Gaius Publius: What To Do About Facebook — First Thoughts

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

If a billion-user, private, hugely profitable company were truly this powerful, what should be done about it?

The revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have come and gone quickly, like a fiery auto crash into a ten-foot wall, the remains of which nevertheless disappear overnight — in this case replaced by the next Trump scandal to hit the news. Pedestrians walking past the crash site today can only smell the fumes of earlier fevered concerns.

Yet the Facebook problem remains, if barely considered now. As we wrote earlier, what Facebook did in that case was no more than it was designed to do. Not only that, but what Cambridge Analytica did was follow a path others had tread before, except that this time the “Trump! Russia!” taint had made its own deeds unacceptable.

But ask yourself, if either political party had done what CA did, would this be news? A scandal? Or just “how things are done around here”? And given the power of this kind of private company over the public, is its very existence in the public interest at all?

The questions surrounding Facebook are many and serious. Facebook is first a monopoly; next, a mass manipulator capable of swinging elections and other social decisions in an order-of-magnitude-greater way than simple common advertising, no matter how targeted; third, a source of enormous wealth to a powerful few; and finally, it performs an almost utility-like, ubiquitous social function in today’s Internet age. (Consider the telephone network as a utility that connects masses of people and enables communication. Now consider Facebook as a kind of modern-day telephone network. The communication is what we’re interested in. The monetizable data and metadata of our communication is what its owners are interested in. The data collection is not necessary to the communication function.)

Each of these aspects of its nature adds implications to the “What to do about Facebook?” question. As a monopoly, should it be broken up? If so how? As a mass manipulator, should its activities be curtailed? As a source of great wealth to very powerful people, it presents all of the obstacles to altering its activity as does, for example, the problem of addressing the harms done by Wall Street. And as a utility, should it be allowed to continue as a private operation, or be nationalized and run in the public interest only?

“Nine Steps to Restructure Facebook”

These are heady questions. This piece represents a first attempt to grapple with some of them, and I may well return to the full topic later. But let’s start here, with a look at an article in the Guardian by Barry Lynn and Matt Stoller, both of the Open Markets Institute, a think tank that studies monopolies.

The article’s title: “Facebook must be restructured. The FTC should take these nine steps now“. I recommend reading it in full, but I want to present today just the authors’ suggestions for “fixing” Facebook. These are their recommended nine steps:

1) Impose strict privacy rules on Facebook, perhaps using Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation as a guide.

2) Spin off Facebook’s ad network. This will eliminate, in one swoop, most of the incentive that Facebook now has to amass data and to interfere and discriminate in the provision of information and news.

3) Reverse the approvals for Facebook purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram, and re-establish these as competing social networks.

4) Prohibit all future acquisitions by Facebook for at least five years.

5) Establish a system to ensure the transparency of all political communications on Facebook, similar to other major communication networks in the United States.

6) Require Facebook to adopt open and transparent standards, similar to conditions the FTC imposed on AOL Messenger in the AOL-Time Warner merger settlement in 2001.

7) Establish whether Facebook violated the 2011 consent decree and, if so, seek court sanctions.

8) Threaten to bring further legal action against Facebook unless top executives immediately agree to work with the FTC to restructure their corporation to ensure the safety and stability of our government and economy.

9) Establish whether top executives enabled, encouraged, or oversaw violations of the 2011 consent decree and, if so, pursue personal fines against them.

Some of these suggestions touch on the behavior of the company relative to its users and data — numbers 1, 5, 6, and all of those relating to the 2011 FTC consent decree, which “required that users be notified and that they explicitly give their permission before data about them is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established. The developer of the [Cambridge Analytica] app sought permission from those who downloaded it but not their Facebook friends.”

Some of these suggestions touch on Facebook as a monopoly — numbers 2, 3, and 4. Some of them would indirectly but materially affect the wealth of the Facebook owners (but not the political power their wealth purchases).

None of these suggestions, however, direct addresses whether Facebook should (a) be allowed to exist at all; or (b) be nationalized and regulated like a utility, meaning operated in the public interest and not for the acquisition of private wealth and power.

So these are just first thoughts to answering the question, “What should be done about Facebook?” and only first thoughts. Still, they are important thoughts. If something isn’t done about Facebook, it will continue to be used as a mass manipulator (and grow more effective as one) by a great many actors not tainted with the “Trump! Russia!” stink — meaning both American political parties, plus our various special-interest elites, such as the military.

Facebook, Democracy & the Next Sanders-Like Candidate

The implications for our democracy, assuming we have one, are great.

To consider just one, imagine a Bernie Sanders candidacy in 2020 (or a candidacy very like it), with Facebook still on the loose, and conscienceless Establishment operatives, who hate and fear him, willing to “do anything it takes” to protect their insider grip on the political process. No “Trump!” no “Russia!” in this scenario, but an outcome nevertheless as tragic for the nation, as I see it, as the one currently mourned as having already happened.

If 2020 is indeed the last electoral cycle for America to escape the twin tsunamis of, first, chaotic violent revolt against “rule by the rich,” and second, the wave of climate chaos that races toward us, it may not matter much who wins in 2020, even if the winning candidate promises nothing more than “let’s just get back to normal.”

 Imperial Storm Troopers protecting a bank in Portland

In the post-2020 world, getting back to “normal” may not be enough.

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    1. lyman alpha blob

      11) Prohibit most types of data collection, particularly reading the contents of personal emails.

      And Facebook shouldn’t be singled out here for what all sorts of platforms are doing – prohibit it for all of them.

      Anybody else use yahoo mail and been bombarded with requests to submit to the new Oath network privacy policy? It started a couple weeks ago for me and their privacy policy is basically that if you use yahoo, you have none. If you read the fine print, they explicitly say they will definitely read the contents of your emails, etc. You will be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold. And it’s all for your own good of course, because what person wouldn’t want everything they do tracked so some capitalist {family bloggers} can market just the right kind of widgets at them?

      The choices you are given are to accept the policy or put it off until later, but declining is not an option. After not agreeing for a week or two, I’ve now started getting messages saying that by continuing to use the site, I am implicitly consenting to their new policy. So I’m sure I’ve now accepted somehow even though I’ve been avoiding clicking on any of their warnings for the last few weeks.

      Anybody else experiencing this? Here’s an article a friend forwarded to me about it that has more info:

      1. Randy

        At least Oath is upfront about their no privacy policy. You don’t have to read far and it is stated in plain English that you have zero privacy.

        I considered leaving Yahoo Mail after the two previous data breaches. This move by Oath made it clear it was time to go. When the new policy kicks in they will have to data mine my old emails because I am already gone.

        When I notified other sites of my email change one site said my new email provider was not allowed because they were taking abuse from users of that email, which is based in Switzerland. Probably Russians!?

        1. Freethinker

          Same here. After the data breaches and awful, forced cosmetic updates, the requirement to take the Oath jolted me into action. I have migrated to encrypted email services. Laborious process that eventually led to a corrupted Gmail account and the need to factory reset my device, but still worth ridding myself of Yahoo. Now, on to reviewing a good alternative to Verizon.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          I noticed that too. Their privacy policy explanation is very clear.

          All your data are belong to us.

          All your every click are belong to us.

          Every third, fourth or fifth party door which you open by signing up to our service . . . . are belong to us.

          Its the New Honesty. Refreshing, in a way, I guess.

      2. ChiGal in Carolina

        I have been putting off consenting while thinking I need another email but don’t want to lose my 15 years of past ones. Also, Gmail totally scans emails as given away by their auto-suggested quick replies to incoming messages.

        And I rarely look at HuffPo anymore but just did and got the same message: it’s now part of Oath (Curse) and by continuing to use it I consent to their privacy policies. I immediately left.

        But I am not a techie and there seem to be no good alternatives. It is paralyzing, the surveillance state.

        1. jrs

          Think there is still proton mail although it was never at 100% reliability, there are paid email providers like kolab now. And quite honestly though I would not expect privacy from it, things like microsoft’s hotmail etc. which mostly leave you alone, are less annoying than those auto-suggested quick replies – so less annoyingness anyway.

          1. pdehaan

            You can use a service in Germany, or something. Lots of people there who are concerned about the same things we are.

            Myself, for most of the things where privacy is a concern I use

            “a platform providing free online services based on principles of privacy, security, decentralization and freedom.”
            No advertising, no tracking, no profiling, no data mining, no fancy website.

            They also cooperate in secure chat and open standards such as XMPP.

        2. HotFlash

          I have a domain name, and a domain, and a webhost. My webhost gives me webmail (*anything* sort of thing) and I can have unlimited email addresses for me; the subdomains that I rent out get 100 or 200 or whatever, based on what they pay me, and I cannot look at their mail. It costs me not very much, and if a group of people could club together, register their own domain names for $15 per year as subdomains, and share the webhosting space they can get it cheap, cheap, cheap. This is not hard to do.

          I would recommend using a webhost in some place that has good privacy rules (ie, not FiveEyes). You will probably lose your email to date, but that’s the breaks. Use it as an alternate for a while. It’s not as pretty as gmail or yahoo, but its *yours*. And of course, you can always do a website or blog from your domain name and thereby skip FB too. For more paranoid sorts, there is I2P, an anonymous network layer, sometimes called a ‘dark’ network, and Susimail.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          It sounds burdensome, but what if you were to copy off your 15 years of legacy email onto thousands of sheets of printer paper? Then you would have all the emails, and then no-one could hold your emails hostage and grab you by the emails because you would now have your emails printed off on paper in a safe place ( your own home).

          Then you could cancel your service and walk away from your 15 years of emails the way a lizard walks away from its tail when a predator has its paw on the lizard’s emails.

          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            lol that’s a heckuva lot of paper. I was thinking I would have to go through and manually save the essential 1000, 5000, 10,000? I probably have 30,000 unopened!
            Or delete the others, then put on a thumb drive. But I don’t know if email can be saved en masse like that.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              I am pretty analog myself, so I can’t help you with any of that. But if you were to ask the general readership how to do what you want to achieve, you might get all kinds of ideas.

    2. Matthew G. Saroff

      I would add another, prohibit Facebook from adding new clients to its 3rd party login services, and require them to get completely out of that market in 12-18 months.

      The ability of Facebook to use 3rd party logins to track people around the web is a real concern.

  1. Tomonthebeach

    These are all great suggestions to fix this novel problem.

    Just for balance, would not the REAL fix be to teach people to think, to question, to verify facts before accepting something that sounds incredible without applying a bit of logic and history to test if it is credible.

    Perhaps, but I read somewhere that thinking is for elites, and elites are bad. They are immigrant lovers, who want to move American jobs overseas, own all the money, and think that I am deplorable. What does deplorable mean anyway? Well, it must be bad.

    1. Isotope_C14


      People must be obedient and stripped of creativity so rich people can have all the coke and yachts!

      There was this war of the worlds episode where rich people were being controlled by super-coke. Wonder if that is why it is so hard to find that episode on the YTube. Sometimes I wonder if Howard Dean was corrupted by money only. He used to be quite progressive in his statements. Perhaps the three letter agencies have more at stake in Columbia than we realize.

      1. divadab

        Howard Dean was never progressive or he never would have been elected Governor of VT, which is, despite its granola reputation, a conservative rural State where most people own guns. I mean, they have a special early deer season for twelve year-old first-time hunters!

        What he’s good at is making progressive noises to appease liberals. If he were truly progressive, he and Bernie would be allies which they decidedly are not. And never were in VT when Bernie was mayor of Burlington or later as Representative and Senator. *

        The corruption came later IMHO – I imagine it’s hard to function in the senior echelons of the Democrat Party without being compromised. It’s entirely possible, for example, that Hillary Clinton was once an idealistic young Goldwater girl, motivated by love of the common good. But now – “$250,000? That’s what they offered” is her if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-em approach. Now she’s worth $40 million and jet-setting with the billionaires. “Here are my ideals – oh, you don’t like them? Here are some more ideals.”

        *The weird thing is that Bernie gets between 20 and 40% of the Republican vote in VT. If it hadn;t been for the perfidy of the Democrat Party, we’d have President Sanders today.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          a small quibble: it is entirely possible to be a rural, meat eating predator substitute(*) and might near socialist at the same time.
          that’s an example of intersectionality, to me…and is why Bernie appealed to so many tea-types(which I witnessed with my own eyes, here in rural texas)
          The problem of the higher up the ladder one gets, the less of one’s soul remains intact, is in a different category, and more difficult to tackle. It’s in the rootkit of our civilisation(authoritarian heirarchy, coupled with neoliberal ideal of citizen=> “enterprise”/atom)….and must be dealt with at that level, and systematically.

          (* if humans abandoned their current role as top predator to the deer, we’d be overrun with deer. the other option is to somehow repopulate the wolves and mountain lions and leave the coyotes alone…all of which, while appealing to me personally, is problematic with our own population problems and diet(predators eat beef, too))

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            And in the suburban East, where too few humans are killing and eating too few deer, the suburbs and semiburbs ARE overrun with deer. And therefor overrun with deer ticks. And overrun with the lyme disease, babesiosis, and other diseases which deer ticks carry and spread.

            A term has been coined for this spreading problem: tickpocalypse. Its the Tickpockalypse! Caused by too few humans killing and eating too few deer and the suburban deer herd and tick herd just growing and growing and growing.

        2. Carla

          People who actually stand for something get votes from Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats. Bernie proved it in Vermont, and Dennis Kucinich proved it as a Congress Critter elected by his NE Ohio district to 8 terms until he was gerrymandered out in 2012.

          Whether Dennis has a chance to prove this point again in the Ohio Governor’s race will depend on how effective the establishment Democrat apparatus is in propping up the lackluster candidacy of Richard Cordray, who stands for nothing. Liz Warren has come into the state to bolster Cordray, and as usual, the Dems would rather lose the Governor’s mansion for another 6 years than back the only candidate who could possibly beat Republican Mike DeWine in November: Dennis Kucinich.

          When my brother, a pretty conservative Democrat/Independent in my book, recently announced that he was considering voting for Dennis because of his promise to get assault weapons off the streets, you coulda knocked me over with a feather.

          1. Ashburn

            Thanks for mentioning the Kucinich gubernatorial primary in Ohio. I think it will be an early test for progressive politics in this country. Certainly the establishments of both parties will be out to smear him but, like Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich is the real deal. He’s been a progressive fighter since he first ran (and lost) for political office in 1967. That said, last week the Washington Post Sunday Magazine ran a surprisingly positive profile of how he is the future of politics.

            1. Carla

              Yeah, I love the story about Kucinich giving away all his furniture to a family down the street that didn’t have any. Apparently, it’s even true.

          2. bob

            It’s not “new” for hunters to be against military hardware. The NRA used to be the extreme of the gun rights people. Most “hunters” don’t want to be in the woods with another guy carrying a machine gun.

            There’s little acknowledgment of that anymore. What we do have now is “all guns all the time” vs “hunters are arming and killing our children!”

            There is more nuance. Even that comment leaves the impression that 12 year-old kids are out in the woods, by themselves, carrying machine guns.

            They’re not.

        3. bob

          ” I mean, they have a special early deer season for twelve year-old first-time hunters!”

          Que horror! Sounds very socialist to me. The least able get the first shots.

          You seem to be using HUNTING! as some sort of identity marker. You’re clearly better and more educated than that.

          Is that what you meant to convey?

  2. John Beech

    This article is a pure and simple case of hypocrisy. Why do I hold this opinion? It’s because the author and those who agree want to use Facebook – along with all the benefits it confers – want to do so without paying the quid pro quo, e.g. they want to do so for free. Worse, they want to be protected from themselves!

    Hmmm, would a reasonable alternative be to pay $1000/year subscription to use Facebook such that they don’t collect or use ‘your’ data? Would that satisfy the author and those worried about ‘privacy’ regarding information they are sharing for all the world to see?

    How is it the gall of some people continues to surprise? Sheesh!

      1. Temporarily Sane

        Unless we stop the “Like us on Facebook” nonsense on websites, nothing will change.

        Yup. Everybody wants a better world, internet, cheeseburger etc. but they don’t want to give up any of their conveniences or take any significant risks to make it happen.

        A few weeks ago there was an uproar on Twitter, where else, about the company “censoring” anti-establishment content. All the armchair revolutionaries were running in circles, flapping their winglets and “demanding” Twitter respect their “rights”. Someone pointed out that Twitter, Google, Facebook and all the rest are the establishment and that relying on these companies to facilitate “the revolution” is absurd.

        The internet has really done a number on people’s ability to reason and spot logical inconsistencies. They get all worked up and excited about all kinds of things and forget that they are not storming the barricades with their comrades but isolated individuals using corporate networks to shout their grievances into the digital ether.

    1. upstater

      A thousand bucks a year for FB? Are you nuts?

      The ISPs already rip off their customers for sums like that. Why can countries like South Korea or localities like Chattanooga offer fiber optic service and 1000mbps transfer rates for a fraction the typical Comcast, Spectrum, Verizon or Cox cost?

      ISPs should be regulated as cost-of-service monopolies. A socialist social network, not developed for enriching billionaires and facilitating spying could be easily funded as part of an ISP utility.

      Pigs at the trough, using our personal information for private profit. Capitalism: its not a bug, its a feature.

    2. Paul Harvey 0swald

      John Beech your point is valid. If FB charged users directly and didn’t collect user data* I would consider using it. The problem is I don’t want to be part of the FB universe, but I am unable to avoid it. Just landing on page with a “like” button puts me in the FB corral – without warning. That is not acceptable.

      *Just how we would be able to confirm this is another conundrum entirely.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        (I’m asking because I want to avoid, not because I’m challenging here).

        How do you get into the FB corral by just landing on a page with a ‘like’ button? Do you have to click it, or does it not matter whether you click it or not?


        1. Mel

          AFAIK, it could be arranged that a web page you browsed went to a facebook server to get the image for the “Like” button. That would give the server your IP address and the URL for the page that requested the button. So that request would connect two things about you.

          ALTHOUGH, when I got suspicious and checked a couple, the “Like” buttons I examined used little snippets of code to draw the button, and didn’t refer to anything outside my machine to do it.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      A thousand dollars a year for “Private Facebook” is too silly for words. It sounds like a talking point designed to guilt the victims of Facebook into shutting up and working on Ol’ Massa
      Zuckerberg’s Data Plantation.

      Propose a non-preposterous fee amount and you will have a sincere-seeming argument.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        FB made $21.20 per user in the US and Canada per quarter. Call that $85 a year. John Beech’s figure is offensively out of line.

    4. bob

      “How is it the gall of some people continues to surprise?”

      Because you don’t know any other people?

  3. lyle

    A simple fix for facebook, that is market based. Set up a second type of account that charges for access, and collects no advertiser data, nor shows any adds. Set the fee at the amount facebook typically collects from advertisers for a user. Then how valuable folks find their privacy will become clear.
    So you have both traditional and fee based facebook accounts, with a way to move one way from free to paid. (The other way might mean delete and restart, because the lost value of the add targeting)

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Since Facebook would charge an extortionate privacy fee in order to deter people from paying for Privacy Facebook, this Fee For Service model should be explored by potential startups in the field of Social Cross-Communications Service Platforms. They might well charge a non-extortionate fee . . . a fee designed to attract users. That would be a fair test of how many people would pay for a Privacy Based Social Medium.

      1. Lyle

        Based upon this site: facebook gets about $20 per user per year of add revenue. So that would suggest a 30 to 40 dollar a year charge for the no add version, (adding a bit to pay for the billing involved). Facebook makes so much money because it has so many users pure and simple, A lot of users times a small ad revenue means a lot of money.

        The interesting question is what does facebook think the potential value of add revenue per user might be in the future, paticularly with the time spent on facebook declining

  4. roadrider

    Unless we can eliminate the silly, dumb, lemming-like behavior of people to flock to these anti-social media sites, overpriced electronic toys (designed to spy on them) and Trojan-horse “services” designed to undermine competition and choice I don’t know that any regulation or legislation will do any good. That said I guess the OMI measures should be implemented (along with Lambert’s #11). I would personally prefer a world without social media but then again I’ve never participated in it so I wouldn’t miss it at all.

  5. JTMcPhee

    Talk about “gall,” how about this bit of shameless self-justification from “co-founder of Facebook Chris Hedges”?

    “The wealth of our collective data should go to all of us”

    See, he’s got a great fix in mind for all of us! Kind of like Milo Minderbinder using US bombers and crews to bomb and strafe his own airbase under contract with the Germans, for “cost plus 15 percent,” and “because it’s for the Syndicate, and everybody has a share!”

    So much tripe in such a small space.

    The comments to the Grauniad article are particularly interesting. I’m surprised that their censors even allowed comments to this piece…

  6. Steve

    I like al these recommendations but if you believe the research of Gilens and Page there is no chance of any one of them happening due to public opinion. On one of the previous articles here about FB I somewhat defended FB. My reason was there are opportunities to reach others that FB provides for local groups, like artists, for which there are no equal alternatives. The previous article also got me thinking about FB and what real value it has to me vs time costs and the knowledge that using FB supports their invasive data collection. The result was that I deleted FB over a month ago.

  7. Steve H.

    I had to address a Fcbk-induced kerfuffle this morning, wearing a board president hat:

    “Facebook is a divisive, bias inducing platform, which has the interests of the users as a tertiary concern, if that. We use it for mass communication, and sharing common, community information. Beyond that, all communications are by consent and up to the individuals.”

  8. EoH

    It might be productive to remind corporate executives that their charters are a privilege, not a property right. They can be revoked.

    Personhood for corporations, as with real people, carries with it social obligations. For example, St. Milton and the cathedral catechism of business schools notwithstanding, profit-taking has limits.

    A firm’s social costs would be one measure of its social obligations. Pay so low, for example, that a majority of employees are on social assistance is obviously socializing costs and privatizing profits. Environmental pollution is another. Mechanisms such as a pollution tax and minimum wage rules or a benefits tax for low-wage firms of a certain size would partially compensate for the predatory behavior.

    Corporations reap many free benefits from the societies in which they operate. These include background benefits such as schools and infrastructure, and special purpose benefits, such as incentives to locate a new corporate HQ nearby. Those benefits – paid for by all – demand reciprocity, lest we encourage predation instead of restrain it.

    One obligation of personhood is payment of taxes. Corporations, influenced by the heresies of St. Milton, display a marked pathology regarding it. Instead of being dunned for back payments, CFOs and CEOs pin military ribbons on each other when one of them avoids large amounts of tax.

    How should society respond? Public health authorities cordoned off Typhoid Mary when she inadvertently threatened contagion wherever she went. Their modern economic counterparts would be wise to do the same when corporations exhibit so much social pathology that they rend the social fabric.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well . . . first we would have to conquer their corporate government and make it our Natural Person government. Then we could use our Natural Person government to remind Corporations of their permission to exist at our sufferance, as you suggest. But we can’t do that until we take their government away from them and make it our government instead of their government.

      In the widest scope, the future is zero sum. Those who understand that will conquer and win. Those who don’t understand that will be defeated and conquered. Within countries as well as between countries. In fact, within countries most of all. Facebook has to lose if Natural Persons are to win. There is no possible win-win future between Facebook and society.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Yes, we would.

          Recognizing that yes, we would . . . is the first step towards trying to do it in just those terms.

          “The Corporation has no rights which a natural person is bound to respect.”

    2. polecat

      Do you seriously expect Congress to vote on revoking ANY corporate charter … let alone the FANGs ???
      They’d lose a big, BIG chunk of their grift-engine proceeds !

      Not gonna happen.

      1. EoH

        Dynamic tension is key to any productive relationship. Government as an expression of social will has become prostrate. It focuses on the will of a few corporate masters. They no longer ask whether their government likes snails or oysters. They simply impose their preferences. A little pushback seems in order.

    3. HotFlash

      My dear, EoH, Woohoo! I love the Typhoid Mary comparison!

      PS, might you be the Earl of something? If so, regards and remember Ned the Fighting Koi.

  9. EoH

    In a decade, FB has infiltrated society. A FB presence is deemed a marketing essential for businesses, just as a website and e-mail address are. People and groups interact, schedule, communicate (a little) and share through it.

    Job candidates and elite college placements are now partially determined by one’s so-called social media score, supposedly a predictor of the social and networking skills deemed essential in the “new” economy. (Society never seems to enter into it.) FB is a big part of and obviously encourages that.

    Its business model is data extraction and commercialization. Full stop. Most of it is out of sight and mind of its so-called customers. Its real customers are the businesses who buy their services. Its junior partners are those with whom it shares data and from whom it receives permanent, worldwide, royalty-free licenses to use developments made using it. FB obtains the foundational data for all that for free because the sources of that data have been persuaded that FB and all its works are harmless.

    FB should be regulated like any other public utility.

    1. HotFlash

      Indeed! FB has, as another poster noted recently, usurped many of the functions of government. They are now censors, it seems, determining whose FB accounts can be seen, whose videos can be monetized on YouTube, and which news is fake.

      As a child, I remember our grade 3 class touring the local Post Office, where I was impressed with their obsession (or so it seems these days…) with user privacy. We were shown the catwalk that inspectors used to spy on postal employees to make sure that mail and parcels were not opened or tampered with. Oppressive for the employees, probably, but very reassuring for users of the postal system.

      Later I worked for Bell as an operator, we were drilled really really hard on the privacy of conversations, and this in an environment where operator assistance was needed for relatively commonplace connections — pay phones, long distance, collect calls. So, if the Great Innovators can’t even do what the telephone switchboard operators of old — and Bell, of course — then perhaps they are in the wrong business? My opinion, though, and very cynical, is that the govt will not do anything to the FAANGS because of the data their snooper services (NSA , reap from them. And as Chuck Schumer reminded us, six ways from Sunday, or maybe a grassy knoll.

  10. Arthur J

    This article is such a load of infuriating nonsense, that I find it difficult to know where even to start.

    Facebook is -NOT- a monopoly. There are other social sites out there, MySpace and Orkut, although Orkut has morphed into some called Hello Network. No doubt there are many more, but since I don’t use social media, I’m not familiar with them. Large is not a synonym for monopoly.

    To believe that FB is a mass manipulator capable of throwing elections you would need to believe that the average person possesses no free will and has a room temperature intelligence. While there may well be such a population, I find it impossible to believe that said group constitutes the majority in any country. For one thing, you’d never be able to keep the lights on, or have functioning transportation systems. As John Beech says above, this is a cry for government control so as to absolve the individual of any personal responsibility for their actions. They want to use Facebook, they just don’t want to have to accept any consequences for doing so.

    Here’s a thought: If you don’t want to be ruled by Facebook, THEN DON’T [FAMILY-BLOGGING] USE IT!

    Like that helicopter parent in the comments last week who lamented that they -had- to use FB to keep track of their child’s -daily- activities at school via Facebook. Total BS. Want is the operative word there, not need. I must admit that the constant whining about how people are incapable of abstaining from using FB and its ilk make me think maybe this new generation is actually that feeble-minded. Everybody wants their fix, they just don’t want the hangover that comes with it.

    Facebook doesn’t need to be broken up. All you need to do is stop using it. You might as well argue that Walmart needs to be broken up because it’s a monopoly and causes obesity due to its low prices on junk food snacks. For one, na-ga happen since the current crop of politicians are bought and paid for by the likes of FB and since the voters keep returning these venal individuals to office it’s apparently the type of government they desire.

    If you are unwilling to forego using Facebook the problem is YOU, not Facebook. This fake hysteria has all the hallmarks of the War on Drugs, with FB being the new heroin. “Make the bad man stop making me read posts about cute cat videos”. You have a choice. You can either pull the plug and stop patronizing services whose policies offend you, or you can just admit to yourself that you are a weak-willed imbecile that does what they are told. In which case, you need to quit whining about your addiction to the rest of us, because we don’t care.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Promethean. “Just say no,” right?

      How’s that been working out for that larger thingie we mopes, deluded as we are, call “society?”

      All these people stepping up with all these incontestable reasons why FB should be mostly left to do what it does. Makes one wonder, given the distribution of resources in the current scheme and regime…

      1. jrs

        One doesn’t have to believe the people have an intelligence above room temperature to think, uh it’s likely complete and utter BS to put this all on FB.

        I mean does anyone actually Remember the election? How about television? How about the fact that television gave VASTLY MORE coverage to Trump than anyone else, than Hillary, than Bernie, than Jeb Bush etc. etc. And this isn’t supposed to be a factor and FB is? Likely story. Do we really have evidence of this?

        And as for the monopoly case can anyone seriously say the media empires aren’t, and can anyone really believe that getting rid of FB as it is currently and letting them be is really sufficient?

        1. jrs

          of course in addition to all the manipulated reasons which had their effect, there were probably real reasons people sat out the election pretty much. People were left during the Obama administration to languish in A GREAT DEPRESSION, Our Great Depression, the 21st Century’s Great Depression, that was absolutely that for those who lived through it and were unemployed etc.. The lucky escaped being touched by it. But it was not a recession, it was a depression. And jobs and aid were not forthcoming (at least unemployment insurance was extended, that’s not nothing) and whether one wants to blame Obama or the R congress that later took over, that business as usual politics would not solve anything was obvious to any voter. As obvious as it was in the Great Depression of the early 20th century.

    2. Partyless Poster

      I tend towards the “just don’t use it then” as well, I find it really disheartening that even the most anti establishment lefty groups who are all about bringing down the system or whatever don’t seem to realize Facebook IS the system.
      Also what is seldom discussed about social media is how it trashes real human relationships. Nobody seems to notice that if your not on FB than you basically don’t exist to a lot of people. I’ve had (real life) friends basically ignore me, not include me in things and ultimately not be friends anymore just because I don’t do social media.
      I had people at meetups in person literally lose all interest in me the second I say I’m not on social media.
      People have lost the understanding of what friendship even means.
      There’s also other social impacts that never get discussed like the fact that now as never before one can research a person and know everything about them before ever even speaking to them, rather than the traditional process of SLOWLY over time getting to know someone. These are subtle effects that could eventually have huge social impacts.
      Then of course the political ramifications are horrifying.
      I’m not saying there should be no social media, but I think people have jumped on to this train without any idea where its going!

      1. Waking Up

        As Sherry Turkle stated, on-line we have “the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy”.

        It is so much more demanding of a person, especially an adult with a family, to maintain a real live friendship where two people physically spend time together and/or talk on the phone (not text). But, the rewards to our mental health, socialization, community, etc. are well worth the time spent on REAL friendships. To be honest, I never joined Facebook or any other social media because from the start I recognized it would make the owners of social media very wealthy while distinctly a problem to our individual privacy. It was just a matter of time before the truth about data collection by Facebook became public knowledge. However, I’m still concerned that so many people don’t understand what the loss of privacy means for their daily lives and the future.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      This is a hopeful comment to the extent ( if any) that it is reality based. How can superior people, those among us who are too good for Facebook, put some reality-basis behind this comment?

      Some way must be found to make Facebook hopelessly square, ungroovy, unhip, uncool, backwards, stupid, etc. . . . . so that the cool groovy people would die of shame if they were caught using Facebook. Once Facebook has been reputation downscaled and shame-tainted, the cools and the groovies will be driven to use or create other Social Media Services. Perhaps they would even be motivated to pay a reasonable subscription to socialize on a Privacy-Based Social Media Service.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Getting caught using Facebook should be made as embarrassing as getting caught masturbating in the junior high school janitor’s closet. If we can make Facebook as embarrassing as that for millions of young and youngish people, we will begin to shrink the Facebook problem down to a size we can solve.

      2. ChiGal in Carolina

        It’s actually my understanding that teens and twenty-somethings these days don’t use FB near as much as say thirty- and forty-somethings.

        I think they use Snapchat and Instagram more. So maybe FB is already uncool?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          I am not sure, but I think Fecebook already owns Snapchat and Instagram. It has left them alone to feel more cool, but I believe it still uses them to omni-mega-surveill every Snapchatting Instagramer . . . and move all their data and metadata over to Fecebook Central.

          If I am correct about that, and if the youngers know about that or learn about that, and they choose to stay on these cooler platforms even though Fecebook is lurking behind the scenes, then they don’t care about the surveillance issues. In which case, “lacking coolness” would not be enough to loose Fecebook its surveillance subjects. Maybe it is only bitter old foilheads who will ditch the Fecebook.

          ( I am beginning to refer to “Face”book as Fecebook to see if it catches on).

    4. Katy

      At my school, the administration used Facebook groups as an official communication platform to send messages to students. It was impossible to not use Facebook, because important messages would not be received otherwise.

      Needless to say, I was appalled by this. Yet I had no choice but to comply.

      1. Arthur J

        Of course you had a choice, and you made it. It’s possible, but I find it hard to believe that a school would only tell the students when and where their exams would be held via a FB group. You don’t explain what “important messages” means and it would be helpful if you did. If your child was injured at school, I find it difficult to believe that any school is only going to post that information in a FB group rather than using the emergency contact number on file. The lawsuit damages from such behaviour would possibly cripple the board; I mean we’re talking millions here in the case of true serious injury.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          If the school administration tells teachers that they will either confine important communications to Facebook or be fired, then they will likely use Facebook.

          Of course they still have the choice to use whatever other methods you might suggest, but if that would get them fired, that is not much of a choice.

          Probably “important information” means information about where and when the High Stakes Tests are being given and stuff like that there. And between school admin forbidding teachers from using non-Facebook channels to put out such messages ( if indeed the school admins do that) , and the low-functioning dull-normal Facebook-addicts rigidly only looking at Facebook for their important messages; the choice to use methods other than Facebook may be highly hypotheoretical.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Stop being an asshole. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. “You find it hard to believe?” Some schools now require all students have smartphones so that the teachers can communicate with them and that they use FB among other things,

          And your example is ludicrous. “Important messages” on FB are clearly school or course to all relevant students. A one on one message like an injury of student won’t be conveyed this way.

          Your arguments are idiotic or bad faith and I don’t much care which. You’ve been offensive to the readers here and I’m giving you a dose of what you’ve been serving. Your sort of loud-mouthed ignorance and bullying isn’t welcome here. Go troll another site.

        3. skippy

          The logic you operate under is premised on atomistic individualism and rational agent models.

          Sadly neither is a reality.

          1. bob

            Good to see you around again skippy. Hope the summer went well.

            He’s another pillow fort autocrat. There’s a finite supply of room under his bed and he’s not gonna let any idiots in!

    5. Brooklin Bridge

      An unhelpful comment.

      1) Facebook is not a monopoly.
      -Ask someone why not switch to another FB type site and the answer is, “Because none of my friends (or colleagues or customers or constituents) use it.” That is an effective monopoly much like the one that AT&T has/had.

      2) Facebook doesn’t throw elections because people have free will and above “room temperature” intelligence.
      -That assertion is so screwy it needs to be untwisted before one can say anything. Having a high IQ does not equate to being above manipulation and can indeed mean the opposite as any Jujitsu instructor can tell you. Facebook doesn’t throw elections, it manipulates them through people’s opinions. Do you have any support for the assertion that people of above “room temperature” intelligence are therefore above being influenced? Or, for that matter, that free will is negated by a single dependency?

      3) Government isn’t the place to deal with monopolies, people are. ( All you need to do is stop using it. ).
      -Government is the people, or is supposed to be now-a-days, and as such is supposed to protect individuals that can not protect themselves which is definitely the case with the collection and misuse of data that is endemic to FB. That doesn’t preclude informing people of what is going on for sure, but even a little common sense is enough to confirm that “just say no” won’t be sufficient or effective in addressing a monopoly that has created it’s own necessity/dependence.

      4) If you are unwilling to forego, the problem is you and not FB
      -This is basically a claim of addiction. Hardly a general truism. Many people depend on FB for their livelihood. Others are dependent only insofar as there is no practical alternative yet the service is a useful one. Some comparative few may have delveloped an addiction like dependency, but that has nothing to do with the illegitimacy of collecting and using their data in pathological ways nor is the tough guy tough love attitude even an effective remedial suggestion to a much broader problem of which such dependence is only a small part.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        The astronomical amounts of money that FB has accumulated is intrinsic to their monopoly and to any discussion of remediation so I was remiss in leaving it out of the above comment. Some would call it the signature of a monopoly in that FB has the resources to snuff out (purchase or immobilize) competition as well as effectively neuter and control any effort towards redress or modification on the part of individuals. It also enables FB to create and maintain it’s own reality and necessity both real and perceived on the part of the general population regardless of intelligence or will power as well as in the sphere of politics, business and finance.

      2. Aumua

        What are we gonna do about facebook? Really? Nothing, that’s what. Facebook is not beholden you, and the commercialization of the Internet goes way beyond it anyway. You want online privacy, but you’re not a ‘techie’? Too bad, you better start learning a few things. Like how to use open source software and operating systems, how to use end to end encryption. Run your own web server, run your own email server. Social media? well.. Maybe you’ll have to give some things up too (smart phones, anyone?). As long as you expect someone to hand it to you on a silver platter, you’ll never have privacy on today’s Internet. TPTB have already made huge inroads towards dominating the information flow. The split is already happening between the “official”, above ground Internet and the actual, free as in speech AND beer Internet. DIY is the word. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips, use it.

          1. ChiGal in Carolina

            Thanks for the clarification. But yeah, realistically I am not going to do those things, it would be like embarking on a new career while keeping my current one (not to mention the rest of my life) going.

            I guess change happens and you adapt or die. But I resent having to devote so much time to defending myself from these out-of-control

      3. Arthur J

        So your answer is essentially, I have to use FB because it’s more powerful than me. Really ?

        So what if all your friends are on there ? You can’t communicate with them by any other means ? Absolutely no other way to communicate with these people besides FB ? I can’t imagine such a place in North America where this is reality. Perhaps you could tell us where this place is that has no telephones, mail delivery, or any kind of transportation. If these friends of yours refuse to communicate with you except on FB, you might want to consider how friendly they are.

        How does just say no not work ? Is FB going to send its enforcers to your house to grab your hands and force you to type out fake messages ? If everybody just up and stopped using FB, you think Procter & Gamble and all the other business that advertise on FB will continue to fund them even though they know nobody is there ? Those would be some odd business leaders to be sure. Their stockholders, especially the PE guys might have something to say about throwing all that money away.

        How can you say “monopoly that has created it’s own dependence” and then say “basically a claim of addiction. Hardly a general truism.”. I didn’t say FB was an addiction. It’s you FB defenders that are making that claim “I can’t stop. It’s too powerful. All my friends are there, I can’t survive without them and their approval.”. I smoked for 26 years. Then, one day, I said “that’s enough of that” and I quit. Just like that. No lasers, no patches, no acupuncture. I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore and I haven’t in the ensuing 20 years.

        FB is no different. If you don’t want to use Facebook, then you don’t have use it. You just say “It’s not for me” and you never sign in again. If you can’t do that, then you’re a slave and you might as well get used to being downtrodden because nobody else is going to give you a hand these days.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Your initial comment, by its use of terms closely associated with addiction, boils down to a broad claim that FB users are addicted to it if they can’t just drop it and you make a narrow proposal, again tightly associated with addiction, just say no, as being the answer.

          Here, in your response to my comment, you are just doubling down on that and it appears (quite curiously) suggesting that anyone who calls you on it is a FB defender and must themselves be addicted. Your alternatives – getting all one’s friends to switch to the telephone, etc. – are unrealistic, especially when framed as, “just do it.” Even asking your friends to use the phone rather than FB, for instance, would hardly be a slam dunk as the two are very different means of communication. Of course, you completely ignore the point that not all FB relationships are friends. Try telling your boss that henceforth a phone call must be made to each and every employee each time a single post to FB would suffice. See how far you get with that.

          You ask:
          ‘How can you say “monopoly that has created it’s own dependence” and then say “basically a claim of addiction. Hardly a general truism.”‘. as if I’m contradicting myself.

          You are so wedded to the whole “addiction” framework that you seem oblivious that dependence does not always map to addiction.. One may depend on the subway to go to work. That is not an addiction. Children are dependent on their parents, not addicted to them. One may depend on FB for work discussions. Again, not an addiction.

          My reply to you remains: A) yes, I’m sure some people are addicted to FB, but that is hardly true of all users and B) Even if one ignores the classic relationship of just say no to addiction, it is regardless not a universally effective solution to stopping an activity, certainly not a practical one in the case of FB, but rather a facile one.

          BTW, I’ve never had a FB account, never used FB, and have always been leery of the likely potential for misuse of data, not to mention it’s pathological corporate culture. That doesn’t mean I oppose the technology but rather the monopolistic underhanded way it’s been used.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You tone is totally out of line, so you’ve asked for it: You really are an idiot. See my comment below. This isn’t a matter of addiction, it’s a matter of social requirements.

          Kids in school and their parents, for starters DO have to use FB unless their kids are not allowed to participate in any clubs or teams or other extracurricular activities like theater or debate or chorus. So does anyone who expects to have to look for a job, since a high proportion of recruiters search on social media and not having any presence, like a FB account, is seen as deviant. That means almost everyone of working age, since average jobs tenures these days are under four and one half years. Being involved in politics at any level means having a Facebook account.

          The only people who can get away with not being on FB are retirees or people who are otherwise permanently out of the job market, the successfully self employed (as in certain they will never work for the man again), the independently wealthy, and people like me who have their own Web presence and pay for their own hosting. The NC readership does happen to skew that way, which means the commentariat’s level of non-FB membership is not realistic for the public at large.

          I don’t know what planet you live on, but it sure as hell isn’t modern American society.

          1. jrs

            I don’t think many people have to use FB for jobs. What good would it be for that? And it could do at least as much harm as good if one posts anything but the blandest of the bland. So it would argue setting up fake profiles just for job hunting if anything.

            If one has any social media for a job it would probably be linked in (which may be no more ethical but is a very different platform), and a linked in is probably a plus but it’s lack is unlikely to prevent many people from getting a job.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Candidates are asked to give employers their social media accounts, INCLUDING their logins. If you say you don’t have a FB account, you are assumed to bey lying and be trying to hide embarrassing stuff on it or antisocial and not desirable.

              According to surveys, around 70% of all employers check out applicants on the Internet when hiring. Employers report rejecting job applicants when they find references to drug use, heavy drinking, sexually offensive materials, violent imagery, or anything else that reflects poorly on the applicant.


              Since at least 2012, there have been articles about recruiters asking for FB IDs and passwords:



              The reasons go beyond the ones cited here. FB users can control the settings so as to limit who sees what. With the password, you see everything. So they want to get past candidates hiding things like going to wild parties, Burning Man (drugs and sex!!!) or being involved with Occupy Wall Street or other “too radical” causes.

              I regularly read that not having a FB account is seen by recruiters as the wrong answer. The applicant is assumed to be lying or if the response is true, to be extremely anti-social and therefore not at all suitable as a hire.

              1. The Rev Kev

                I read some time ago that the smarter kids were setting up two Facebook accounts. One would be for all the partying and good times while they would maintain a quieter, more staid one that they could show employers. I don’t know if this is still an option as a coupla years ago Facebook was cracking down on identities.

        3. bob

          “Their stockholders, especially the PE guys”

          You have to stop using words you clearly don’t understand.

    6. HotFlash

      To believe that FB is a mass manipulator capable of throwing elections you would need to believe that the average person possesses no free will and has a room temperature intelligence.

      Well, perhaps I do. Then what? Or perhaps just I believe that the average person understands the world based on the information that they get from sources to which they are normally exposed and trust such as friends and acquaintances. BTW, I have deleted my FB account twice in the past three years, but by golly, it seems it is still there. What would you suggest I do at this point? And you are totally ignoring the problem of the ‘third party’ data that FB collects even on people who have never had a FB account.

      1. jrs

        I suspect unless FB has changed, that you aren’t deleting it correctly. So do more research on how to permanently delete a FB account probably. Now … this does not mean that FB does not have your data still of course, it just means you won’t have an account. They don’t make it easy, but it should be possible to delete an account.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          You are probably correct, but I have read comments elsewhere that complain about the same issue. I regret not having kept record of the links. As I recall, the complaint went that it took several tries to finally delete it for good.

    7. Yves Smith Post author

      Help me. See EoH’s comment above. People applying for jobs are effectively required by many employers to have a FB account. If you don’t have one you are deemed to be anti-social and a bad person and therefore should not be hired. If that isn’t a requirement to use FB, I don’t know what is.

      Moreover, virtually all schools have at least some and often most groups through FB, like the band and sports teams. So the kids and parents need to belong. I have readers who don’t like FB yet belong because most political groups also use FB. Etc.

    8. bob


      Join the revolution! Hide, alone, under your bed! Be the revolution of one.

      Really, start it. Now. Please. We’ll all follow. Honest.

    1. Rates

      Non starter, Facebook reported MASSIVE earnings in case you didn’t notice.

      This is another one of those: muppets want to have it both ways. They want privacy and they want to share. It’s amazing.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I read the Lanier piece. It is only a non-starter for the masses of muppets. It is very MUCH a starter for the one-in-a-thousand or one-in-a-millions Early Adopters. And every movement has to start with the Few, the Lonely and the Brave first movers.

        If enough such First Movers move to become a Movement, they may reach a level of just enough people to create info-sharing methods without the One Facebook To Rule Them All, And In The Darkness Bind Them. They might even be able to support the arisal of an UnFacebook social medium for the people who are good enough for UnFacebook. And such people could rigidly exclude Facebookers from contacting UnFacebook in any way.

        ” Lips that touch Facebook, shall never touch mine.”

        1. L.M. Dorsey

          Nicely put. And, fwiw, that’s pretty much my take, too. To continue Lanier’s (editor’s) pioneering metaphor: Most won’t try, and of those who do, many won’t succeed. But if it looks to you like the status quo is surely a dead end, you’re probably not wrong, one way or another. So.

    2. Aumua

      You want to delete Facebook, go for it. You don’t have to make a big deal about how it makes you some kind of warrior for truth or something. You don’t have to convince anyone else to do it either. I tried that. I was pointing all this stuff out years ago, and I got rid of facebook for 3 years. I let everyone know, made sure people had my contacts etc. None of my facebook friends ever called or even emailed, and that’s fine I didn’t really expect them to. But as far as deleting facebook, I’m over it. Been there, done that, and came back to it already. Now it’s cool to (at least talk about) deleting it? Ok, go right ahead.

      1. jrs

        Well the main thing about deleting is the realization of how little one misses it. As in: “oh FB, yea it find of made me feel connected to people in a way (that was largely illusion but it did give a platform), but mostly it really sucked … “

  11. GooGooGaJoob

    Something that keeps nagging me about the debate around Facebook is that it seems to be ignored that the US govt. (and many others to boot) are doing their own brand of data collection on their citizens.

    So while I’m willing to consider the option of making Facebook a public utilty, I wonder how that is going to meld with the NSA and if we’re going to create an even bigger problem.

    1. Aumua

      Right. Kind of like Trump isn’t really the problem, the problem is systemic. In the same sense, Facebook isn’t really the problem. The real problem is.. well it goes way deeper than that.

    2. bob

      “I wonder how that is going to meld with the NSA and if we’re going to create an even bigger problem.”

      So, now you believe the NSA isn’t inside facebook? That they don’t love the platform?

      “Seems to be ignored that the US govt. (and many others to boot) are doing their own brand of data collection on their citizens.”

      OMG! the government! What about the private sector? The people who pay the lobbyists? Facebook would be a good example. What’s stopping them from lying and spying? A stern talking to by a bunch of 80 year old men in congress? The lobbyists have already earned their paychecks. There’s no backlash, and not a single policy to stop this “spying” anywhere in site!

    1. L.M. Dorsey


      En 2010, 2 millions de personnes utilisaient encore le minitel, pour 200 000 euros de chiffre d’affaires. Le service a été fermé par France Télécom – Orange le 30 juin 2012. L’arrêt du Minitel est une conséquence de la décroissance des usages et de la fermeture du réseau support de l’offre Minitel. Ce réseau support étant de moins en moins utilisé, et compte tenu des évolutions technologiques, il a été décidé d’arrêter son exploitation.


  12. Joseph Bentzel

    The sober policy regarding Facebook is the one held by the People’s Republic of China.

    Block them until THEY prove they are not a form of social decay.

    There’s nothing wrong with the digital bourgeoisie like Zuckerberg getting schooled by some statists on the other side of the world.

    Because at the end of the day, they KNOW that Facebook is a branch of US intelligence. That’s why it is so freaking dysfunctional and dystopian–and the biggest marketing “skinner box” on the planet.

  13. Anarcissie

    What would be the legal basis for expropriating Facebook? As far as I can tell it is a non-essential service provided by a private company to voluntary user/marks/victims who are or should be well aware of its faults and dangers. It is not a ‘monopoly’ in the usual sense of the word — there are several competing similar services. (See, for instance, Diaspora.) People choose to use Facebook for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think it’s because someone’s holding a gun to their heads.

    Facebook is just one facet of the general problem. To protect privacy, I suggest requiring every corporation or person gathering and maintaining files about others to reveal to those others what data about them it was keeping, allowing them to challenge and maybe delete or modify the data. Anything else is stalking, whether the object of the data gathering had volunteered for it or not. If people want to waste their days on Facebook anyway, let them.

    1. bob

      “It is not a ‘monopoly’ in the usual sense of the word — there are several competing similar services.”

      Competition does not prove something is not a monopoly. Anti-trust is much wider than that. It just hasn’t been used in years.

      “One view, mostly closely associated with the “Chicago School of economics” suggests that antitrust laws should focus solely on the benefits to consumers and overall efficiency, while a broad range of legal and economic theory sees the role of antitrust laws as also controlling economic power in the public interest.[2]”

      You’re taking the Chicago School line. Milton would be proud.

    1. Anarcissie

      Nationalize it to do what? As part of the government, it’s going to do the same things nationalized as it’s doing now, with additional powers, under the control of the worst people in the country, and since no one has any agency (see above) none of that can be changed.

      I don’t use Facebook at all, so it doesn’t own me, but apparently it owns a lot of other people. Again, see above.

      1. bob

        “I suggest requiring every corporation or person gathering and maintaining files”

        Who would “require” this? Who would enforce these requirements?

        I ask because you ALMOST seem to suggest that law, or government might be involved, but then no, it can’t be-

        “under the control of the worst people in the country, and since no one has any agency (see above) none of that can be changed.”

  14. Edward

    It seems to me the government or a group of governments could design their own facebook. It could allow the importation of facebook data. Facebook should have a warning label. The same goes for youtube.

  15. Tyronius

    I’ve been deeply distrustful of Fecebook and other like services since I first heard of them and indeed I’ve never set up an account on any such service. I’m deeply troubled by the idea that such discretion could be used to exclude me from consideration from employment.

    It’s almost like being unwilling to give up my Constitutional Rights has become an automatic disqualifier for participation in American society.

    I don’t think that’s a paranoid assessment.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If enough Facebook Refuseniks have courtroom-quality reasonable reasons to suspect they are being passed over for job opportunities because of their Facebook Refusal, perhaps they would have grounds to sue the perpetrating employers.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And of course if if rising numbers of younger people avoid Facebook because ” ewww! that’s my Grandmother’s social media!” . . . then those rising numbers of younger people will become risingly aware of being persecuted in the workplace arena by older people who are Stuck On Stupid Facebook. They may well fuel a hate-based backlash against Facebook and against employers and bussinesses who use it.

        ” Hands which touch Fecebook, will never shake mine.”

  16. Electron Smasher

    A little late to the party. I hope this will be of use to earlier commenters and those wanting to shift away from Google and Yahoo but weighed down by the loss of mails: Use a “traditional” e-mail program like Mozilla Thunderbird to download your e-mails (via “POP3”) to harddisk before deleting your account. You might have to enable a “less secure apps” option on your webmail settings before you’re allowed to do so. When adding a mail account to Thunderbird, remember well to use POP3 and not IMAP, as the latter fetches only the subject line and not the contents.

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