CensorshipPoliticsSocial media

Facebook: a digital boot stamping on a human face, forever

The current state of Facebook is an early glimmer of a distinctly possible future where all political expression – all expression, in fact – is tightly controlled by digital companies that arose from Facebook, their ancient ancestor. The ur-digital censor.

If you want more details of what happened at Facebook with leftist censorship, read this Quillette article by a former Facebook employee, who details how it happened.

My own personal beef with Facebook is that I opened a Hector Drummond Facebook account a few months ago, and they banned me immediately after the very first time I used Facebook to do anything, which was to leave a comment at Spiked Online. One comment. I don’t remember what I wrote now, but I’m certain that it wasn’t anything very offensive.

Of course, I wasn’t told that I was banned. Facebook is even more devious than Twitter. It doesn’t openly say you’ve been banned. It says that your account has been disabled while you verify your identity with them. To do that you need to do a few things, including uploading a photo with them. I knew that this was how they forced Thomas Wictor off the platform, so I had no great hopes of overcoming it, but I tried. I sent the photo in, and did everything they asked for. And of course I never got my account back. Despite being small fry my name was on a list somewhere of political undesirables.

I wouldn’t really care – I never had any desire to open a Hector Drummond Facebook account, and the platform seems to be dying anyway with its endless overcomplicated redesigns (the very thing that sunk MySpace) – except that Spiked Online last year went over to a Facebook comments system, and I sometimes like to comment there. (More about that issue anon.)

Anyway, reading about Facebook, and China’s ‘social credit scores’ (which some writers say is exaggerated, but even if so you can be sure it’s giving the wrong sort of people in the West idea), brings back memories of the many science-fiction dystopias I used to read when I was young.  I’m starting to feel glad I’m not going to be around in the 22nd century.

Update: Speaking of Thomas Wictor, here’s an interview he did, back in his music journalist days, with the great Ray Schulman of Gentle Giant. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Gentle Giant? You’re more a Northern Soul man? Sheesh.

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4 thoughts on “Facebook: a digital boot stamping on a human face, forever

  1. There’s only one thing that can be done about Facebook (and Twitter, etc.), and that’s to ignore it in the hope it withers and dies.

    I won’t say the “social media” craze has played out exactly as I expected, but it was obviously flawed from the get-go. There is simply no way to build a monolithic, proprietary, platform that’s immune from censorship. Even if their owners solemnly promise not to interfere, as these single-points-of-failure grow they become targets for governments and politicans.

    The internet was designed specifically to avoid this kind of problem, and the “social media” giants have broken it. Way back in the early days of Facebook, one of the fathers of the ‘net (I can never remember who) said that he didn’t like it because “it isn’t internet-shaped”. It’s always stuck in my mind, even if his name didn’t. We need to return to distributed, federated, “internet-shaped” services.

  2. Would it be possible to create a social network where everything is hosted on the individual device(s), and there is no central point for the State to attack? Rather in the way that the early file sharing systems worked? As I recall with them when you searched for a song you’d get different numbers of available links depending on who was logged on at that point – some people obvious operated their systems like a mini server and left it on 24/7 as their links were always there, but others came and went as they turned their computers on and off.

    Indeed does such a social network already exist? Social media has entirely passed me by, a conscious decision on my part, I just got bad vibes from the whole thing when it was kicking off 10-15 years ago and chose to ignore them. And am very glad I did…….

  3. Jim, yes. Suffice to say that such a system looks very much like the existing internet architecture.

    Sam; yeah, AOL, CompuServe etc, etc with the portal/walled garden idea – pretty much equivalent, really.

  4. >these single-points-of-failure grow they become targets for governments and politicans.

    And the traditional media. A lot of the problems arise because newspapers run campaigns against social media companies saying ‘X allows this and it’s causing a crisis’, and eventually X is forced to act (the latest one being Instagram and teen suicides). Newspapers do this entirely cynically – they’re deliberately intending to create problems for the social media companies, who they see (correctly) as commercial rivals.

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