Leaving the Evil Empire of Facebook

Dislike Facebook; Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA https://tinyurl.com/pb5rmgr

Imagine there is a cafeteria in your college. You visit that place everyday, not because it serves very good food but because you have been visiting this cafeteria for quite some time and you get to meet your friends out there. And there are a lot of people whom you never meet outside the cafeteria. Often you sit together with your close circle to share daily gossip and to have fun. Sometimes you sit with other people too, just to stay in touch. One day you learned that there is another café in the town which is offering something new. You are kinda excited about it, you meet your friends in the old café, and you try to mention the new café but you find you are not able to do it. A projection pops up on your glasses saying “I think, what you are about to say is a spam, please try saying something else.” — The café owner.

Unsafe for whom?

This café is Facebook. Facebook is blocking any mentions of a competing social network. You can’t make any posts having the link to it. You can’t even mention it in private chat messages. Facebook is going as far as deleting older mentions of it (digging out and deleting any unnoticed mention of it in the past as well) [1]. Competitors are not the only thing which facebook has blocked, and this is not the first time they have done it [2]. Recently Facebook blocked users from posting links to an article about Nepal blockade [3]. Facebook once deleted a post which called out to people for a protest in Russia, because the protest was “illegal” [4]. In Venezuela Facebook is deleting links to film fictionalizing the conditions of political prisoners, without even telling people that it has done so [5]. Again in home Facebook blocked the page “Indian Atheists” [6]. And remember these are censorships we know about, for everyone of them there would be many, the news of which never see the light of day and if they did, Facebook would never let you see them.

This especially matters in our country, India. Ours is a beautifully diverse and an elegantly tolerant country. Ours is a country where people have been arrested for making facebook comments against a political leaders [7] [8]. Ours is a country which banned a documentary discussing the brutal rape and murder of a 23 year old [9]. Ours is a country which at least momentarily banned github, vimeo and pastebin [10]. Ours is a country with thousands of different communities, and their thousands of diverse opinions. Imagine a situation where any voice other than of the majority is silenced as anti-Indian, not by killing and arrests but simply not letting them say anything “anti-Indian”. When Facebook is our primary medium to communicate to the world outside, it is not hard to imagine such a future. And guess what, that future is probably already here. During the January 2014 to June 2014, Facebook blocked 4765 content on the request of Government of India [11]. Do you know what were the pages or posts about? Tell me if you find out.

People are aware of the fact that facebook is collecting humongous amount of private information, all their photos, posts, likes and private messages. But many people are not aware of the fact that Facebook not only collects information when you are using facebook, but also when you are not using it. Not only when you are logged in but also when you are logged out [12]. And now it will probably also track when you are offline [13]. Facebook knows what news you read, what places you went to, what things you bought. People suspect that Facebook is also listening to your offline conversations. Facebook knows everything about you more than your mother or your best friend does[14]. But why should you care when you have nothing to hide?

My friend, privacy is not about having things to hide, privacy is about power. Power means who controls what and to what extent. The more facebook knows about you, the more power they exercise our you. Facebook has collected tremendous amounts of data about you. It doesn’t only know who you are friends with and what do you “like”, but also it knows everything from your political affiliations to your last breakup. They have already succeeded with the “experiment” of making people sad based on their news feeds [15]. And this is “one of the things” they said they did, other “experiments” are unknown unknowns. Facebook is a company that can and that will manipulate you to any length for its own gain. And you’ll be a puppet who cannot see its own strings.

It is very important to call out the evils of Facebook because Facebook goes beyond sharing cat memes and Diwali pics. Facebook is also the Dainik Jagran and Hindustan Times. For many of us, Facebook is a primary means to connect to world outside and a medium through which we form their world view. When such a medium is corrupt and unaccountable, it is not only harmful to our personal well being, but also is a grave danger to the foundations of democracy itself.

With tracking, filtering and censoring comes Facebook’s combination of lack of transparency. Facebook actively decides what should and what shouldn’t appear on your wall. And this process is completely opaque.

The consequences of lack of transparency of facebook go deep. The ‘organic’ reach of your Facebook page decreases with time[16] Facebook has a service where individuals and organisations can pay money to facebook to boost the likes on their facebook pages. In the video,”Facebook Fraud” [17] by YouTube channel Veritasium, Derek Muller suggested that Facebook might be earning money by selling fake likes. Of course Facebook denied such claims. I won’t argue for Veritasium’s claims, because I cannot. As I cannot collect any data other than a collection of anecdotes. It is not a far fetched speculation that if I try to do a study over the issue, Facebook will start behaving differently for me. The point is, no one other that facebook can conduct a systematic study on the behavior of the Facebook platform, this means no one other than Facebook can show it is fraud using its platform. Will facebook ever conduct or publish a study which hurts its business model? Do we have any other choice other than accepting what facebook says is right.

Many friends have pointed out to me that Facebook is not a government but a private co-operate. Governments need to be accountable to people, co-operates, not that much. And that, is another reason to boycott Facebook. Facebook has repeatedly shown that it cares nothing more than getting more and more money in its pocket no matter how unethical the means may be. List of evils of Facebook goes really longer than this essay [18]. Facebook cheats, lies and steals [19], plus it is bad for your health [20]. I’m quiting Facebook because I refuse to support its evil empire which is growing without checks and bounds. And I urge you to do the same. If enough of us go against it, it will fall.


Resources

* Learn about online tracking, why it matters and how can you protect yourself. https://donottrack-doc.com/en/intro/

* Alternatives to Facebook: Diaspora, identi.ca, ind.ie, Ello, MeWe,

* Reasons not to use Facebook by Richard Matthew Stallman : https://stallman.org/facebook.html


References

[1]: http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/05/technology/facebook-tsu/index.html

[2]: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100726/17493610367.shtml

[3]: https://twitter.com/namgayzam/status/670307635543982081

[4]: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/world/europe/facebook-angers-russian-opposition-by-blocking-protest-page.html

[5]: https://onlinecensorship.org/news-and-analysis/facebook-s-disappearing-act-takedowns-in-venezuela-suggest-its-link-blocking-function-is-used-for-political-speech

[6]: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/facebook-censorship-atheists-india_564975a3e4b045bf3defc4c1?section=india

[7]: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/Class11-student-sent-to-jail-for-Facebook-post-against-UP-minister-Azam-Khan/articleshow/46600144.cms

[8]: https://in.news.yahoo.com/two-girls-arrested-for-anti-thackeray-facebook-post.html

[9]: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/05/asia/bbc-india-documentary/index.html

[10]: http://techcrunch.com/2014/12/31/indian-government-censorsht/

[11]: http://mashable.com/2014/11/07/facebook-censorship-map/#HtNCj5P8Omq3

[12]: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/10/facebook%E2%80%99s-hotel-california-cross-site-tracking-and-potential-impact-digital-privacy

[13]: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/10/facebook-increases-its-tracking-reach-atlas-and-users-have-little-choice-about-it

[14]: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/facebook-likes-reveal-sensitive-personal-information

[15]: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/technology/facebook-tinkers-with-users-emotions-in-news-feed-experiment-stirring-outcry.html

[16]: http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/03/the-filtered-feed-problem/

[17]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag

[18]: https://stallman.org/facebook.html

[19]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7tA3NNKF0Q

[20]: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-murder-and-the-meaning-life/201404/7-ways-facebook-is-bad-your-mental-health