In Summary: Facebook has taken advantage of our trust, using sophisticated techniques to prey, on the weakest aspects of human psychology, to gather and exploit private data, and to craft business models that do not protect users from harm. They continue to deflect, avoid and act as if more code is the answer to everything yet users love the site and don’t care that hey may have helped elect the most irresponsible administration in history.
Users must now learn to be skeptical about products they love, to change their online behavior, insist that platforms accept responsibility for the impact of their choices, and push policymakers to regulate the platforms to protect the public interest. We have to be part of the solution to the problem.
How did Facebook dupe us all?
Hypersuccessful people can be so focused on their own goals that they forget that others also have rights and privileges. Some of the hardest working, most productive people on earth can be so blind to the consequences of their actions that they are willing to put democracy at risk to protect their privilege.
Facebook had an opportunity to be the hero in their own story by taking responsibility for their choices and the catastrophic outcomes those choices produced. Instead, Zuck and Sheryl chose another path.
Zuckerberg operated the company as if every problem could be solved with more or better code. He embraced invasive surveillance, careless sharing of private data, and behavior modification in pursuit of unprecedented scale and influence. Surveillance, the sharing of user data, and behavioral modification are the foundation of Facebook’s success. Users are fuel for Facebook’s growth and, in some cases, the victims of it.
The fact that users are not conscious of Facebook’s influence magnifies the effect. If Facebook favors inflammatory campaigns, democracy suffers.
Everyone wants to be liked & The competition for a
The Like button provided a yardstick of social validation and social reciprocity—packaged as a variable reward—that transformed social networking. While always careful to protect itself from legal liability, Facebook seemed oblivious to signs of trouble.
Facebook wants us to believe that it is merely a platform on which others act and that it is not responsible for what those third parties do. On the internet, even the most socially unacceptable ideas can find an outlet.
Convinced of the nobility of their mission, Zuck and his employees reject
criticism. They respond to every problem with the same approach that created the problem in the first place: more AI, more code, more short-term fixes. They do not do this because they are bad people. They do this because success has warped their perception of reality. To them, connecting 2.2 billion people is so obviously a good thing, and continued growth so important, that they cannot imagine that the problems that have resulted could be in any way linked to their designs or business decisions.
From his time at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg showed a persistent indifference to authority, rules, and the users of his products. He hacked servers at Harvard, took university property to create his first products, exploited the trust of the Winklevoss brothers, and then shared his view of users in an instant messaging exchange with a college friend just after the launch of TheFacebook. As quoted in Business Insider: Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone;
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses,
SNS [Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don’t know why.
Zuck: They “trust me”
Zuck: Dumb fucks.
In the end..
If everything your company touches turns into gold for years on end, your executives will start to believe the good things people say about them. They will view their mission as exalted. They will reject criticism. They will ask, “If the critics are so smart, why aren’t they as successful and rich as we are?”
The culture of Facebook revolves around a handful of metrics, things like daily users, time on site, revenues, profits. Anything that is not explicitly on the list is definitively off the list. No one at the company allowed him-or herself to be distracted by downstream consequences.
Why don’t Facebook employees blow whistles on the company’s bad behavior? Why don’t users abandon the platform in protest? I cannot explain the behavior of employees, but I understand users. They crave convenience and utility. They struggle to imagine that they would ever be victims of manipulation, data security breaches, or election interference, much less what those things would mean to them.
As long as users continue to put their trust into Facebook it will be successful. Perhaps they don’t understand the principle of being socially responsible or honest and open. The truth is that Facebook continues to shit on users and they love the taste.