It’s Time To Break Up The Facebook Empire
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How many of you have actually sold “stuff” through Facebook? How many have spent money on ads driving potential customers to your pages? How many pay influencers on Instagram? Or run paid ads on that platform too?
Have any of us realized how much damage we were doing by giving the company a dime?
I ask because the recent revelations about the platform are, for me at least, shocking. Particularly the stories of turning a blind eye to sex trafficking on the platform, knowingly allowing content that demeans and damages young girls on Instagram, and just generally doing whatever the heck it wants to the young and impressionable.
It’s even more shocking (bemusing?) because in the middle of all this leniency, Facebook’s algorithms decided that a remark I don’t believe I even made was so against community standards that I should be banned for a month. I have eleven days to go. The remark? It’s a very common American phrase and I will write it here because I don’t think Mr. Rowen will banish me for it. Somewhere or another, I apparently said (though I do doubt it), “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” It’s a common joke, meant to say, “I can’t tell you.” Now how many people think this is incendiary or violates any standard in the United States? None. And in any case what damage is a 70+ year old geezer going to do exactly? Vs. the Proud Boys and the harm done by them? So who’s zoomin’ who here?
People like me have a real dilemma with Facebook (as do most of us with Amazon, but I’ll get to that later). On the one hand, it is (was?) a great “town square” where you could meet up with people you hadn’t seen in a lifetime, and even wish them happy birthday. In some ways, my “tribe” also kept me sane during the strangest four years of my life.
On the other hand, it’s not subtle. On Facebook, as an individual you’re not the user, you’re the product, and you really should remember that. Retailers and others are buying your eyeballs. I will tell you in my entire Facebook history, I have bought one item on the site – I was introduced to harempants.com, which are invaluable balloon pants for the Miami heat. So, in truth, I am not really worth much to them. Out of my discretionary spending years, and simply wanting to support what are fundamentally peace-loving ideals. I don’t respond to ads, I do post photos (since that’s my hobby), and I found the group on cats with IBD very helpful when my kitty got sick.
I would have liked to let my friends know I’d been in a pretty serious car accident a couple of weeks ago. Too bad, you’re in jail, girlfriend. And my even older friend, of the LEFT persuasion, was permanently banned with no reason given whatsoever. Not just banned. His ID was deleted by “the powers.” As he said, 10 years of memories just swept away in the blink of an eye. And truly, his only crime was not loving capitalism. There’s an irony for you. Even Donald Trump’s ID is still there, albeit inactive (at least it was the last time I was able to look). But my 74 year-old college professor friend? Toast. Just this morning, I found out another friend, this one with stage 4 cancer, was banned for some days because something she said triggered an algorithm. And if you don’t think Mr. Zuckerberg, who is now “fighting back” will quote the number of people the company has banned for saying incendiary things as part of that fight, you’re dreaming. Better to look at those in their peak spending years. The number drops a LOT.
When Scott Galloway started his rants on what he calls “The Four” – Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple – I thought he was being a bit extreme. Not anymore. I can’t comment much on Apple, which seems to be trying, at least, to be good world citizens, but the other three? It’s an anti-competitive, intrusive environment that must be broken into component parts. At minimum (sidebar amusement: I went to find a link to “The Four” and the first 5 suggestions given me by Google were all on Amazon.com).
Google… well, it knows everything about us, doesn’t it? Facebook’s algorithms are ham-handed. Google’s are a masterpiece.
Amazon treated its workers awfully during the pandemic. Now it publishes ads about “how great the company has been” to the ones who survived. I find it hard to break away. The site is no longer my first choice, but if I’m in a big hurry it pops to the top of the list. I know at least one RSR partner refuses to buy anything on the site. Ever. He’s done with them. I’m not that noble (or agile, if I’m honest). Maybe that makes me part of the problem.
Amazon would have long since been broken up, the way eBay was (into PayPal and eBay, by the not-so-beloved Carl Icahn), but the launcher of the world’s biggest, well, you know, thing into space still owns too much of the company to be pushed in any direction at all. That’s simply not cool. Beyond most checks and balances, the company continues on its march.
It’s worth noting, as a young girl I always got in trouble in public school. I tried to be a good girl, but just never made that cut. I’d finish my work too soon, get bored and start fidgeting or talking. Facebook has given me some serious PTSD in that regard. I have a “permanent record” that is flung at me any time I think about logging on, of “terrible” things that I might have said tongue in cheek. Yes, my world has changed. I’m generally well-regarded and have had a nice career. This is all too much.
The time has come. By breaking Facebook up, the government would immediately and effectively create alternatives to the behemoth. One always wonders if our government is even functional enough to do that. Perhaps the Facebook whistleblower testimony will help. I doubt it. The company just has too much money to throw around.
Anyway, ask yourselves again if this behavior is something you really want to support with your ad dollars. Because it’s promoting some really bad energy. Let’s break these companies up into component parts that just aren’t that powerful. Enough.