Facebook has violated our community standards

April 9, 2018

 

It speaks to Facebook's hubris that they probably did not see this coming.

 

Sure, the RussiaGate storyline required at least a soupçon of evil Russian Facebook trolls -- Putinist villains who allegedly purchased less than $100k worth of ads, most of which went up after the election and some of which were for puppies -- but Facebook was just as much a victim in all of that as the rest of us... right?

 

For years Facebook has been the undisputed champion of social media. According to Statista, there are 2.167 billion active Facebook accounts -- more than one quarter of the planet's entire population.

 

And, sure, we've known for years that this was pretty ominous.

 

Throughout this past decade there have been scary reports about Facebook hacks, privacy concerns, mental health consequences, eavesdropping and political censorship that made it seem as though we all could actually be living in a episode of Black Mirror.

 

Really, though, even the company's name is creepy when you think about it: "Yeah, we're going to keep all your faces in this book." Certainly a lot less friendly than "Myspace."

 

Hell, South Park was trying to warn us about the dangers of Facebook way back in 2010.

 

Yet, despite knowing better for so long, we have all collectively allowed a technology into our lives that is pretty much guaranteed, at one point or another, to cause conflict between you and the ones you love the most.

 

Think about it: How many relationships have you personally witnessed being either permanently damaged or completely destroyed by something posted on Facebook?

 

How many friendships have been ended and how many families have been torn apart because of some needless words thoughtlessly typed into the one social media network that absolutely everyone is expected to be a part of?

 

This has been especially more true given the current political climate.

 

Over recent years, how many previously-apathetic Americans have become rabid political zealots? How much more has our culture come to see each other as either "libtard" Social Justice Warriors or AltRight Nazi apologists? 

 

One has to wonder if the precipitous degradation of the political process has anything to do with the simultaneous rise of Facebook. After all, 2016 was by far the most idiotic, emotional, self-indulgent, tone-deaf, and mean-spirited election in modern American history. And given two utterly gruesome candidates like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who wasn't voicing a strong opinion by November (and probably since)?

 

Surely Facebook bears some of the responsibility for the inability of our culture to even agree on the most basic premises. We've entered the era of meme warfare where there are "facts" to support your opinion, no matter how stupid and dangerous it is.

 

But over the past couple of months, the public has actually began seeing the full breadth and scope of how Orwellian our Facebook-fueled culture truly is.

 

First we found out that Facebook was censoring political speech at the behest of the US and Israeli governments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, in an especially slow-breaking news story, it was revealed that a data analytics company with ties to the US and UK governments, Cambridge Analytica, had provided stolen Facebook data to multiple political campaigns, including Donald Trump's.

 

Just when everyone thought Facebook couldn't get any creepier, it came out that they actually had been attempting to acquire users' medical records.

 

And then it came out that Facebook is scanning users' private messages.

 

This was, of course, followed up by the revelation that Facebook retracted some of Mark Zuckerberg's messages from other people's inboxes.

 

Finally, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other groups complained to federal regulators that Facebook's facial recognition technology violates users' privacy rights.

 

From all of this, one thing has become abundantly clear:

 

Facebook has violated our community standards. It has corrupted our entire civilization on a profound way. And, for that reason, our society needs to reexamine how we relate to this entity.

 

As the genius Matt Taibbi recently wrote for Rolling Stone:

 

In many ways, the Facebook controversy is a canard. It's less a real crisis about Russians, the Trump election or scamsters like Cambridge Analytica than a long-overdue reckoning. Americans who for decades have been clinging to reassuring myths about the origins and purpose of the Internet are finally beginning to ask important questions about this awesome Pentagon-designed surveillance tool they've enthusiastically welcomed into their homes, bedrooms, purses and pockets.

 

Does that mean new regulations? All of us deleting our Facebook accounts? A rediscovery of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy? Antitrust legislation?

 

On one level, yes, we need some degree of all of those things.

 

But on another, none of that is really enough. We as a species have reached a point where technology like Facebook is reshaping our entire identity.

 

Yes, Facebook is evil and needs to be confronted head-on.

 

But are Google or Amazon any less evil? Is the prevalence of drones and big data and facial-recognition technology and smart TVs and artificial intelligence and the coming "Internet of Things" not as bad as (or worse than) any of Facebook's numerous crimes?

 

Or how about the simple fact that we are all gradually spending more and more of our waking lives surrounding ourselves with as many screens as possible -- hypnotizing ourselves while ignoring our spouses and children?

 

Facebook is just one especially-noticeable symptom. The disease is much more far-reaching and dangerous. And, unfortunately, it is metastasizing at a rate that, by the time we even diagnose it accurately, it will probably still be too late.

 

Can Facebook be fixed? Sure. Why not?

 

But would that meager victory give us any hope that humanity is not headed for a soul-consuming cybernetic oblivion?

 

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