2016: the year Facebook became the bad guy

Are people starting to realize what a problem Facebook is? Olivia Solon gets it – this is from her article in today’s Guardian: 2016: the year Facebook became the bad guy.

As the year unfurled, Facebook had to deal with a string of controversies and blunders, not limited to: being accused of imperialism in India, censorship of historical photos, and livestreaming footage of human rights violations. Not to mention misreported advertising metrics and the increasingly desperate cloning of rival Snapchat’s core features. Things came to a head in November, when the social network was accused of influencing the US presidential election through politically polarized filter bubbles and a failure to tackle the spread of misinformation. The icing on the already unpalatable cake was Pope Francis last week declaring that fake news is a sin.

This was Facebook’s annus horribilis. [continue]

The inside story of Facebook’s biggest setback

From the Guardian: The inside story of Facebook’s biggest setback.

Manzar, who is 48, had spent much of his life working to help Indians get online, and now one of the biggest tech companies in the world had thrown its weight behind his cause. “The power of Facebook as a platform, how it has motivated people to come online, generate content, get even the non-literate to become literate … I am a great fan,” he said.

But Manzar’s optimism soured when he saw what Internet.org actually looked like: a threadbare platform that only allowed access to 36 bookmarked sites and Facebook, which was naturally the only social network available. There was one weather app, three sites for women’s issues, and the search engine Bing. Facebook’s stripped-down internet was reminiscent of old search engines that listed the early web on one page, when it was small enough to be categorised, like books in a library.

Crucially, Facebook itself would decide which sites were included on the platform. The company had positioned Internet.org as a philanthropic endeavour – backed by Zuckerberg’s lofty pronouncements that “connectivity is a human right” – but retained total control of the platform. “Their pitch about access turned into mobilisation for their own product,” Manzar said. [continue]

Facebook is not your friend, kids.

The web we have to save

The Web We Have to Save is an important and thoughtful article by Hossein Derakhshan, who was jailed for blogging in 2008. He’s free now, and sad about what the web has become. I’m sad about this, too.

Six years was a long time to be in jail, but it’s an entire era online. Writing on the internet itself had not changed, but reading — or, at least, getting things read — had altered dramatically. I’d been told how essential social networks had become while I’d been gone, and so I knew one thing: If I wanted to lure people to see my writing, I had to use social media now.

So I tried to post a link to one of my stories on Facebook. Turns out Facebook didn’t care much. It ended up looking like a boring classified ad. No description. No image. Nothing. It got three likes. Three! That was it.

It became clear to me, right there, that things had changed. I was not equipped to play on this new turf — all my investment and effort had burned up. I was devastated. [continue]

I was on the web for years before blogs existed. Were you? In those days, you needed to know things about HTML in order to publish anything on the web. (The original version of mirabilis.ca was hand-coded, you know: HTML, typed by hand, with no blogging software in sight.)

When blogging platforms like Movable Type and then WordPress appeared, suddenly it was easy for all kinds of people to start blogs of their own and write what they pleased. And they did!

I loved the bloggy world of those days, and I miss it. Now so many people use Facebook and Twitter instead of blogging, and I think that’s sad. Why put your content on a commercial network that views you as the product? Why give your content to some entity that does not respect your privacy, and does not give you full control over your own stuff? The answer is usually “convenience” or “because everybody else does” or some such. I understand this, but I mourn for the days when everybody wanted to blog, instead of post to Facebook. I loved the decentralized, quirky, independent feel of the blogosphere.

And that is, in part, why I’m here, blogging. I will not give my content to some commercial entity, no matter who else does. You’ll not find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or what-have-you.

What about you? Do you value independent voices on the web? Independent sites, like blogs? Do you have a blog of your own? Or do you, too, let some commercial company host your social interactions?

And what do you think of Hossein’s article?

Anonymous is supporting a new privacy-focused social network that takes aim at Facebook’s shady practices

From Business Insider: Anonymous is supporting a new privacy-focused social network that takes aim at Facebook’s shady practices.

As if there weren’t enough social networks out there, here’s another new social network. But this one hopes to attract the likes of online freedom activists, and it even wrangled the attention of Anonymous.

Minds.com is a social network like most others: It lets users share links as well as their thoughts with their followers via the usual status updates.

But Minds, which officially launched both its desktop and mobile apps today, hopes to entice users given its promise of security. The program is completely open source and encrypts all private messages sent between users.

“Our stance is the users deserve the control of social media in every sense,” Minds’ founder Bill Ottman told Business Insider.

This distinguishes itself from Facebook, which has long had questionable privacy practices.

Minds also promises to use a de-mystified algorithm to boost content. [continue]

Interesting. The registration page says Anonymous accounts are fine with us. So, hmmm, I’ll read through the terms of service and see if it might be worth trying. Do any of you use it?

Facebook begins mass rollout of free bluetooth business “beacons”

From DailyTech: Facebook Begins Mass Rollout of Free Bluetooth Business “Beacons”.

Facebook announced this week a foray into the embedded wireless advertising market, offering up free Bluetooth beacons for business owners.

For those in New York City this may all sound somewhat familiar as Facebook has been testing the roughly hockey puck sized devices at a handful of partner sites around the city under the “Place Tips” program.

The idea inject items pertaining to the beacon-outfitted business into the News Feed on a user’s smartphone Facebook app to jump to the business’s page, encouraging likes, offering information, and to check out tips from your friends about the business you’re visiting. The beacons will offer:

  • Prompts to like the business’s Page
  • Check in reminders
  • Recommendations from your friends
  • Posts from the business’s Page (…)

In an attempt to assuage users concerns over this new so-called “proximity-based advertising” feature, [continue]

Just when I think Facebook can’t possibly get any worse, they do.

Apple’s Tim Cook on privacy

Apple has risen substantially in my estimation lately. Look at these articles from the Guardian:

And now this, from the Verge: Tim Cook: Silicon Valley’s most successful companies are selling you out.

Hurrah, Tim.

(I still use Linux, though.)