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What would happen if Facebook was turned off?

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Imagine a world without the social network

THERE HAS never been such an agglomeration of humanity as Facebook. Some 2.3bn people, 30% of the world’s population, engage with the network each month. Economists reckon it may yield trillions of dollars’ worth of value for its users. But Facebook is also blamed for all sorts of social horrors: from addiction and bullying to the erosion of fact-based political discourse and the enabling of genocide. New research—and there is more all the time—suggests such accusations are not entirely without merit. It may be time to consider what life without Facebook would be like.

To begin to imagine such a world, suppose that researchers could kick a sample of people off Facebook and observe the results. In fact, several teams of scholars have done just that. In January Hunt Allcott, of New York University, and Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer and Matthew Gentzkow, of Stanford University, published results of the largest such experiment yet. They recruited several thousand Facebookers and sorted them into control and treatment groups. Members of the treatment group were asked to deactivate their Facebook profiles for four weeks in late 2018. The researchers checked up on their volunteers to make sure they stayed off the social network, and then studied what happened to people cast into the digital wilderness.

Facebook is also blamed for all sorts of social horrors: from addiction and bullying to the erosion of fact-based political discourse and the enabling of genocide. New research—and there is more all the time—suggests such accusations are not entirely without merit. It may be time to consider what life without Facebook would be like.

 

THERE HAS never been such an agglomeration of humanity as Facebook. Some 2.3bn people, 30% of the world’s population, engage with the network each month. Economists reckon it may yield trillions of dollars’ worth of value for its users. But Facebook is also blamed for all sorts of social horrors: from addiction and bullying to the erosion of fact-based political discourse and the enabling of genocide. New research—and there is more all the time—suggests such accusations are not entirely without merit. It may be time to consider what life without Facebook would be like.

To begin to imagine such a world, suppose that researchers could kick a sample of people off Facebook and observe the results. In fact, several teams of scholars have done just that. In January Hunt Allcott, of New York University, and Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer and Matthew Gentzkow, of Stanford University, published results of the largest such experiment yet. They recruited several thousand Facebookers and sorted them into control and treatment groups. Members of the treatment group were asked to deactivate their Facebook profiles for four weeks in late 2018. The researchers checked up on their volunteers to make sure they stayed off the social network, and then studied what happened to people cast into the digital wilderness.

Meanwhile back at the ranch – Alexa,Google Home, etc. are flying off the shelves.

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe -Book Review

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An important investor explains how his enthusiasm has turned to shame

As the so-called Techlash gains pace and polemics on the downsides of the internet flood the book market, one omission seems to recur time and again. Facebook, Google, Amazon and the rest are too often written about as if their arrival in our lives started a new phase of history, rather than as corporations that have prospered thanks to an economic and cultural environment established in the days when platforms were things used by trains. To truly understand the revolutions in politics, culture and human behaviour these giants have accelerated, you need to start not some time in the last 15 or so years, but in the 1980s.

Early in that decade, the first arrival of digital technology in everyday life was marked by the brief microcomputer boom, which was followed by the marketing of more powerful personal computers. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were embedding the idea that government should keep its interference in industry and the economy to a minimum. In the US, a new way of thinking replaced the bipartisan belief that monopolies should always be resisted: concentrations of economic power were not a problem as long as they led to lower prices for consumers. And at the same time as old-school class politics was overshadowed, the lingering influence of the 60s counterculture gave the wealthy a new means of smoothing over their power and privilege: talking in vague terms about healing the world, and enthusiastically participating in acts of spectacular philanthropy.

If there was one period when all this cohered, it was between 1984 to 1985: the time of Band Aid and Live Aid, the launch of both Bill Gates’s Microsoft Windows operating system and the Apple Macintosh, and the advent of Reagan’s second term as president. And in 1984 Mark Zuckerberg, who would grow up in a country and culture defined by these events and forces, was born; he invented Facebook while he was at Harvard, and made his fortune via an intrusive, seemingly uncontrollable kind of capitalism, sold with the promise of “bringing the world closer together”.

Roger McNamee is a little longer in the tooth. Aged 62, he is old enough to know that the US beat the depression and won the second world war when “we subordinated the individual to the collective good, and it worked really well”. He knows that the anti-state, libertarian mores that define what we now know as Big Tech were born in the 1980s, and that by the early 21st century, “hardly anyone in Silicon Valley knew there had once been a different way of doing things”. Laissez-faire ideas, he says, joined with a bombastic arrogance in the minds of the “bros” who flocked to northern California to make their fortune from the mid 1990s onwards. What they did was founded on cutting-edge technology – but in terms of its underlying economic ideas, their business represented recently established nostrums being taken to their logical conclusion.


Should political will and public alarm eventually combine to finally break Silicon Valley’s remarkable power, McNamee knows roughly what ought to happen. He points to giving people control and ownership of their data, and the need to push through years of free-market dogma and convince the US authorities to reinvent anti-monopoly rules, and to take some action. What exactly this might entail remains frustratingly unclear, but he wants his readers to know he has made the ideological leap required. “Normally, I would approach regulation with extreme reluctance, but the ongoing damage to democracy, public health, privacy and competition justifies extraordinary measures,” he says. Unwittingly, the way he frames his point speaks volumes about how much we lost in the laissez-faire revolutions of the 1980s: what, after all, is so extraordinary about democratically elected governments taking action against corporations that are out of control?


 
This may suggest the perspective of an outsider, but McNamee does not quite fit that description. As a high-profile investor in tech businesses, he was co-founder of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm established with U2 frontman Paul “Bono” Hewson, the very embodiment of the 80s’ uneasy mixture of profit and philanthropy. In 2010, the firm acquired 1% of Facebook for $90m, but McNamee had already put money into the company, become a source of occasional advice for its founder, and been key in the appointment as chief operating officer of Sheryl Sandberg, the former Bill Clinton administration insider who brought business acumen and political connections to Zuckerberg’s inner circle. But now McNamee has come to the conclusion that what he helped bring about is a blend of hubris and dysfunction: Zucked is partly the story of his early enthusiasm giving way to mounting alarm at Facebook’s failure to match its power with responsibility, and what he has tried to do about it.

It is an unevenly told tale. McNamee wants readers to think of him as a player in the events he describes, but the text regularly has a sense of things viewed from too great a distance. That said, he knows enough about Facebook and its contexts to get to the heart of what its presence in our lives means for the world, and is bracingly blunt about the company’s threat to the basic tenets of democracy, and his own awakening to its dangers. In early passages about the initial occasions when he met Zuckerberg, he writes of a man then aged 22 appearing “consistently mature and responsible”, and “remarkably grown-up for his age”. He goes on: “I liked Zuck. I liked his team. I liked Facebook.” But by the time of the 2016 presidential election, everything had changed. In a memo to Zuckerberg and Sandberg, McNamee was blunt: “I am disappointed. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed.” And he had a keen sense of what had gone wrong, summarised here in the kind of aphoristic phrase for which he clearly has a talent: “Facebook has managed to connect 2.2 billion people and drive them apart at the same time.”

The account of how this played out is now familiar, and ends with the election and subsequent revelation that 126 million Facebook users were exposed to messages authored in Russia. McNamee deals with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and how it highlighted Facebook’s blithe attitude to its users’ personal data (though he really should have mentioned the Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr, whose curiosity and resilience ensured that the story broke, and Facebook was called to account). But some of his best material is about the elements of Facebook’s organisation and culture that created the mess, and the work he has done trying to alert powerful people to the need for action.

Once Zuckerberg realised his creation was eating the world, he and his colleagues did what “bros” do, and embraced a mindset known as “growth hacking”, whereby what mattered was “increasing user count, time on site, and revenue”: unrestrained capitalism, in other words. And as all these things endlessly increased, the company simply sped on. “In the world of growth hacking, users are a metric, not people,” McNamee writes. As Facebook expanded, he says, “it is highly unlikely that civic responsibility ever came up.”
Roger McNamee, founder of Elevation Partners.

If Facebook looks like a borderline autocracy (Zuckerberg controls around 60% of the company’s voting shares, because his stock has a “class B” status that gives him unchallengeable power), that is partly because it is different from comparable companies in one crucial sense: the simplicity of its business model. “The core platform consists of a product and a monetisation scheme,” McNamee points out, which “enables Facebook to centralise its decision making. There is a core team of roughly ten people who manage the company, but two people – Zuck and Sheryl Sandberg – are the arbiters of everything.” In the final analysis, Zuckerberg “is the undisputed boss”, both “rock star and cult leader”. It was always going to be a dangerous combination: global reach, a vast influence on events across the world, and a command structure too often reducible to the strengths and weaknesses of one man.

McNamee has worked hard to hold Facebook to account. His key ally is Tristan Harris, a former Google insider who is now an expert critic of Big Tech and its apparent ethical vacuum. As the most compelling passages here recount, while anxiety about the company began to spread, the pair lobbied members of Congress, and were not surprised to find that Washington “remained comfortably in the embrace of the major tech platforms” – but did their best to educate them on a subject many US legislators still seem to barely understand. Their efforts led to two hearings in late 2017, attended only by the big tech companies’ lawyers. Six months later, Zuckerberg finally went to Capitol Hill to testify over two days, but was initially confronted with some of the moronic questions imaginable (“How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” asked Utah’s 84 year-old Senator, Orrin Hatch). His second session, in front of the House Of Representatives’ Committee on Energy And Commerce, was much better, full of biting criticism. But, as McNamee sighingly acknowledges, his former friend “caught a break”: TV news was suddenly consumed by fallout from the FBI raiding the home and office of Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, and Zuckerberg went back to northern California looking remarkably untroubled.

Should political will and public alarm eventually combine to finally break Silicon Valley’s remarkable power, McNamee knows roughly what ought to happen. He points to giving people control and ownership of their data, and the need to push through years of free-market dogma and convince the US authorities to reinvent anti-monopoly rules, and to take some action. What exactly this might entail remains frustratingly unclear, but he wants his readers to know he has made the ideological leap required. “Normally, I would approach regulation with extreme reluctance, but the ongoing damage to democracy, public health, privacy and competition justifies extraordinary measures,” he says. Unwittingly, the way he frames his point speaks volumes about how much we lost in the laissez-faire revolutions of the 1980s: what, after all, is so extraordinary about democratically elected governments taking action against corporations that are out of control?

Deleting Linkedin

Wow, what a disgusting company Linkedin (Microsoft Owner) has become. Today: 160 trackers (and counting) and canvas tracking. Linkedin is now little more than spyware and on par with the likes of that disgusting company Facebook. In case anyone interested: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/63/closing-your-linkedin-account?lang=en One can download all data prior to closing account. We are in the process of doing this.

By the way, don’t take my word “The People Agree: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn Are All Worse than Bank of America” Motley Fool: https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/05/the-people-agree-twitter-facebook-and-linkedin-are.aspx

Wow – worse than Bank of America. I did not think that possible!

How to Stop Facebook’s Dangerous App Integration Ploy

Here is a great op. ed. piece by Sally Hubbard who is a former assistant attorney general in the New York State Attorney General’s Antitrust Bureau and an editor at The Capitol Forum, where she covers technology and monopolization. She makes two points 1) Facebook is a monopolist and 2) the FTC is toothless. Both need to change.
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In response to calls that Facebook be forced to divest itself of WhatsApp and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg has instead made a strategic power grab: He intends to put Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger onto a unified technical infrastructure. The integrated apps are to be encrypted to protect users from hackers. But who’s going to protect users from Facebook?

Ideally, that would be the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the antitrust laws and protecting consumers from unfair business practices. But the F.T.C. has looked the other way for far too long, failing to enforce its own 2011 consent decree under which Facebook was ordered to stop deceiving users about its privacy claims. The F.T.C. has also allowed Facebook to gobble up any company that could possibly compete against it, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Not that blocking these acquisitions would have been easy for the agency under the current state of antitrust law. Courts require antitrust enforcers to prove that a merger will raise prices or reduce production of a particular product or service. But proving that prices will increase is nearly impossible in a digital world where consumers pay not with money but with their personal data and by viewing ads.

The integration Mr. Zuckerberg plans would immunize Facebook’s monopoly power from attack. It would make breaking Instagram and WhatsApp off as independent and viable competitors much harder, and thus demands speedy action by the government before it’s too late to take the pieces apart. Mr. Zuckerberg might be betting that he can integrate these three applications faster than any antitrust case could proceed — and he would be right, because antitrust cases take years.

Luckily, the F.T.C. has a way to act quickly. Prompted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the agency has been investigating Facebook for violating that 2011 consent decree, which required it, among other things, to not misrepresent its handling of user information and to create a comprehensive privacy program. The F.T.C. can demand Facebook stop the integration as one of the conditions for settling any charges related to the consent decree, rather than just imposing an inconsequential fine.

If not stopped, the integration will cement Facebook’s monopoly power by enriching its data trove, allowing it to spy on users in new ways. Facebook might decide to sync data from one app to another so it can better track users. And Facebook needs user data: The reason it commands such a large share of digital advertising is that it tracks users — and even people without Facebook accounts — across millions of sites. It gathers data that allows it to target ads more precisely than many of its rivals for digital ad dollars, including news media sites and content creators.

After stopping Mr. Zuckerberg’s integration plan, the F.T.C. should reverse the WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions as illegal under the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.” Undoing the mergers would give consumers an alternative to Facebook-owned apps and force Facebook to do better.

Without meaningful competition, Facebook has little incentive to protect users by making changes that could reduce profits. Users unhappy about data collection and algorithms that promote fake news and political polarization don’t have anywhere to go.

Any future Facebook acquisitions, no matter what the size, should be strictly reviewed because of the company’s history of deceiving users. Facebook uses technology, like its Onavo and Research apps, that monitor consumers’ app usage to identify potential rivals even before they are big enough to get on antitrust enforcers’ radars. Internal Facebook documents published by the British Parliament show Facebook used Onavo data to identify WhatsApp as a competitive threat, only to convince regulators otherwise.

Congress also should write legislation to overrule misguided cases that have neutered antitrust enforcement, and pass a strong privacy law with enough resources to enforce it. Only then, perhaps, will we be protected from Facebook.

Depression in girls linked to higher use of social media

Is anyone surprised?
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Research suggests link between social media use and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls compared with boys

Girls’ much-higher rate of depression than boys is closely linked to the greater time they spend on social media, and online bullying and poor sleep are the main culprits for their low mood, new research reveals.


It found that many girls spend far more time using social media than boys, and also that they are much more likely to display signs of depression linked to their interaction on platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.

As many as three-quarters of 14-year-old girls who suffer from depression also have low self-esteem, are unhappy with how they look and sleep for seven hours or less each night, the study found.

“Girls, it seems, are struggling with these aspects of their lives more than boys, in some cases considerably so,” said Prof Yvonne Kelly, from University College London, who led the team behind the findings.

The results prompted renewed concern about the rapidly accumulating evidence that many more girls and young women exhibit a range of mental health problems than boys and young men, and about the damage these can cause, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

The study is based on interviews with almost 11,000 14-year-olds who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, a major research project into children’s lives.

It found that many girls spend far more time using social media than boys, and also that they are much more likely to display signs of depression linked to their interaction on platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.

BOGUS SCIENCE: Facebook Takes On Tricky Public Health Role

Among the other 100s of reasons, it is time to stop using Facebook.

A police officer on the late shift in an Ohio town recently received an unusual call from Facebook.

Earlier that day, a local woman wrote a Facebook post saying she was walking home and intended to kill herself when she got there, according to a police report on the case. Facebook called to warn the Police Department about the suicide threat.

The officer who took the call quickly located the woman, but she denied having suicidal thoughts, the police report said. Even so, the officer believed she might harm herself and told the woman that she must go to a hospital — either voluntarily or in police custody. He ultimately drove her to a hospital for a mental health work-up, an evaluation prompted by Facebook’s intervention. (The New York Times withheld some details of the case for privacy reasons.)
….

Facebook has computer algorithms that scan the posts, comments and videos of users in the United States and other countries for indications of immediate suicide risk. When a post is flagged, by the technology or a concerned user, it moves to human reviewers at the company, who are empowered to call local law enforcement.

“In the last year, we’ve helped first responders quickly reach around 3,500 people globally who needed help,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a November post about the efforts.

But other mental health experts said Facebook’s calls to the police could also cause harm — such as unintentionally precipitating suicide, compelling nonsuicidal people to undergo psychiatric evaluations, or prompting arrests or shootings.

And, they said, it is unclear whether the company’s approach is accurate, effective or safe. Facebook said that, for privacy reasons, it did not track the outcomes of its calls to the police. And it has not disclosed exactly how its reviewers decide whether to call emergency responders. Facebook, critics said, has assumed the authority of a public health agency while protecting its process as if it were a corporate secret.

Yes you read that right. “Facebook said that, for privacy reasons, it did not track the outcomes of its calls to the police.” B.S. — how about formal clinical trials like the rest of the medical world? Their algorithm should get FDA approval first at a minimum.

“It’s hard to know what Facebook is actually picking up on, what they are actually acting on, and are they giving the appropriate response to the appropriate risk,” said Dr. John Torous, director of the digital psychiatry division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “It’s black box medicine.”


“In this climate in which trust in Facebook is really eroding, it concerns me that Facebook is just saying, ‘Trust us here,’” said Mr. Marks, a fellow at Yale Law School and New York University School of Law.

Right – Trust Facebook? Never. I submit the real reason that miscreant Zuckerberg is doing this is that it is now well known that a plausible link exists between increased social media use and depression and suicide. Just say no to Facebook.

2012 – Social Media and Suicide: A Public Health Perspective

2017 – The Risk Of Teen Depression And Suicide Is Linked To Smartphone Use

Facebook apologizes for bug leaking private photos

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Hah hah hah – Facebook apologizes…deja vu (weekly)

Data gathering biz still having trouble keeping data secure

Why – because they do not want to. It is their business stupid!

Facebook on Friday apologized for a bug that may have exposed exposed private photos to third-party apps for the 12 day period from September 13 to September 25, 2018.

Yep you read that right – September 2018! Who do you think your fooling Zuckerberg (of …sorry, yes, of course, all the zuckers that use your site).

“We’re sorry this happened,” said Tomer Bar, Facebook engineering director, in a blog post intended for developers, noting that as many as 6.8 million users and 1,500 apps from by 876 developers may be affected.

Tomer explained that when a Facebook user grants permission for an app to access that individual’s photos on Facebook, the service should only grant access to photos shared on timelines.

Instead, the bug made photos shared elsewhere – in Marketplace or Facebook Stories – or uploaded but never posted available to developers’ apps, specifically those that had been approved by Facebook to use the photos API and by users.

Facebook intends to notify affected individuals, so they can check their photo apps for images that shouldn’t be there. And next week, the company says it will provide developers with a tool to determine which users of their apps may have been affected and to assist with the deletion of images that shouldn’t be there.

It was only a few days after the period of vulnerability, on September 28, that Facebook said a different bug had exposed as many as 90 million Facebook profiles to hackers, a figure it subsequently revised down to 30 million.

90 Million? Geez — no wonder miscreants have such an easy time influencing opinion.

In response to that incident, Guy Rosen, VP of product management, apologized.
This is getting to be a habit

The social data biz has apologized so often that its serial contrition came up when CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April.

Addressing Zuckerberg at the hearing, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “You have a long history of growth and success, but you also have a long list of apologies.” She then recited a partial litany of his mea culpas over the years:

“I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect.” – Harvard, 2003
“We really messed this one up.” – Facebook, 2006
“We simply did a bad job [with this release, and] I apologize for it.” – Facebook, 2007
“Sometimes we move too fast…” – Facebook, 2010
“I’m the first to admit we made a bunch of mistakes.” – Facebook, 2011
“[For those I hurt this year,] I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better.” Facebook, 2017

Schakowsky concluded from this that Facebook’s self-regulation doesn’t work.

No shit Jan — and no need to stop with them. It is the enter industry that has grown up mining, sharing and selling personal data that must be disassembled.

Legislative regulation may not be working either. Facebook in April, shortly after Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony, made much of its effort to comply with Europe’s GDPR privacy regime.

“As soon as GDPR was finalized, we realized it was an opportunity to invest even more heavily in privacy,” said Erin Egan, veep and chief privacy officer of policy, and Ashlie Beringer, veep and deputy general counsel in a blog post at the time. “We not only want to comply with the law, but also go beyond our obligations to build new and improved privacy experiences for everyone on Facebook.”

Nonetheless, in response to complaints, the Irish Data Protection Commission has begun an investigation of the company’s privacy practices.

“The Irish DPC has received a number of breach notifications from Facebook since the introduction of the GDPR on May 25, 2018,” spokesperson for the watchdog said on Friday in an email to The Register. “With reference to these data breaches, including the breach in question, we have this week commenced a statutory inquiry examining Facebook’s compliance with the relevant provisions of the GDPR.”

Coming shortly after the British Parliament published a trove of Facebook emails about how the ad biz monetizes its user data, the investigation isn’t all that surprising.

The Register asked Facebook how users of the ad network should interpret the photo bug in light of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s apology following the Cambridge Analytica scandal: “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. ”

We’ve not heard back.

Clawing Back a Bit of Privacy

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A nice op ed piece in the NYT (better late than never) is finally bringing the privacy issue in to the spotlight.

But the issue continues to be the ignorance of the users. Example:

“But the data also could have been sold through the private sector — harvested, for instance, from a grocery store rewards card.”

Why anyone in their right mind would ever use a valid phone, email and address for their rewards card in the first place is an example of blind trust the average user gives. If you have to show an ID to verify your rewards card, walk away. It is one reason so many people in the know despise Harris Teeter supermarkets. They will not give you a VIC card unless you verify your info. Why? They want your data and it is more valuable if accurate and contains verified info. Let’s see, one needs to pay inflated prices so they can mine and sell our data. Brilliant. It is not just them of course

“Once the information is out, it spreads — sometimes scraped, sometimes bought and sold — among data brokers. Some are sites that operate as low-touch private detectives, hanging their shingle on the first page of Google results. Anyone trying to remove information must contact dozens of different services to do so. Some remove information only for a fee.”

We need right to forget laws with teeth in the US

“There are laws around the dissemination of personal information like home addresses, but they’re stuck in the era of phone booths and yellow pages. Home address privacy is governed mainly by 1990s legislation like the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (regarding the collection and release of information gathered by states to issue licenses for driving) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (which partly regulates how banks handle personal information). It’s time for legislators — at both the federal and state levels — to update protections for home addresses and to allow regulators to rein in the personal data industry.

Americans need more control over who knows where they and their families live. Home addresses should not be for sale without the knowledge of and the explicit, meaningful consent of those who live there. And it should be easier to remove information from these databases without having to spend hours tracking it down to every corner of the internet.

But in the interim, there’s one thing that would make people safer and their privacy more secure. Google has, for some time, de-indexed many revenge pornography sites and has tweaked its algorithms to tamp down on the proliferation of mug shot databases. Similarly, search engines could de-index the data brokers who hawk personal information.

An intelligent and dedicated pursuer would still be able to track down an address. In many cases, they are public records, after all. But cleaning up the search engines will slow down someone who finds and posts your address in a fit of pique. In the absence of regulation over the sale and purchase of personal data, just a little bit of friction can make a big difference for vulnerable people. “

Yeah – fat chance of that happening without strong regulation. Just like Facebook, Google and other search engines would not chew off their own golden arm.

Facebook Wielded Data to Reward, Punish Rivals, Emails Show

Is anyone surprised?

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Facebook Inc. wielded user data like a bargaining chip, providing access when that sharing might encourage people to spend more time on the social network — and imposing strict limits on partners in cases where it saw a potential competitive threat, emails show.

A trove of internal correspondence, published online Wednesday by U.K. lawmakers, provides a look into the ways Facebook bosses, including Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, treated information posted by users like a commodity that could be harnessed in service of business goals. Apps were invited to use Facebook’s network to grow, as long as that increased usage of Facebook. Certain competitors, in a list reviewed by Zuckerberg himself, were not allowed to use Facebook’s tools and data without his personal sign-off.

In early 2013, Twitter Inc. launched the Vine video-sharing service, which drew on a Facebook tool that let Vine users connect to their Facebook friends. Alerted to the possible competitive threat by an engineer who recommended cutting off Vine’s access to Facebook data, Zuckerberg replied succinctly: “Yup, go for it.”

A spokeswoman for Twitter declined to comment.

In other cases Zuckerberg eloquently espoused the value of giving software developers more access to user data in hopes that it would result in applications that, in turn, would encourage people to do more on Facebook. “We’re trying to enable people to share everything they want, and to do it on Facebook,” Zuckerberg wrote in a November 2012 email. “Sometimes the best way to enable people to share something is to have a developer build a special purpose app or network for that type of content and to make that app social by having Facebook plug into it. However, that may be good for the world but it’s not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network.”

Break up Facebook (and while we’re at it, Google, Apple and Amazon)

Reich concludes “We must resurrect antitrust” – yes and we need to do that very fast.

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Big tech has ushered in a second Gilded Age. We must relearn the lessons of the first, writes the former US labor secretary

Last week, the New York Times revealed that Facebook executives withheld evidence of Russian activity on their platform far longer than previously disclosed. They also employed a political opposition research firm to discredit critics.

There’s a larger story here.

America’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century began with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction – but culminated in mammoth trusts owned by “robber barons” who used their wealth and power to drive out competitors and corrupt American politics.

We’re now in a second Gilded Age – ushered in by semiconductors, software and the internet – that has spawned a handful of giant hi-tech companies.

Facebook and Google dominate advertising. They’re the first stops for many Americans seeking news. Apple dominates smartphones and laptop computers. Amazon is now the first stop for a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.

“Amazon the first stop..” — The main reason is that they have allowed illegal predatory pricing to drive out competition. And Amazon is usually never a good deal. Check it out carefully: Prime products are always more expansion than elsewhere even on the Amazon site. With Prime you pay twice. Brilliant!

This consolidation at the heart of the American economy creates two big problems.

First, it stifles innovation. Contrary to the conventional view of a US economy bubbling with inventive small companies, the rate at which new job-creating businesses have formed in the United States has been halved since 2004, according to the census.

A major culprit: big tech’s sweeping patents, data, growing networks and dominant platforms have become formidable barriers to new entrants.

The second problem is political. These massive concentrations of economic power generate political clout that’s easily abused, as the New York Times investigation of Facebook reveals. How long will it be before Facebook uses its own data and platform against critics? Or before potential critics are silenced even by the possibility?

America responded to the Gilded Age’s abuses of corporate power with antitrust laws that allowed the government to break up the largest concentrations.

President Teddy Roosevelt went after the Northern Securities Company, a giant railroad trust financed by JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller, the nation’s two most powerful businessmen. The US supreme court backed Roosevelt and ordered the company dismantled.

In 1911, President William Howard Taft broke up Rockefeller’s sprawling Standard Oil empire.

It is time to use antitrust again. We should break up the hi-tech behemoths, or at least require they make their proprietary technology and data publicly available and share their platforms with smaller competitors.

There would be little cost to the economy, since these giant firms rely on innovation rather than economies of scale – and, as noted, they’re likely to be impeding innovation overall.

But is this politically feasible? Unlike the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans, Trump and his enablers in Congress have shown little appetite for antitrust enforcement.

Republicans rhapsodize about the “free market” but have no qualms about allowing big corporations to rig it at the expense of average people. Yet as the late Robert Pitofsky, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, once noted: “Antitrust is a deregulatory philosophy. If you’re going to let the free market work, you’d better protect the free market.”

But the Democrats, for their part, have shown no greater appetite for antitrust – especially when it comes to big tech.

In 2012, the staff of the FTC’s bureau of competition submitted to the commissioners a 160-page analysis of Google’s dominance in the search and related advertising markets, and recommended suing Google for conduct that “has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation”.

But the commissioners, most of them Democratic appointees, chose not to pursue the case.

The Democrats’ recent “better deal” platform, which they unveiled a few months before the midterm election, included a proposal to attack corporate monopolies in industries as wide-ranging as airlines, eyeglasses and beer. But, notably, the proposal didn’t mention big tech.

Maybe the Democrats are reluctant to attack the industry because it has directed so much political funding to Democrats. In the 2018 midterms, the largest recipient of big tech’s largesse, ActBlue, a fundraising platform for progressive candidates, collected nearly $1bn, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

As the New York Times investigation makes clear, political power can’t be separated from economic power. Both are prone to abuse.

Antitrust law was viewed as a means of preventing giant corporations from undermining democracy. “If we will not endure a king as a political power,” thundered Ohio’s Senator John Sherman, the sponsor of the nation’s first antitrust law in 1890, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale” of what the nation produced.

In the second Gilded Age as in the first, giant firms at the center of the American economy are distorting the market and our politics.

We must resurrect antitrust.