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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Trouble With Facebook

Despite the denials, the stories about Facebook’s bias are real. But the bias isn’t there because of the company’s new technology. Facebook is biased because of its reliance on the biased old media.

Facebook’s trending topics wasn’t the automatic system that the company wanted people to think it was. Instead it hired young journalists with new media experience to “curate” its news feed. And plenty of them proved to be biased against conservative news and sources. Meanwhile someone at the top of Facebook’s dysfunctional culture wanted to play up Syria and the Black Lives Matter hate group.

Mark Zuckerberg’s fundamental mistake was recreating the biases and agendas of the old media in a service whose whole reason for existing was to allow users to create their own experience. The big difference between social and search is that social media is supposed to let you be the curator.

But, like Facebook’s trending topics, social curation was another scam. Facebook users don’t really define what they see. It’s defined for them by the company’s agendas. This includes the purely financial. It would be foolish to think that the fortunes that Buzzfeed spends on Facebook advertising don’t impact the placement of its stories by Facebook’s mysterious algorithm. And there is the more complex intersection of politics and branding in an age when business relevance means social relevance.

Twitter piggybacked on the Arab Spring to seem relevant. Facebook has used Black Lives Matter. Social media needs to be associated with political movements to seem more important than it is. Zuckerberg doesn’t want to head up a shinier version of MySpace that was originally set up to rate the attractiveness of Harvard girls. Being socially relevant is better for business. Especially when the business is vapid at its core.

Social media needs social relevance to disguise the narcissism at the center of its appeal.

Finally, a company worth hundreds of billions of dollars is not about to let users define their own experience even if that’s what they signed up to do. Facebook does not empower users. It seeks to shape and control their experience for its own power and profit. Facebook’s news feed is just as curated as its trending topics. The news feed depends more on algorithms, but those are still shaped by agendas even if they aren’t as simple as overworked left-wing journalism majors spitefully purging stories about IRS corruption from the trending topics on the right.

The entire purpose of the feed, the firehose of content blasting across your Facebook page, was to create a common experience with individualistic touches that the company could control. Facebook was moving from the personal to the impersonal. The social media company was trying to become more like the media that it had replaced. Its current publishing alliance with the New York Times shows just how mainstream it is trying to become.

Zuckerberg’s dirty little secret is that he’s not a visionary. His vision for Facebook is a platform for old media. His endgame is a bunch of stories and videos from all mainstream media companies. But the only reason for those companies to set up shop on Facebook is access to its huge user base. And that base has to be tricked into believing that the mainstream media content it’s seeing in its feed is there by choice.

Facebook’s trending topics is a window into its future. It’s a biased future that recreates the same biases and agendas of the news media. Because that’s what Facebook is meant to become.

The company is much more interested in media than in people. The more Mark Zuckerberg tries to be progressive, the more he misunderstands the critiques of his lack of empathy. And so Facebook’s evolution leverages its user base while trying to turn them into passive consumers of corporate content.

Meanwhile the New York Times and other media companies roll out native advertising with fake news stories that promote real products and which exist only to trick people into clicking on them. The biggest business on Facebook is high end spam overseen by major journalists and famous brand names.

All of this is alienating Facebook users. Active usage is falling sharply. Fewer users are sharing personal content. Personal update sharing fell 15 percent this year and 21 percent for the years before. But that’s what Zuckerberg wants. Facebook is becoming less of a personal site and more of a political one. Instead of millions of people trading baby announcements and family reunion photos, it’s evolving into a collective stream of ads and news stories that is indistinguishable from the mainstream media.

Facebook is not driven by user curated content or by an impersonal collection of algorithms. Like CNN or the New York Times, its agenda emerges from the political views and economic needs of its leadership. Its algorithms are not impersonal data driven metrics, but as human curated as its trending topics. The personal views of Facebook users are becoming as relevant as the comment page under a CNN story.

What Facebook wants you to believe is that it is researching how to cater to your tastes and interests, but what it’s really doing is figuring out how to convince you to click where it wants you to. It has morphed from a social media company to a media company. The social part is increasingly a scam.

Even if Mark Zuckerberg did not set out to discriminate against conservatives, the transformation from social media to mainstream media baked in the bias as a structural flaw. In an ecosystem dominated by mainstream media and its ad labs, conservative news will automatically be relegated to a dusty corner for the same reasons that trending topics curated by journalists would purge conservative news stories.

The internet counters institutional bias with open access. Facebook is institutionalizing all the existing biases in the media industries that it wants to absorb. It can’t become less open without becoming more biased. The less control users have over content, the more their experience is dictated by big picture corporate agendas and the low level content screeners who decide whether your post is offensive.

Facebook isn’t a social experience anymore. It’s a massive content machine that agrees to occasionally let you show off your baby shower pictures underneath fake viral content from its media partners. Its leadership, its employees, contractors and its media partners don’t like conservatives. And it shows.

Facebook doesn’t want to know what you think. It wants to tell you what to think. And it wants to do it while pretending that it was your idea all along.

20 comments:

David Foster said...

The thing to keep in mind about FB is that you are not the customer. You are not even the product. You are the raw material out of which the product is made.

Al Temail said...

Good stuff Daniel. Dear old Mark has an agenda that is not understood by his FB devotees.
If he can "control" the 50% of weak minded Americans ..... he can buy and sell elections in every corner of the country.
The question is, what is his motivation, power or money?

meema said...

Zuckerberg’s motive is fed by the same drive all true liberals suffer from - rabid self-righteousness. They truly believe they are ‘right!’ and you will like it or you will be crushed by their self-righteous determination to prove how right they are. It’s a mental and spiritual disorder.

I was never attracted to the concept of FB or most other social media. I still use email to share family news and pics, but then I’m old and fiercely independent. I hate being or feeling manipulated. I find I have mastered some serious dodging skills from constant sidestepping, weaving in and out, whether online or out shopping in brick and mortar stores avoiding the sales pitch. Online I will not enter a shopping site that demands my email address before I can look at their wares. In a store I will not give them my email affress just so I can purchase their goods.

It’s exhausting and I happen to believe it is reaching saturation point thus I see signs of consumerism waning. Add to that regardless the bogus unemployment numbers, people have less money to spend which is the dynamic that most influences trends. Doing without, thinking smaller and more simply, repairing instead of replacing, repurposing, these are not new coping skills. It’s just how humans behave when reality trumps illusion.

The sellers of product or ideology are always the last to find out that while people can be controlled for awhile, they always end up doing what they have to do in the interest of survival. History refers to this as revolution. Facebook and all other people herding systems cannot overcome the final reality of human nature - people are fickle and fall away as easily as they rally.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Deception and dissimulation are now so rampant in every field that surely one of two things must happen very soon:

1. A complete breakdown of all standards of honesty, trustworthiness, and competence in action; or:

2. A massive revolt in the direction of honesty, trustworthiness, and competence that either extinguishes the opposition or fences it off impermeably.

Needless to say, outcome #2 is the preferable one, but once the little marble is rolling only God can control where it lands...and He's not giving any hints.

Holly Kilpatrick said...

I love your articles. However, I use Facebook to network with other owners and breeders of my dog breed around the world, and it is amazingly effective for that. We could really say that Facebook has improved the genetics of our rare breed. I also take online dog training courses that have many associated Facebook groups. This enables trainers from around the world to exchange ideas, build relationships, and enjoy interaction with others who share these interests. I don't know anything about trending news, I must have those things turned off. It is true that much of the chatter on FB is liberal, and I hide that stuff regularly.

Anonymous said...

"The question is, what is his motivation, power or money?"

Power and money are just two commodities among many in the psychopathic mind. As such they are not motivations but rather the preferred diet of a parasite.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"The company is much more interested in media than in people. The more Mark Zuckerberg tries to be progressive, the more he misunderstands the critiques of his lack of empathy."

This is the key point, with a twist.

Zuckerberg is the prime example of the cognitive elite and its risk to human freedom. The guy will do anything to remain relevant/famous, and that means increasing control of the user experience. Like any/every central planner, he seeks to limit choices, because more choice means chaos.

He's on the record as admiring the Chinese political/economic system. He fiercely supports Obama's neo-Peronism, because he is one of the corporate beneficiaries. Big media means big money, and big money means more material acquisitiveness, which is their lock on power. Distributed, dispersed, diverse media is their apocalypse. The diversity-obsessed Left is aligned with the statists and central planners, which is an odd combination, since the statists and central planners hate diversity.

Hating diversity is part of Zuckerberg's DNA. He doesn't care about it, he just wants to be around uber-high-IQ people, because they share his values. In the end, it's not his lack of empathy, it's his distaste for humanity, yours and his own. This is true of Eric Schmidt his minions in the Googleplex, too. Zuckerberg, et al, can't get past the human condition, Original Sin, man as a fallen creature, or whatever other euphemism you prefer. The fact is that he is a dogmatic materialist... that's his metaphysics. He looks at human beings as bumbling sacks of protoplasm: as blobs of matter. And like all matter, these blobs can be quantified, statistically analyzed and manipulated, particularly the narcissistic persons who vomit (post) their every whit, thought and dalliance every day. He's feeding them digital crack from a digital Pez dispenser: the Glowing Box. Look at me! Look at me! I wiped my own ass today!

The truth is that Zuckerberg views himself as a logical mathematical machine, and thinks that you're one, too. He believes your Essence and individuality as a human person can be captured in a single, glorious algorithm, which he can copyright. Trouble is that it never works out that way, thank God. Human creativity and the yearning for freedom have a way of surprising us all. Just don't tell Zuckerberg, Schmidt or Obama. They are mirror images of each other, so let Narcissus gaze...

Tom Jenkins said...

It's not "power or money" money is power. The two things are inseparable.

M. S. said...

Dear Dan,

Good analysis Daniel. A friend of mine put me on to your site recently.

Facebook is far from mere experimentation IMHO. Americans for Innovation lays it out bare. Suggest you pick up on their irrefutable findings of fact. Here's the link. There are over 100 entries, so suggest you read from most recent post backwards. Also, the timeline is devastating to doubt that the three letter agency and their "public-private partnership" cronies CREATED the entire social media phenomenon founded on the social networking invention of Columbus, Ohio innovator Leader Technologies"

http://americans4innovation.blogspot.com

Here's the timeline and bibliography:

http://www.fbcoverup.com/docs/cyberhijack/cyber-hijack-findings.html

http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/

Soothsayer said...

Often it is self-imposed censorship due to political belief. The liberal-left cannot allow themselves to see that immigration is killing their country and will eventually destroy liberal socialism.

Infidel said...

lol, thanks, one of my favorite topics :)

I'm scared of using FB, rarely use it any more.

Anonymous said...

FB is a sign of a declining national IQ. Remember when we used to refer to "readership", now we refer to "viewership". Don't worry about the news, I will be surprised if most of our population is even literate in 50 years. Go to a fast food restaurant and look at the register. Pictures of the items for sale on the register, not numbers. FB is perfect for the age. You get to post your selfies and look at yourself on the internet, pretending you are famous, and in return you click on advertisements for crap. What a bargain.

Anonymous said...

Facebook : Becoming the new "Ministry of Truth" (1984 : George Orwell)

Dennis Latham said...

He was in Cincinnati a few years back for a meeting. He brought something like 20 bodyguards and hired off-duty Cincinnati Police who knew the town to add to the detail. A total of about 32 armed bodyguards for one meeting while he stayed in town. My friend's brother got 4000 for two days work. And I'll bet Zuckerberg is for gun control for us peasants. Why would anyone need 30 bodyguards?

Daniel Greenfield said...

Dennis, mind if I use that info?

Anonymous said...

This essay on moral narcissism will further explain FB and Zuckerberg:

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/moral-narcissism-least-great-generation/

Anonymous said...

Barry.o and chuckyberg, what a wonderful pair on the right side of the ‘story’. In fact, lefties don´t like ‘history’, just in case someone might remember better times. In that sense they are a bit like ISIS and their fixation with ancient roman ruins. They both don´t like Israel either. Now that erasing countries is almost done, they make one and it works, outraging. Chucky we need more BDS bullshit feeds¡ This is a serious job¡ and Barry.o rides away on his trike.
(Vast Reality Conspiracy Member)

gstarr said...

I see the end of Fakebook in about 5-10 years as it becomes indistinguishable from the MSM. Just another irrelevant website.

The Millenials will grow up and grow bored as real issues take hold in their lives.

I cut the Fakebook cord years ago along with Twitter and haven't looked back. I've never owned a smart phone

It's like getting and staying out of the Matrix. It's called freedom.

Dennis Latham said...

Daniel: You can use that info. It's all true. Guys like him want constant protection, but they don't want us to be able to protect ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Terrific editorial-cartoon commentary on the inanity of Facebook here: http://www.gocomics.com/chanlowe/2012/05/18#mutable_785626

Cartoonist is Chan Lowe, then at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Sampling other cartoons by him suggests that he's an unreflective leftist.

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