B.J. Bethel

A view of the world from Ohio

It’s time for Facebook to face Congress – or somebody

In the first “Jurassic Park” film, Jeff Goldbum’s chaos theoretician Ian Malcolm undressed the accomplishments of Richard Attenborough’s scientists, who armed with the latest technology, had proudly brought dinosaurs back from extinction. Goldblum’s character calls this for what it is.

“You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could,” Goldblum’s Malcom preaches. “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

We’ve reached peak shoulder standing. Our economy, lives, communications are so wired through the creations of college kids who didn’t complete college, who didn’t think about whether they should build Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, let alone what moral value they would apply to it, who didn’t think what responsibility they were taking into their own, only thinking of the money it would bring.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg is Exhibit A in the irresponsibility of our new Randian economy, where the only morality and value is selfishness. After the movie “The Social Network” was released, the divided opinion between the generations who saw the film made news and explains much of our predicament. Milennials saw Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) as protecting his creation, while Gen Xers, Gen Yers and Boomers saw him as a pathetic individual, whose creation cost him all the friends he had, living out a lonely life within the stacks of cash. While this movie nihilism was mostly the work of Aaron Sorkin and the writers, Facebook’s ‘money or nothing’ approach to its product and society shows it doesn’t care a lick about its users, the country the platform was built or about anyone. I will give Zuckerburg credit for not installing some nausea-inducing corporate motto ala Google like “Do No Harm,” then commence doing harm by going to war with the journalism industry and publishing.

This is why Facebook will allow false news stories to dogpile on timelines for two years ahead of the 2016 election, and as it admitted today in a press release, let fake Russian Facebook accounts spend six figures on advertising to try to demoralize the American public and cede discord.

This is only what Facebook has revealed about it’s own Russia problem. Whether we know the full extent, time will tell. Why wouldn’t Facebook sell garbage false news stories, it sells your personal data while demanding companies, which are pigeonholed into coming to it with hat in hand, dance to its every whim. They want your data, your customers data, your family’s data, and that’s not enough. Any time someone makes headway with its Orwellian algorithm, Facebook changes it without telling anyone, unless they have a product to sell.

Now that product is video. Facebook thinks the future is video because it can’t place ads on the updates of your kids soccer games, or the memes you laugh at. This is Facebook’s “MySpace” moment. There’s no reason to believe video will be anymore pervasive in the future as it is now. Video’s growth has more to do with faster smartphones, more data, and faster streaming. People aren’t going to stop reading, no matter how many characters Twitter tries to shorten common discourse.

Zuckerburg recently completed his 50-state tour of normal people, but not before asking for nondisclosures and the usual celebrity slip in, slip out an anti-social type like Zuckerburg would find most comfortable. He made sure to stop in Dayton, Ohio first; prime in the news, let’s begin our normal people tour with some heroin tourism. I’m sure he saw the panhandlers that dot the interstate exits, he talked to some families and individuals who’ve been directly affected. He left, leaving no clue as to what he came for and having left nothing.

That Facebook was still taking ad money from Russians through May is no shock, that they haven’t been called for it earlier, or looked into is more surprising than today’s admission. The world’s largest social network, the most powerful communication tool since the telephone, was used as a direct propaganda and disinformation outlet by an enemy of the United States.

The Washington Post wrote Facebook told congressional investigators that advertisements were purchased depicting both Trump and Clinton, but declined to say how these ads portrayed each of the candidates – as if the answer isn’t clear, with the Sputnik Candidate in the White House, and his gang of Putin acolytes from his campaign sticking around (Paul Manafort an example, when he isn’t on the lam).

Whatever Facebook and Twitter have given up as far as information, isn’t enough. Facebook makes its money by being a marketer’s dream, selling every bit of information it can possibly divulge from your activities on its platform. Twitter seems ran by someone lost in the woods; while ordinary people deal with harassment and internet lynch mobs by the day, the only time action is taken is when a Hollywood celeb cries for help. Worse, Twitter didn’t care that the Russians were loading its platforms with 100s of thousands of bots to help sway it’s own platform and create its own trending news, to uplift Donald Trump. That Robert Mercer was able to use his knowledge of high-speed finance to analyze every single Tweet ever made didn’t make them blush.

Twitter will go out of business on its own, and it continues to bleed users because of its mob rule and negative atmosphere. Until the expert class and journalist start dropping it, the site will have some life, but that doesn’t pay the bills.

Facebook has made its billions off its users. I’d much rather pay a couple hundred bucks a year to use its platform if I could have a say in what I see on my timeline, and not helplessly beholden to its garbage algorithm.

Enough is enough. Facebook and Google are at war over who owns the internet. That these two oligopolies dominate so much of the new economy and have nearly complete say over the information we read without drawing any eyes from the SEC, FCC or national leadership is as questionable as Facebook’s lack of concern over how its platform is being used.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey should go before Congress, they should be investigated by the FBI, and they should be under some semblance of accountability. Right now neither company operates with a sense of it, let alone a conscience.

 

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