Facebook’s list of crimes is pretty extensive. Barely a week goes by when I don’t hear of some new action they have taken that causes outrage and seems devoid of principles.
So the right thing to do should just be to quit right? Easy? A quick search on Medium gives me countless articles that already exist of people ditching Facebook and becoming better more enlightened people, but I Just. Can’t. Do. it. They have their claws in my shoulders so tight.
I “made a list of evil” for myself, of all the things they’ve done, from one-off censorship, to digital colonialism, to systematic silencing of Black voices. This home-documentation is my motivation to get out.
- Experimented with users outside of ethical guidelines: On influencing emotions, and on influencing voting
- Filing patents & opening a ‘research centre’ to track our eyeballs
- Censoring images of women, even breast cancer advice
- Denying trans people the right to put names that are not on their birth certificate as their actual name
- Creating facial recognition databases without permission
- Trying to own the entire Internet. Their ‘Internet.org’ project is a new face to Colonialism, offering people in India a micro version of the Internet where you access everything via Facebook. They have made it very clear they would like it if we never ever left Facebook and ever video and every article we click on is still whilst on Facebook
- They offer check-in tools & memorials to people in Western terrorist incidents, but had to be forced to remember other people’s lives matter to.
- Removed the video of Philandro Castle’s death (a technical glitch they say, others say on police request)
- The whole Facebook thing was founded as a way for Mark Zuckerberg to rate girls on his college campus. It at no point in time had an altruistic goal, and I am not surprised that it bends towards evil very easily.
- Their hate speech policies lean towards helping celebrities and elites but threats, including death threats and rape threats, are ok if they are not against famous people.
- White men are listed as a ‘protected’ category on Facebook’s hate speech policies, but attacks on Black children are ok.
- The people who make the call as to what content to allow or not are usually underpaid labourers, outsourced to countries with poorer workers’ rights, whose job is to look at horrific images all day long (gore, abuse, beheadings, dicks in all sorts of places) and click ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether to block it. Law enforcement professionals dealing with child abuse have counselling and support, and they don’t have to watch as much of it as online content moderators.
- The company refused to take down Facebook groups for domestic abusers egging each other on, and needed persistent campaigning to recognise it was a problem.
At the end of this I consider, how culpable am I in these crimes if I know about them and still let the company profit from me? I never forget that my presence on the site is what makes them money. And it’s pursuit of money that keeps them churning through new ethical boundaries.
This is why I hate Facebook. I feel morally compromised — but it’s still one of the first things I look at it in the morning.
I feel trapped, held hostage by my friends being on it.
By my past memories stored there. By its reminders of my friends’ birthdays. By the way it holds me close to family friends I’d otherwise lose. By the invites and the event planning. The way I can see the growth and changes in people I care about, in the photos they share: the house renovation, the new baby, the coming out moment, the dissertation published, completing a marathon. I love the closed Facebook-groups for my friends where we make our video game strategies, the one for colleagues sharing advice, for fellow campaigners. Lives are all happening there. These multitudes holds me onto it. And it’s not the individuals’ fault.
It’s not like boycotting Nestle, a company I gave up on as a young teenager. All I lost really was my love of Aeros, not my social connections.
But when I interrogate that thought, it’s exactly like boycotting Nestle, in that we need collective action. One person leaving Facebook might be the right choice for them, but with billions online it makes no difference to the business. Real action has to be more than individuals to halt a goliath.
It’s exactly like Nestle in that they buy up the alternatives. Even when you think you’ve given them up you find that they own one other part of your life. With Nestle, it’s realising the same group own the “ethical” Body Shop. With Facebook it’s that the alternative way I speak to my friends is a WhatsApp group, that they also own. The other social media I use the most is Instagram, that they also own.
When I asked my group of friends for suggestions for how else we should have a group chat we ended up with “dancing pigeons” because we couldn’t find a decent alternative.
How can we take collective action at a company that has it’s claws in every aspect of our lives?
What I am doing is:
- Having Facebook on just one device.
- No installing the app on my phone.
- Slowly, steadily deleting my past photos and erasing its data
- Rarely uploading any new photos on it any more
- Not adding new friends easily, but instead trying to coax people into early noughts concept of ‘texting’.
- Keeping my privacy settings in check
- Feeling frustrated
So if you have cracked it, please let me know. If you have a plan for a collective action, I want in.