This is how Facebook is making news waves these days. And its not looking good.
How Facebook is killing comedy:
The Split Sider magazine has published an interview with Matt Klinman, a writer from New York City. Here’s an excerpt.
The whole story is basically that Facebook gets so much traffic that they started convincing publishers to post things on Facebook. For a long time, that was fine. People posted things on Facebook, then you would click those links and go to their websites. But then, gradually, Facebook started exerting more and more control of what was being seen, to the point that they, not our website, essentially became the main publishers of everyone’s content. Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.
This writer John Herrman writes about this a lot — he used to write for The Awl, rest in peace — he talks about how Facebook flattens everything out and makes it the same. That’s how we have a Russian propaganda problem. An article from something like, I don’t know, Rebel Patriot News written by a Macedonian teen or something looks exactly the same as a New York Times article. It’s the same for comedy websites. There’s a reason that Mad magazine looks different from Vanity Fair. They need to convey a different aesthetic and a different tone for their content to really pop. Facebook is the great de-contextualizer. There’s no more feeling of jumping into a whole new world on the internet anymore — everything looks exactly the same.
How Facebook is determining our social class:
The engadget magazine has published an article on how Facebook is patenting technology to decide which social class its users fall into. Here’s an excerpt.
Facebook is patenting technology to decide if its users are upper, middle or working class — without even using the usual marker for social class: an individual’s income (the patent considers this a benefit).
Facebook’s patent plan for “Socioeconomic Group Classification Based on User Features” uses different data sources and qualifiers to determine whether a user is “working class,” “middle class,” or “upper class.” It uses things like a user’s home ownership status, education, number of gadgets owned, and how much they use the internet, among other factors. If you have one gadget and don’t use the internet much, in Facebook’s eyes you’re probably a poor person.
This is not a new problem; Facebook is just ‘improving’ it. After reading the 2014 White House report on data, privacy, algorithms, and discrimination, Google engineer Jeremy Kun wrote:
“Here’s a not-so-imaginary example of the problem. A bank wants people to take loans with high interest rates, and it also serves ads for these loans. A modern idea is to use an algorithm to decide, based on the sliver of known information about a user visiting a website, which advertisement to present that gives the largest chance of the user clicking on it.”
How FANG is hungry for people to click on ads:
This is how Big Tech including Facebook is building a fake world full of self serving gains just so people can click on ads, says techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci in her TED talk. Here’s an excerpt.
With big data and machine learning, that’s not how it works anymore. So to imagine that, think of all the data that Facebook has on you: every status update you ever typed, every Messenger conversation, every place you logged in from, all your photographs that you uploaded there. If you start typing something and change your mind and delete it, Facebook keeps those and analyzes them, too. Increasingly, it tries to match you with your offline data. It also purchases a lot of data from data brokers. It could be everything from your financial records to a good chunk of your browsing history. Right? In the US, such data is routinely collected, collated and sold. In Europe, they have tougher rules.
So Facebook also algorithmically arranges the posts that your friends put on Facebook, or the pages you follow. It doesn’t show you everything chronologically. It puts the order in the way that the algorithm thinks will entice you to stay on the site longer.
Now, so this has a lot of consequences. You may be thinking somebody is snubbing you on Facebook. The algorithm may never be showing your post to them. The algorithm is prioritizing some of them and burying the others.
So Facebook’s market capitalization is approaching half a trillion dollars. It’s because it works great as a persuasion architecture. But the structure of that architecture is the same whether you’re selling shoes or whether you’re selling politics. The algorithms do not know the difference. The same algorithms set loose upon us to make us more pliable for ads are also organizing our political, personal and social information flows, and that’s what’s got to change.