Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Facebook

Facebook isn’t that Different from News Corp or Standard Oil

My Facebook is flooded with folks talking about Cambridge Analytica, the firm that bought access to Facebook user data and used it to help design political propaganda for organisations seeking to help the Trump campaign. But you know what I find most surprising about this story? The fact that people find it surprising in the first place. This possibility was always implied by Facebook’s business model. It creates a platform that makes communicating with people easier. We don’t have to pay money to use it, but in exchange Facebook takes our data and sells it to whoever wants to buy. Did we really think that political organisations wouldn’t be interesting in buying Facebook data? Did we really think that Facebook wouldn’t sell it to them? This implication has stood in front of our faces for years. It’s clearly implied by Facebook’s very nature–it is literally a firm which induces people to give it private information and then sells that information to the highest bidder. Why can’t the bidders have political motivations? Facebook is a transnational corporation. Why would even expect the bidders to be American?

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The War for Social Media: The Center is Trying to Diminish Diversity and Control Speech

There’s a story we tell about social media. Once upon a time politics wasn’t so divided and polarized. But then, social media came along–it let people retreat into bubbles, where they only talked to people who thought as they did. This caused them to get all extreme and nasty. And then the alt-right and the Russians figured out that they could inject fake stories into these bubbles and turn social media users into Trump supporters! Our beautiful liberal society was torn apart, and it’s all because people stopped trusting traditional news sources, like the big newspapers and TV networks. Companies like Facebook have a responsibility to do something about this–to call out the fake stories, or stop them from showing up in people’s feeds. Sounds familiar, right? I want to tell a different story about social media.

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New Facebook Page

Dear Readers,

It has been repeatedly drawn to my attention that the blog does not have a dedicated Facebook page. In the past, I have invited readers who wish to follow on Facebook to friend me, but as the blog has grown this has become increasingly impossible. In the aftermath of the viral UK election post (which was spread predominately through Facebook) I now recognize that it is no longer reasonable to go on this way. For these reasons, I have created a Facebook page for the blog bearing my name. The page is called “Benjamin Studebaker”. Click here for a direct link. You’ll also find a place where you can “like” it at the bottom of the website, right under where it says “Facebook Updates”. If you like me on Facebook, here’s what you get:

  • New blog posts in your Facebook feed the moment I publish them.
  • Additional political thoughts I may have that are too long for Twitter and too short for the blog.
  • Every Thursday I will share a “Throwback Thursday” post–something I published a while ago that I think is still relevant and important.

You won’t get any irrelevant content, just blog stuff.

I also want to take this opportunity to personally thank those of you who shared the UK election post. There have been over 812,000 hits on it (as of May 9, 2015), and I am gratified by the 160,000+ people who chose to share it on Facebook. I only wish it had been able to have a larger impact on the result.

Thanks again,

Benjamin

Facebook: When Free Speech Costs Money

Very quietly, so quietly that it has almost gone without notice, Facebook has begun to charge its users to have their posts shown to more than a small percentage of their friends, fans, and subscribers. New posts on Facebook now come with a “promote” option, where you have the opportunity to pay Facebook money to ensure that your posts actually reach the people who have signed up to receive them. Facebook, famous for its promise that “it’s free, and always will be”, seems to have skirted this issue by charging not to be a user of Facebook, but to actually have your material seen by more than a tiny number of people. Do not mistake this post for a rant about Facebook however–though I myself am impacted (even as this blog has grown more popular over the last several months, the number of referrals from Facebook I receive has indeed dropped since I got the “promote” option), I am not here to trash Facebook but to point out what this move by Facebook more broadly represents–a move toward a fusion of free speech with income, and the debilitating effects this has on democracy.

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