Facebook and the Enemy Within: T-Bone Burnett’s Keynote at SXSW 2019

As usual, Henry gives an extremely relevant and literate dissertation on the loss of humanity imposed on us by Big Brother’s youngest sibling, Mark Zuckerberg–the boy who wouldn’t grow up, but who instead created an app for Room 101.

Please listen to T Bone when you have a quiet hour to yourself.

@nickconfessore: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

[A teachable moment in activism that’s an important read to see all the swamp monster machinations that Silicon Valley puts us all through.  The post is extremely well-written but does take a bit of a commitment to read to the end.  Highly recommended that you stick with it to the end of the story.]

The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out….

Facebook and Google were following people around the rest of the internet…using an elaborate and invisible network of browsing bugs — they had, within little more than a decade, created a private surveillance apparatus of extraordinary reach and sophistication. Mactaggart thought that something ought to be done. He began to wonder whether he should be the one to do it….

Almost by accident, though, Mactaggart had thrust himself into the greatest resource grab of the 21st century. To Silicon Valley, personal information had become a kind of limitless natural deposit, formed in the digital ether by ordinary people as they browsed, used apps and messaged their friends. Like the oil barons before them, they had collected and refined that resource to build some of the most valuable companies in the world, including Facebook and Google, an emerging duopoly that today controls more than half of the worldwide market in online advertising. But the entire business model — what the philosopher and business theorist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — rests on untrammeled access to your personal data. The tech industry didn’t want to give up its powers of surveillance. It wanted to entrench them. And as Mactaggart would soon learn, Silicon Valley almost always got what it wanted.

Read the post on The New York Times.

@zeynep: It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

 

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Emporers Zuck and Medvedev

 

For most of modern history, the easiest way to block the spread of an idea was to keep it from being mechanically disseminated. Shutter the news­paper, pressure the broad­cast chief, install an official censor at the publishing house. Or, if push came to shove, hold a loaded gun to the announcer’s head….

In today’s networked environment, when anyone can broadcast live or post their thoughts to a social network, it would seem that censorship ought to be impossible. This should be the golden age of free speech….

And sure, it is a golden age of free speech—if you can believe your lying eyes. Is that footage you’re watching real? Was it really filmed where and when it says it was? Is it being shared by alt-right trolls or a swarm of Russian bots? Was it maybe even generated with the help of artificial intelligence? (Yes, there are systems that can create increasingly convincing fake videos.)

Or let’s say you were the one who posted that video. If so, is anyone even watching it? Or has it been lost in a sea of posts from hundreds of millions of content pro­ducers? Does it play well with Facebook’s algorithm? Is YouTube recommending it?….

Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

Read the post on Wired

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@scleland: Buying WhatsApp Tipped Facebook to Monopoly; Why Didn’t FTC Probe Purchase?

Anyone concerned with the anticompetitive state of digital advertising, and how to fix it, should focus like a laser on the circumstances surrounding the 2014 FTC’s pass on formally investigating if the Facebook-WhatsApp acquisition would “substantially lessen competition” under the Clayton Antitrust Act.

That obvious FTC mistake in hindsight, triggered a winner-take-all domino effect that not only tipped Facebook to a social advertising monopoly, but also tipped the overall digital advertising market to the anticompetitive digital advertising cartel that evidently predominates today.

Read the post on the Precursor blog

@BekiHill: Max Schrems is back: Facebook, Google hit with GDPR complaint

Max Schrems, the thorn in Facebook’s side, has returned to launch the first challenges under the EU’s new data protection laws.

The complaints, filed on the day Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, take aim at what he describes as Google and Facebook’s “forced consent”.

Under the GDPR, when users are asked to consent, they should be given a free choice – and it should not be a condition of using a service.

But Schrems’ complaints argue that the consent boxes popping up on the screens of users of Google, Facebook and their affiliates does not meet this standard.

The four separate filings (all PDFs) are against Google, Facebook and two Facebook-owned businesses, Instagram and WhatsApp.

They dangle the 4 per cent of annual turnover fines as a maximum possible penalty – €3.7bn, €1.3bn, €1.3bn, and €1.3bn, respectively – though regulators have stressed they won’t be handing out the top level fines willy-nilly.

Read the post on The Register

President Obama’s Farewell Address on Social Media’s Threat to Democracy

GARCIN: …So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other people!

No Exit (Huis Clos), by Jean-Paul Sartre

In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s prophetic farewell address famously warned of the growing “military industrial complex”:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Given Eisenhower’s history as a military officer of the highest rank, Ike knew of what he spoke only too well.

In 2017, President Barack Obama may well have given his own prophetic warning of a different unholy alliance between government and industry, but this time there won’t be a song written about it called “Masters of War,” except maybe “Masters of the Internet” (by Ceramic Dog/Marc Ribot) or “March of the Billionaires” by Cracker (written by Faragher-Hickman- Lowery-Urbano).

The President warned in his farewell address (“the great sorting”):

For too many of us, it has become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods, or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds. Surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.  The rise of naked partisanship and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splitting of our media into a channel for every taste. All this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. Increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start only accepting information, whether its true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the information that is out there.

As Maya Kosoff reflects on President Obama’s warning in Vanity Fair:

Today, 62 percent of U.S. adults say they get their news from social media, often relying on news stories shared within their own self-selected digital bubbles. Facebook, which has finally accepted some culpability for its role in disseminating unchecked misinformation, is still experiencing growing pains as it evolves, whether willingly or not, from a social network into a media company. But the problem runs deeper. Studies in recent years suggest media fragmentation has increased partisanship—that is, paradoxically, the vast array of news outlets at our disposal today have given way to more explicitly ideological ones and have helped contribute to an increase in partisanship and polarized political opinion. [Emphasis mine]

Facebook’s own internal studies developed in Facebook’s “Core Data Science Team” as well as medical research into Internet addiction confirms what Sean Parker revealed this week–Facebook intentionally profits from addiction.  And as Professor Adam Alter teaches us about behavioral addictions, the addiction that Sean Parker tells the world was perfected by Facebook is every bit as addictive as substance addiction:

People have been addicted to substances for thousands of years, but for the past two decades, we’ve also been hooked on technologies, like Instagram, Netflix, Facebook, Fitbit, Twitter, and email—platforms we’ve adopted because we assume they’ll make our lives better. These inventions have profound upsides, but their appeal isn’t an accident. Technology companies and marketers have teams of engineers and researchers devoted to keeping us engaged. They know how to push our buttons, and how to coax us into using their products for hours, days, and weeks on end.

Mark Zuckerberg would have us believe that the true purpose of Facebook is to bring the world closer together.  I’m a skeptic, and here’s why.

The good thing about Facebook is that it brings people together in new communities.  The bad thing about Facebook is that some of those people previously only met on Death Row.  And as Sartre said, hell is other people.

 

 

 

 

@scleland: Why Did Google & Facebook Stop Competing With Each Other?

Good thing Renata Hesse is on the case!

The evidence shows that Google & Facebook — by far the world’s most dominant Internet gatekeepers – are not an Internet advertising “duopoly,” but worse, two separate Internet advertising monopoly platforms, one in search advertising and another in social media advertising.

That’s because search and social media advertising are not competitive substitutes for each other, but are proving to be synergistic advertising complements to each other in company marketing campaigns, because generally search advertising excels at lead generation and local business visibility while social media advertising generally excels at building brand awareness and interactivity with consumers.

Tellingly, after beginning to directly compete in social in 2011 and in search in 2013, Google and Facebook both abruptly, coincidentally, and effectively stopped competing directly with each other in both the search and social media markets in 2014.

Apparently, they either jointly agreed in 2014 to divide up the marketplace and no longer directly compete with each other to maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability; or they concluded independently — from their initial directly competitive forays into the other’s core markets — that the other commanded unbeatable monopoly network effects, so not directly competing with each other would maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability.

This profound lack of competition among the world’s two most dominant Internet edge platforms is highly relevant to: the EU antitrust charges against Google in search, mobile, and advertising, and the EU’s privacy investigations into Google and Facebook; antitrust authorities’ antitrust investigations of Google and these markets in the U.S. and around the world; and also the FCC’s core competitive assumptions underlying its Open Internet Order, and its proposed Title II ISP privacy rules and Set-Top Box unbundling rules.

Read the post on the Precursor Blog