Why Can’t We #DeleteFacebook?: 4 Reasons We’re Reluctant

Facebook Addiction

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is still reverberating in the media, garnering almost as much daily coverage as when the story broke in The New York Times on March 17. Facebook’s mishandling of user data has catalyzed a collective public reaction of disgust and indignation, and perhaps the most prominent public manifestation of this is the #DeleteFacebook movement. This vocal campaign is urging us to do exactly what it says: To vote with our feet. To boycott. To not just deactivate our Facebook accounts, but to eliminate them entirely. Continue reading

Curiosity Killers and Finding the Golden Mean of Digital Consumption

YouTheData.com is delighted to feature a guest post by John Gray, the co-founder of MentionMapp Analytics. 

Egyptian cat god Hunefer

Love them or can’t stand them, cats and memes have clawed their way into our cultures. Undoubtedly there’s a hieroglyphic cat meme etched on a wall somewhere in the historical ruins of Egypt. Believing otherwise, is to suggest that ancient peoples were humorless. Amusement, cats and memes aren’t new cultural considerations, just like today’s misinformation problem – popularized as “fake news” – isn’t either.

As William Faulkner said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” We can’t escape the history of information and communication technologies, but we can choose to blithely ignore it’s evolution and the subsequent cultural, social, and political impact.  Continue reading

If you aren’t paying, are your kids the product?

There’s a phrase – from where I don’t know – which says: “If you aren’t paying, you’re the product.”  Never has this felt truer than in the context of social media. Particularly Facebook, with its fan-pages and features, games and gizmos, plus never-ending updates and improvements. Who is paying for this, if not you…and what are they getting in return? The answer is actually quite straightforward.

children

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All teens make mistakes, but hyperconnected Generation Z faces steeper consequences

Teenage Young Teen Youth Portrait Tween Casual

Last week a young contestant on a British reality TV show was left humiliated after producers chose to remove him from the program’s Australian jungle setting after just a couple of days. Their reason? Tweets and social media messages sent in 2011, when the vlogger was in his teens.

Now let’s be clear, the things that Jack Maynard said were unpalatable and offensive. They are not acceptable sentiments in any scenario, and certainly not from someone with a YouTube reach of several million and an incredible leverage over (predominantly) teenage girls.  Nevertheless, watching a young man’s fledgling media career left in tatters should prompt us to sharpen our focus on an increasingly important question: in our hyperconnected era, to what extent can we punish and pillory the adult for the sins of the teen?   Continue reading

The rise of the tech police: Are we handing too much power to our digital masters?

police2

It was reported this week that Twitter had stripped several far-right and white supremacist accounts of their blue “verification” badge. According to Twitter spokespeople, the badge – which was introduced to verify the authenticity of accounts belonging to high-profile individuals – had come to signify an implicit endorsement from the company. A sort of stamp of Twitter approval.

Now, it is understandable, if not laudable, to retract anything that so-much as hints at approval when it comes to such ignorant and warped individuals. But, it does also open a rather large bag of worms.  Continue reading

Facebook wants you naked…and it’s for your own good

revenge porn

***UPDATE: Contrary to yesterday’s reporting, the BBC has now corrected its article on Facebook’s new “revenge porn” AI to include this rather critical detail:

“Humans rather than algorithms will view the naked images voluntarily sent to Facebook in a scheme being trialled in Australia to combat revenge porn. The BBC understands that members of Facebook’s community operations team will look at the images in order to make a “fingerprint” of them to prevent them being uploaded again.”

So now young victims will have the choice of mass humiliation, or faceless scrutiny… Continue reading

Facebook accused of limiting, not championing, human interaction

facebook reactions

Facebook have been in a press a lot this week, and there have been a flurry of articles asking how they might be brought back from the brink. The New York Times asked a panel of experts “How to Fix Facebook?”. Some of the responses around the nature of –and limitations to– our user interactions on the social network struck me as very interesting.

Jonathan Albright, Research Director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, writes:

“The single most important step Facebook — and its subsidiary Instagram, which I view as equally important in terms of countering misinformation, hate speech and propaganda — can take is to abandon the focus on emotional signaling-as-engagement.

This is a tough proposition, of course, as billions of users have been trained to do exactly this: “react.”

What if there were a “trust emoji”? Or respect-based emojis? If a palette of six emoji-faced angry-love-sad-haha emotional buttons continues to be the way we engage with one another — and how we respond to the news — then it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Negative emotion, click bait and viral outrage are how the platform is “being used to divide.” Given this problem, Facebook needs to help us unite by building new sharing tools based on trust and respect.”

Kate Losse, an early Facebook employee and author of “The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network”, suggested:

“It would be interesting if Facebook offered a “vintage Facebook” setting that users could toggle to, without News Feed ads and “like” buttons. (Before “likes,” users wrote comments, which made interactions more unique and memorable.)

A “vintage Facebook” setting not only would be less cluttered, it would refocus the experience of using Facebook on the people using it, and their intentions for communication and interaction.”

According to recent reports, “reactions” are being algorithmically prioritized over “likes”. Why? Well, we might suppose, for the same reason most new features are developed: more and greater insight. Specifically, more insight about our specific emotions pertaining to items in our newsfeed.

Understanding the complexity of something we type in words is difficult. Systems have to understand tone, sarcasm, slang, and other nuances. Instead, “angry”, “sad”, “wow”, “haha”, and “love” make us much easier to interpret. Our truthful reactions are distilled into proxy emojis.

I see two problems with this:

  • The first is that we are misunderstood as users. Distilling all human emotions/reactions into five big nebulous ones is unhelpful. Like many of the old (and largely discredited) psychometric tests questions, these reactions allow us to cut complexity out of our own self-portrayal. This means that, down the line, the data analytics will purport to show more than they actually do. They’ll have a strange and skewed shadow of our feelings about the world. We’ll then, consequently, be fed things that “half match” our preferences and – potentially –change and adapt our preferences to match those offerings. In other words, if we’re already half-misinformed, politically naïve, prejudiced etc., we can go whole hog…
  • The second problem is that discouraging us from communicating our feelings using language, is likely to affect our ability to express ourselves using language. This is more of a worry for those growing up on the social network. If I’m not forced to articulate when I think something is wonderful, or patronizing, or cruel, and instead resort to emojis (“love” or “angry”), then the danger is that I begin to think in terms of mono-emotions. With so many young people spending hours each day on social media, this might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

If there’s a question-mark over whether social network’s cause behavior change, then it’s fine to be unbothered about these prospects, but given Silicon Valley insiders have recently claimed that the stats are showing our minds “have been hijacked”, then perhaps it’s time to pay some heed to these mechanisms of manipulation.

Will Facebook push non-sponsored content to the margins?

facebook

Facebook are currently running trials which demote non-promoted content to a secondary feed, according to the Guardian. The experiment is being run in six countries – including Slovakia, Serbia, and Sri Lanka – and apparently follows calls from users who want to be able to see their friends’ posts more easily.  The test involves two feeds, with the primary feed exclusively featuring posts by friends alongside paid-for content.

Already smaller publishers, Facebook pages, and Buzzfeed-like sites which rely upon organic social traffic, are reporting a drop in engagement of 60-80%.

The article says:

“Notably, the change does not seem to affect paid promotions: those still appear on the news feed as normal, as do posts from people who have been followed or friended on the site. But the change does affect so called “native” content, such as Facebook videos, if those are posted by a page and not shared through paid promotion.”

Experts predict that the move will hit much of the current video content which makes it into our feeds, plus the likes of the Huffington Post and Business Insider. Quite simply, Facebook seems to want to cleanse our feeds of low value content, and encourage media outlets to pay up…

Though the social media platform states it has no plans to roll this out globally, we might reasonably assume that this trial serves some purpose. And who can blame Facebook for experimenting, given the backlash they’ve had recently over so-called “fake news”? The trouble is, here we have another example of an internet giant acting to narrow our online field of vision: if we are only served promoted content, then we are served a skewed and unrepresentative view of the world. The dollar dictates, rather than organic enthusiasm…

Additionally, though our feeds are often cluttered with fake news, mindless cat videos and other questionable content, amongst non-promoted material we also find important movements. These range from social campaigns and awareness drives, to challenging and diverse voices that diverge from mainstream opinion. Some are pernicious, but many are precious, and Facebook ought to be careful they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

It’s an admirable thing to respond to the wants and needs of users, and we shouldn’t be too quick to criticize Facebook here. We just need to be sure that giving clarity doesn’t mean imposing homogeneity.