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[liberationtech] Fw: [progressiveexchange] Facebook interfering with activism Pages

Jim Youll jyoull at
Tue Sep 21 13:33:41 PDT 2010

On Sep 21, 2010, at 12:49 PM, Yosem Companys wrote:

> BTW, Jim, I don't have anything against corporate structures.  FB has created a private company to profit off of social interactions.  They watch everything you do and then sell that data or allow people to target advertising.  Before the Internet, many of these activities took place in public spaces.  And when the activities took place in a private setting such as a coffee shop, I think most people would object to having the coffee shop read their personal papers, or observe them via video cameras to sell the data to other coffee shops or firms, or to take their pictures and use them for advertising because the coffee shop's privacy policy, which you sign without reading when you first walk in gives them a right to do so.  It would be creepy.  Kudos for FB to get people to give up on these rights online and build a business model around it.  But there is no reason why a public space social network, like a park in the real world, as a non profit, for example, could not be as effective as FB without engaging in these privacy issues.  FB does it because they have the pressure to achieve profitability.  Otherwise, as Zuckerberg has said countless times, he wouldn't worry about advertising or making money.  Wikipedia seems to have done just fine as a non profit.  And I don't hear folks questioning why Wikipedia is not monetizing its knowledge base?    

To the extent that this is a discussion about control, not money [1], spreading the core around just nudges the points of control/censorship to ISPs, as I said, rather than one somewhat-manageable entity. As we have already seen, a Facebook audience can be up in arms *on Facebook* about Facebook's actions. That audience will be much more diffuse when it's an issue with the abstract entity of "an ISP". 

Forgetting the money thing altogether, we have moderated mailing lists and discussion forums that tend, in my experience at least, toward rather than away from, assertions of control via mechanisms that are arguably essential to keep them from flying apart in the face of spammers and other noise sources.

There are limitations in the physical world that do not translate to Internet space. We may appropriate some of the social pressures and embed positive features of behavioral econ into our systems, but we cannot recreate the expense or difficulty of monitoring or invading a physical space. The high RL cost of these intrusions limits their occurrence in physical spaces. The effectively-zero cost of these intrusions online makes them common.

I would argue that FB users are not largely aware of what is happening with their data behind the scenes, myself included, because FB doesn't tell us. We can assume the worst, and yet, my friends are there and to be involved in their world, I have to participate.

Wikipedia is an exception. It's also had its share of troubles related to people interacting in a digital commons, and if I'm not mistaken it's been through top-down controls (granting or withholding authority, and bosses with the time and grant/donation funding who can undo things full-time) that the problems were tamped down.

Is this conversation just a sideways glance without constructive feedback? I apologize if so. Still, as long as the bits travel on the Internet, for the foreseeable future, they are moving over corporate-owned and government-monitored/controlled wires, and are subject to all kinds of smackdowns. Disaspora moves the problem from one place to another, but that new, more diffuse place, may be harder to push back against then a single "evil" entity like Facebook is, when it misbehaves periodically. For example's sake (in terms of the consumer response, disregarding the net neutrality issues), consider Comcast's near-destruction of Vonage via traffic throttling - consumers were angry with Vonage for "poor service," not Comcast, which was playing dirty games to steal otherwise-happy Vonage customers and cripple a competitor. 

[1] imo the motive is irrelevant if the outcome is the same

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