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

Yosem Companys ycompanys at
Fri Feb 24 11:09:09 PST 2017

This is a great email, Rich. I agree with many, if not all, of your points.

Now that Liberationtech is becoming independent, should it try to remain a
mailing list, or should it also pursue ambitious projects to try to solve
these problems?

I pose the question to Rich but also more broadly.

More to come...

On Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 8:12 AM, Rich Kulawiec <rsk at> wrote:

> On Sat, Feb 18, 2017 at 02:23:18PM -0800, Yosem Companys wrote:
> > 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.
> [ rhetorical "you" throughout ]
> I think this is a really bad idea: it's a trap.
> These aren't tools that exist to facilitate your cause: these are data
> harvesting and surveillance engines that will collect and collate every
> scrap of data and metadata your adversaries need.  And once that corpus
> exists, it WILL be acquired: it's much too valuable and much too easily
> transmitted to have the slightest chance of staying in one place.
> This is obvious on inspection: every architectural decision, every design
> decision, every operational decision, every policy decision ever made
> by these operations supports the goal of data acquisition.  It's what
> they were built to do.
> All the other stuff?  Shiny distraction.  Bait.  Scam.  Propaganda.
> Whether the data's acquired by overt contractual arrangement, whether it's
> acquired by force of law, whether it's acquired under the table, whether
> it's acquired by hacking, whether it's acquired via individual employees,
> it WILL be acquired.
> Nobody leaves that rich a source of actionable intelligence just sitting
> on the table untouched.
> So all that you will accomplish by using "social networks" is:
>         (a) building the database your enemies need to destroy you and
>         your allies and your cause
>         (b) building it in a place where they can easily get it --
>         if they haven't already had it from the moment you created it.
> For example:
>         If I were working for fill-in-the-blank, I would already have
>         my own people in place at Twitter and Eventbrite and Meetup
>         and Facebook and all the rest -- either full-time employees,
>         or people I've co-opted via bribes, blackmail, or other means.
>         They'd be there long before you were, just waiting for you to
>         show up and start spending your time and your effort and your
>         money handing them as much data/metadata as you possibly can.
>         I would do much the same thing if I were a sufficiently-organized,
>         sufficiently-funded group intent on propagating racism or fascism
>         or poverty or pollution or any of the things likely to trigger
>         opposition.
>         Why not?  It's cheap.  It's easy.  It's low-risk.  It's
>         sustainable.  It's simple.  It's deniable.  It's scalable.
>         In contrast to other spying/surveillance operations, which can
>         be expensive, complex, and risky, this is a cakewalk *because
>         they already built everything for me at their expense*.
>         What possible reason would I have for not taking advantage of it?
>         You'll give me data on your supporters, your allies, your
>         movements, their movements, your family, their families, your
>         friends, their friends, you employer, their employers, their
>         spending habits, their operating systems, their web browsers
>         and mail clients, your meetings -- and much more.
>         I'm going to end up knowing far more about you and your people
>         than YOU know.
> If you're trying to "liberate" someone or something, the first thing
> you need to do is liberate yourself from "social networks".  You should
> be trying as hard as you possibly can NOT to generate this data/metadata
> at all, anywhere -- instead of not only doing so deliberately, but doing
> it in a place that you have zero control over and that your adversaries
> can access far more easily than you can.  (Please don't even try to tell
> me stuff like "my Facebook group is private".  The only possible response
> to a fairy tale like that is mocking laughter.)
> If you insist on blundering ahead with "social networks" anyway, because
> you're too stubborn to listen or too naive to think it can happen to
> you, then as soon as you become a problem for an adversary with the
> requisite resources -- that is, as soon as you become effective at
> annoying someone with money or power -- they're going to exploit this.
> ---rsk
> p.s. And as if this wasn't enough, in case you haven't noticed, the US
> is now demanding "social network" passwords from people entering the
> country.  Howls of protest have gone up, and a joint letter from a
> coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations has been
> penned.  The combined impact of all this will be zero.  This administration
> doesn't care for facts or reason or petitions or protests, only about
> imposing its will.  All that's necessary is shouting "TERRORISM!"
> repeatedly
> and accusing opposers of weakness and lack of patriotism and supporting
> the bad guys: this is more than enough to get the stupid segment of the
> population -- which is the majority -- to support this nonsense.
> And by the time it's replaced with a sane one, IF it's replaced with a
> sane one, the damage will be done: this will be the new normal.  See
> "the Overton window" for the archetype.
> And, as that letter observes, what the US does will be copied by other
> countries, so we're not far from a future where most countries demand
> exactly the same thing.  And given that this is all being done under
> the guise of stopping the insignificant but easily hyped threat of
> terrorism, refusal isn't going to be a viable choice.
> This would be bad enough, even if the exposure was limited to
> the governments involved.  But it won't be.  These passwords have
> value.  Therefore there will be buyers.  Therefore there will be sellers.
> Border personnel (traditionally among the most corrupt public
> officials, since they have the most opportunity) will no doubt find it
> quite lucrative to acquire and market these to *anyone* who can pay:
> human traffickers, drug dealers, kidnappers, stalkers, organized crime,
> *anyone*.  Why not?  It's not THEIR data.  You're not THEIR problem.
> And they have a combination of nearly unlimited authority backed
> by lethal force, accompanied by zero acountability and more than
> enough plausible deniability.
> The only way to win this game is not to play.
> --
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