A Steaming Bag of Shit
Longtime readers of mine - both here in my Substack newsletter and on my Medium page - know that I’m a vocal critic of Facebook:
I’ve written about their deceit in the Cambridge Analytica scandal
I’ve authored an article on how to limit the data that you share with Facebook
I’ve written about how - and WHY - to delete Facebook and all social media apps from your smartphone
And I’ve repeatedly warned parents about the very real dangers of exposing their children to Facebook and social media
I’ve been consistent in my warnings about Facebook in particular because they aren’t an ethical, kind, or trustworthy corporation. Instead, they prey on users by using their data to compile accurate dossiers about who they are, and then… they use that data to surveil and market to them.
There are very good reasons why Facebook was fined $5 billion by the FTC: because the company regularly flaunts regulations, restrictions, laws, and - more importantly - our shared ethics and morals around concepts like truth, privacy, democracy, and security.
Not surprisingly, some time ago, I changed my social media behaviors radically:
I deleted all social media apps from my smartphone
I locked my Facebook account down using a fun tool called Jumbo
I only surf to the Facebook website using browsers like Brave which can block all trackers, fingerprinting & cookies
More importantly, I JUST reduced the amount of time I spend on all social media by about 85%.
My life is better as a result of making these changes. Give them a try yourself and I’m sure you’ll find that yours will be as well.
Additional Proof If You Need It (Which… You Don’t)
A few days ago - on October 4th, 2021 - Frances Haugen gave explosive testimony before the United States Senate. Haugen, a former algorithmic product manager at Facebook, revealed that not only is the company doing harm to children, politics, and democracy but that they are absolutely aware of these problems despite public claims to the contrary.
Earlier this year, Haugen secretly released thousands of pages of internal documentation from the company to the Wall Street Journal, revealing that the company knows full well that its products are “toxic” to teenage girls, that they give special treatment to VIPs who can flaunt platform rules that others cannot, and that since they cannot deal with the onslaught of viral and angry misinformation, they’ve chosen, instead, to embrace it.
This week, on the TV show 60 Minutes, Haugen came forward as the whistleblower who provided those documents to the WSJ. During that broadcast, she uttered the following gem:
“When you have a system that you know can be hacked with anger, it's easier to provoke people into anger. And publishers are saying, 'Oh, if I do more angry, polarizing, divisive content, I get more money.' Facebook has set up a system of incentives that is pulling people apart."
If you missed Ms. Haugen’s Congressial testimony yesterday, you should watch it at the link I just provided because pigs flew.
By that, I mean that Senators from both political parties agreed that Facebook must be held accountable. And folks: when Republican Senators like Marcia Blackburn, John Thune, and Ted Cruz find themselves agreeing in principle with Democratic Senators like Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, and Edward Markey, we’re standing on very rare ground, indeed.
The Wall Street Journal’s expose on Facebook was published on Sept 13th, 2021. The company - including its CEO - remained silent. Then, it learned about Ms. Haugen coming forward as the whistleblower.
Well, as you might expect from a publically-traded company that masquerades as a steaming bag of shit, Facebook immediately went into “PR Crisis” mode:
October 2nd, 2021: The company’s VP of Policy and Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, sent a memo to all Facebook staff refuting Ms. Haugens claims… before she’d ever appeared before Congress or on 60 Minutes.
October 3rd, 2021: Facebook CEO Marck Zuckerberg posts about sailing with his wife and friends prior to Ms. Haugen’s appearance later that evening on 60 Minutes, still silent on the matter of her claims.
October 5th, 2021, 10:47am: After her Congressional testimony, Andy Stone - a company rep - tweeted a statement meant to undermine Ms. Haugen by saying that she “worked at the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, and never met with any C-level execs.”
October 5th, 2021 at 12pm: Zuckerberg releases a public statement. It admits no guilt and, instead, tries to rally his staff by claiming that “it's frustrating to see the good work we do get mischaracterized”. Notably absent from the CEO’s post: any denials that the documentation Ms. Haugen provided was false, forged, manufactured, or otherwise untrue.
You can read more on the company’s disgusting and embarrassing efforts to defend themselves and attack Ms. Haugen here.
What Happens Now
Facebook will come under fire. Again. In the past, they’ve simply paid fines - some of them massive - and then watched as Washington DC failed to regulate the company in any meaningful way. But I believe this time will be different:
Financial blowback will occur as their stock takes a hit.
Charges of SEC violations and the fines and penalties they will carry will be imposed. The complaints filed to the SEC by Ms. Haugen demonstrate with proof how the company “violated U.S. securities laws by making material misrepresentations and omissions in statements to investors and prospective investors”.
Legislation and/or regulation is now possible because both Republicans AND Democrats agree on something for a change.
The massive number of verifiable documents provided by Ms. Haugen now provides a smoking gun. That helps parents and their children to leave Facebook-owned platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp and, more importantly, it helps Congress to know - for certain - that any regulation it passes is being done for right and provable reasons.
Would I hold my breath? No, but I am optimistic. At its core, I still believe in the power of social media to help bring people together in joy and shared experiences. But coming together online needs to better reflect how people operate offline.
In the real world - the offline world - people don’t get together to yell and scream at each other without mercy. We don’t constantly get triggered about politics and the supposed dangers of vaccinations. We also talk about school, sports, hobbies, family, and yes - sometimes - more hot-button issues as well.
Until social media can be better regulated or forced to protect the most vulnerable among us — and I count both the young and the ignorant in that group— then it shouldn’t be allowed to thrive or create a profit off our personal data.
And that’s a wrap for today’s episode, everyone. Thanks again for subscribing and supporting independent technology journalism. Thank you, in advance, for using the link below to share Tech Talk with your friends, family, and colleagues.
As always… Surf safe.
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