Alan Levine’s story isn’t unique. It isn’t even all that uncommon.
Facebook and online services like it are exactly as accountable as they need to be, which is, not at all. No explanations for their decisions, and no identity for those making them. (Ironic, isn’t it, the facelessness of Facebook?)
And no appeal, unless you can command enough attention to make yourself enough of a nuisance that it’s worth appeasing you so you’ll go away.
Alan describes his experience as mostly an inconvenience – infuriating, but with little serious consequence beyond those who wind up defrauded. For others, getting Facebook and other major platforms to take issues like harassment and threats seriously has been an uphill battle.
“So don’t use them,” some people snort. “Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. They’re a business and can do what they want.”
But they’re more than a business. Facebook is starting to look more and more like a monopoly. They have a lock on your social network: you won’t leave because your friends are all there, and your friends won’t leave because their friends (including you) are there.
And Facebook’s trying to entrench their position, striving to own the conversations on media outlets and other online properties. They want to be the de facto purveyors of proven online identity (without spending the resources that would earn them that status).
In fact, if Internet.org is any indication, they want to be the Internet for as many people as possible.
I’m going to keep using Facebook because it’s useful and because I can connect with people I care about there in a way I can’t elsewhere. But calling them on their abuses of commission and omission is crucial. And if the time comes when I start to believe that a presence there does more damage to the open Internet than whatever benefit I’m deriving warrants, then I’m gone.
Because a curated, truncated, strait-jacketed Internet, governed by invisible, nameless drones who communicate in terse ambiguities and traffick in absolute judgements – that’s not what I signed on for.
What about you?