Facebook has been in the news quite a bit in the last few weeks, and I’ve finally reached the conclusion it is time for me to go. Now, I know Facebook will not care. I do not have millions of followers. I’m not an influencer, nor do I have an Instagram account or use any of their other services.
Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with social media. I’ve written about it extensively here and elsewhere, but I believe strongly that people are entitled to their privacy. Social media companies believe the opposite, and believe it is their solumn right and duty to invade every aspect of our lives for their profit. I say no more! Basta!
I didn’t delete my Facebook account entirely, however I did put a note that I will not be using it anymore. I had already removed all Facebook applications from my phone, including Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp etc.
It’s More than Privacy
Until recently, my continued objection to social media in general (with the exception of LinkedIn) was the invasion of privacy. I’ve researched and written about how these companies are stealing your privacy and profiting from it. But in the last few months, I’ve been reading a lot of research about the dangerous side effects of social media and come to the conclusion that it is much worse than simply invading your privacy. Social media is about behavior modification.
I recently read Surveillance Capitalism by Dr. Shoshana Zuboff and 10 Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts RIght Now by Jaron Lanier and in both these texts, the authors explain how social media has been proven and is designed to alter the behavior and world views of those who use it. A rather scary example was cited in Zuboff’s book where she explained the model of Pokemon Go. For those who never heard of this game, it was an augmented reality game in which players would have to capture these Pokemon characters in the real world. Where this game took a rather devious turn was that advertisers could pay to have rare characters located in their establishments and the game would thus direct traffic into their stores. On the one hand, this is insanely creative, on the other, insanely creepy.
You’re Just Too Stupid
The other major issue that I have is that Facebook and Twitter have decided that their users are too stupid to figure out truth from falsehood. That’s right… you’re too dumb to know if this report is real. They have no faith in your critical thinking ability, or capability to ask good questions to allow a debate. As someone who wants to be well informed, I want to read opinions with which I do not agree. I want to see facts that I suspect are false. I want my world view challenged so that I have to form views and opinions that are defensible. I want to learn and grow from others. I want to understand what other people believe.
The image on the left is an actual screen capture from my Twitter feed. I barely use Twitter (@cgivre) but I do check it occasionally. You’ll note the post from @tunguz has an official Twitter disclaimer under it about being false and misleading. WTF??
I was pretty shocked when I saw this because this tweet is clearly someone’s opinion about machine learning. You can agree or disagree with it and it really does not matter at all. Lives will not be lost, riots will not happen, feelings will not be hurt. So why does Twitter feel the need to mark this?
As it turns out, I happen to disagree with Mr. Tunguz on this point. IMHO Neural Networks (NN) are not the place to start with ML nor do I think all other algorithms are outdated and useless. There are many circumstances where you might not want to or be able to use an NN. We can respectfully debate that in another post. 😉
Here’s the thing, if social media wants to be a place where everyone can express their opinion, then the platform must have no opinion, other than blocking illegal or actually dangerous content. Jurisdictions actually do have laws and regulations about speech that is illegal. Unfortunately, I have some experience in this area. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, I encountered a professor who was a vile anti-semite and made no qualms about expressing his views publicly. I worked with several organizations to file a formal complaint with the University administration and in so doing, learned from numerous conversations with the University legal staff that whilst one may have repugnant views, unless you are threatening a specific person or group, there really isn’t much that can legally be done. Of course that was 20 years ago, so the situation may have changed somewhat.
Well, I’ve ended my relationship with Facebook. As of today, I will no longer use any of their services. I removed all Facebook sharing from my blog. I’m leaving Twitter for the moment but I never really used Twitter anyway. I would encourage anyone who reads this to do the same.