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[liberationtech] Facebook: Building Global Community - What's your response to Mark Zuckerberg?

Thomas Delrue thomas at
Sun Feb 19 10:39:32 PST 2017

On 02/19/2017 12:09 PM, Steven Clift wrote:
> Quickly now ... I've been building an open source-based, public
> creative commons structured, non-profit, members-supported
> citizens-based network for twenty-years.

I am not criticizing your efforts nor your goals, I am criticizing your
choice of technology and platform with and on which you choose to
organize and will (continue to) lambaste that particular choice.
That's a super-important distinction I would like to point out!

I've included a relevant mail from rsk -a member of and contributor to
this list- from back in 2014) to illustrate why using a surveillance
platform like facebook, google or twitter to organize is an /incredibly/
bad idea. I really recommend reading it.
Since you are in the space of citizen-movement and democracy and all,
you may at some point find yourself in the cross-hairs of an unfriendly
adversary, whether that is domestic or abroad, because you have or will
soon have the power to affect change in your area. When that moment
comes about, you'll regret having put your organization, your supporters
and yourself under total surveillance and basically having done your
adversary's work for them for free.

> Here is the sad truth:
> 1. The general public doesn't care ... enough anyway, they want online
> spaces that work for them - the more familiar the better

By using surveillance platforms, you (may) exclude people who REALLY
care about these things; you know, the zealots (like me?) you actually
want on your side.
I'd love to help you out & I think that what you're trying to accomplish
is valuable; but I don't allow any of my devices to talk to any entity
that is related to known surveillance platforms (I do a lot of blocking
on multiple levels and using a variety of technologies - the resemblance
to an arms-race does not need to be pointed out to me and is subject to
a separate discussion). So sadly, I can't help you out.

Secondly, by using surveillance platforms, you actively and explicitly
endanger the lives of those who you interact with on said platforms. I
refer to the included mail from rsk for a more detailed description of
this. (really, read it!)

Thirdly, you say that "the general public doesn't care enough" to be
compelled to go to a different URL than facebook (literally, that's what
we're talking about). That's a pretty low bar right there. But yet they
care enough about democracy to do 'something'?
Am I the only one who thinks there's a bit of discrepancy there? If they
won't follow you out of facebook, I'm pretty sure they won't follow you
You're either (a) not giving enough credit to this general public, (b)
you're deluded or (c) you're barking up the wrong tree/population.

If they care about democracy to be useful for your goals, I'm sure
clicking on a URL that brings them to a website that does NOT look like
FB won't put them off. If it does put them off, think carefully what
kind of supporters of your cause they are and whether or not having them
makes a difference.

I think the problem here is the organizer being 'a bit lazy' in setting
up (+ maintaining) something by himself.

> 2. People who support this model in theory don't donate, foundations
> mostly just give freedom lip service online or fund elites

I'm unclear about what you mean by "this model".

> 3. The technologists who could build out the open source tool we use
don't help

Welcome to liberationTech, where we discuss how we can help and what can
be done... Occasionally, we also talk about which approaches would be
'sub-optimal', like today.
As you point out: you use open source tools, you have access to the
source. That is what open source is about. You're not locked in to the
current maintainers/developers of the tool, in contrast to closed source
tools (like facebook, I might add).
I understand you and yours may not have the skill-set to modify said
source, but you can find & pay someone else to do it since you have
access to the source. Snap the source, modify it and redistribute it for
the good of humanity and your cause. You have the freedom to make the
tool (or a fork thereof) do what you need it to do.
I'm sure there are a couple of folks on this list who can help you out
with this.

> 4. The resistance by most people to signing up for anything new makes
> it almost impossible to serve new communities

See my response to #1, but their resistance to actively supporting
democracy is there, right? *That* is something they will do! A different
URL is a big no-no, but *doing something* is a definite YES?

> 5. The economic and social diversity of people we can reach via
> Facebook is far more inclusive than on our own platform

You are correct and it is a problem. And by continuing to use facebook,
you are part of the problem and are only making it bigger & bigger and
worse & worse. By continuing to use facebook, you are (unknowingly)
complicit in the very thing you're fighting (e.g. apathy, decrease in
democracy, etc.).
This is the reverse-network-effect: everyone keeps using facebook
because everyone uses facebook because everyone keeps using facebook
because ... etc.

We need a solution to this and I think we have that solution; it just
happens to be one that some people don't like: set stuff up yourself and
use distributed systems instead of centralized systems. But I understand
that that's work...

> 6. We do generate donations from our neighborhood participants, and
> much less so from our forums that are about political city and
> state-wide politics, but all the venture money in NextDoor and their
> gated community model is finally eroding our public model where we've
> been strongest (I'll take an "open" Facebook Group any day over the
> NextDoor connect all the wealthier homeowners model any day!)

See above, you can create your own open groups and don't need FB (or
google) for this. You really, really don't...

> So, if you value the power people get in democracy from connecting
> with each other for two-way conversations, you need to reach them
> where they are.

May I add something to this sentence?
"... and then guide them to a better place." Reach facebookers through
that site by all means, but then take them to somewhere else. Somewhere
where they can speak their mind freely instead of having every opinion
they utter, every post they 'like', how long they are looking at each
post, whether and how long they hover of which link, etc... being
data-mined and used against them. Because that's what facebook does.

> When it comes to Facebook, I've concluded that shaping it for good,
> for more local online group formation in public life (my big passion),
> will generate more democratic value than ignoring it.

I don't want to take away your big passion because I think it is great
you have this passion and the world would likely be worse off if you
didn't have it (every bit helps). But I do encourage you to no longer
use platforms that are closed or serve no other purpose than
I do have bad news for you regarding 'shaping facebook for good': I'm
afraid that's a nice delusion you have there.

(*) The purpose of any Power of the Day, is to make sure they are also
the Power of Tomorrow. Therefor, as soon as you start becoming more than
a little prick in their pinky-toe, and given your space, it seems that
this is inevitable, the Power of the Day will put you in its
cross-hairs, and it has a lot more sway over at these surveillance
platforms (aka privatized [domestic, if you're in the US] spying) than
you do.
The results of this *will* be similar to what is described in the
attached mail (did I tell you yet that you should really read it?).
You could say that I'm making a 'slippery slope' argument and therefor
committing a logical fallacy, but "That's a slippery slope argument"
stops being a kill-all counter when we've demonstrated that we -as a
species and society- ride that damn slope all the way down every single
time we encounter it.

> On Sat, Feb 18, 2017 at 4:23 PM, Yosem Companys
<companys at> wrote:
>> I know. I agree.
>> I have never been thrilled with Steven's selection of Facebook for
>> pro-democracy groups.
>> To protect your privacy and security, stay off Facebook.
>> But, to build movements, create an account on Facebook (or Twitter or any
>> other dominant centralized social network) and try to get as many
people to
>> join.
>> One vision we had on Diaspora was to create a HootSuite like app that
>> integrate all of your social networking sites on one dashboard and enable
>> you to decide how public you wanted to be. You wanted to connect with a
>> friend? You could do it directly from your own server to your
friend's own
>> server without an intermediary. You wanted to advertise something more
>> broadly on Facebook or Twitter? You could do that too. Unfortunately,
>> Diaspora never moved away from its pod focus to build a better HootSuite.
>> On Sat, Feb 18, 2017 at 1:57 PM, Cristina [efecto99]
<efecto99 at>
>> wrote:
>>> On 17/02/17 17:24, Thomas Delrue wrote:
>>> On February 17, 2017 1:32:46 PM EST, Steven Clift
<clift at>
>>> wrote:
>>> I invite everyone to read and comment on Mark Zuckerberg's important
>>> "Building Global Community" letter:
>>> This is a special Facebook Group I've created to connect lots of
>>> disparate communities for a unified conversation that I will share
>>> with my contacts at Facebook.
>>> You'll find a link to his letter and posts organized by the five key
>>> questions Mark asks and posts to share media reports and more:
>>> Or jump straight to his letter:
>>> Also, while I don't have my first tele meeting with a foundation on
>>> this until next week, now seems like a good time to share
>>> E-Democracy's draft proposal for Local Civic Facebook Groups:
>>> Zuckerberg's letter highlights the absolutely vital role of "engaged
>>> leaders" creating "meaningful groups." E-Democracy's magic mix is
>>> supporting YOU - those leaders - in local communities working to
>>> create local community and civic life Facebook Groups that foster
>>> inclusive and supportive local online communities that foster civic
>>> engagement and informed communities. So, if you want to add your city
>>> to the list of the 22 cities with volunteer interest, email me -
>>> clift at - with "Civic Facebook Groups" in the subject
>>> line. We drafted most of this proposal in December, so we are ecstatic
>>> that Facebook's next mission is so well aligned with our scrappy work.
>>> P.S. You can jump in deeper now (we are just getting started):
>>> "Facebook guy tells world it needs to use more Facebook or face bad
>>> times",  is that roughly the right summary of his 'insights' or am I way
>>> off?
>>> It seems as a joke if wouldn't be posted HERE, on *Liberation tech*
>>> mailing list: since when Facebook serves to the liberation of people!? I
>>> must be reading a lot of fake news about Facebook the last....5
years? (and
>>> i think I'm getting short).
>>> So funny...
>>> My 1st impulse to answer this email was to simply put:
>>> One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
>>> One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
>>> In the Land of Mordor   Surveillance where the Shadows lie.

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