facebook user phone numbers, names and user IDs were exposed in a database that anyone could access online.”
29: December: In response to an inquiry from two U.S. Senators, Facebook admitted it can track peoples’ location even if they opt out of tracking.