Facebook’s involvement in political campaigning has sparked a restrictive reaction in the political arena, demanding Facebook take responsibility for the content and activitities. But assuming a restrictive or more activist approach by Facebook is the way – this panic reaction opens a truly alarming scenario.
By Cousin von Erich
Among the billions with no voice and nothing to say? Do you go unnoticed? Maybe you don’t have friends, no life, no family? No worries – if you don’t have a face, Facebook will oblige. Step out of anonymity today. On Facebook we are all celebrities – a fully fake universe of bullshit friends, bullshit identities and bullshit stories. Facebook churns out an enthusiastic mudslide of trivia 24/7. No genuine human interaction needed. In fact, on Facebook we encourage useless photos of dog the prick and cunt the cat. Words like pointless and uninteresting? It is not in our vocabulary! On Facebook we make sure that you stay comfortably numb, thoroughly alienated, and in safe distance from actual humans or remotely meaningful dialogue.
Zuckerberg’s genius was to free the bankable potential in the billions of office mice, nobodies and attention whores. Facebook gave them the ultimate tool to pretend they matter. I publish, therefore I am. Let it be no secret, I loathe and despise Facebook for acting as a saddest surrogate for real human interaction, and I use to marvel at how this non-concept gained momentum.
Paradoxically, it is somehow reassuring to know that Facebook is an effective marketing machine for harvesting and selling on big data for marketing and demographic targeting – at least there is money and getting-ahead-smarts behind Facebook, which again touches on another paradox: Social media users sudden shyness surrounding their self-promoting and fully accessible identities – the privacy issue. “Someone used my Facebook profile – I’m appalled!” No shit Sherlock!
That said, the recent Cambridge Analytica affair has taken it to a new level. In this instance a third party used Facebook as a vehicle in gathering, analysing, processing and profiling data from 50 million Facebook users in a large-scale attempt to actively manipulate electorate behaviour through fake news cycles and targeted propaganda.
The legal layers are several, let alone the short term and long term political implications. Firstly, there is the obvious liability issue between Facebook users and Facebook, then there is the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook relation. Foremost there is the overarching question of how to assess the nature of the specific contractual relation between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in regard to potential direct or indirect liability issues with Facebook users.
How much did Facebook know, did they in effect close their eyes or were they unknowingly taken advantage of? Can Facebook keep claiming to be a mere facilitator and a neutral platform and deny any liability for neither activities nor content on Facebook? How will this outcome affect the business model of Facebook? To complicate matters you have the political wheel in the form of the Trump campaign and the question of using data dubiously obtained.
Facebook’s involvement in political campaigning has sparked a restrictive reaction in the political arena, demanding that Facebook take responsibility for the content and activitities. But assuming a restrictive or more activist approach by Facebook is the way – this panic reaction opens a truly alarming scenario.
Judged by the sheer size and global influence of Facebook it is the time for democratically elected legislators to lay down a set of rules of conduct and oversight procedures for social media organizations as regards to activities pertaining to basic legal rights. As of now it seems that legislators never stopped to think that leaving it to Facebook or any other major player to restrict the freedom of expression poses a much greater threat than neutrality.
No democratic rule of law allows for any government or legislator to outsource the oversight of inalienable rights such as the freedom of expression to any private organization.
The current legal state has left it up to a private organization such as Facebook to restrict and violate the freedom of speech without any democratic legitimacy and to do so without any protective legal rights or structures that at least mirror legal recourse for its users. As of now any political expression stands the risk of being suppressed without any legal justification except a generic reference to not meeting community standards assisted by a convoluted and a fake infuriating non-existent customer service.
It is happening to me right now! The Cousin von Erich facebook page is denied linkage to this magazine for no apparent reason apart from a generic “not meeting community standards” – this is left for Facebook’s discretion to dictate.
This is the real issue! In banking or in the automotive industry, legislators have laid down a set of rules governing an industry. Social media organizations of certain size should meet equivalent requirements laid down by democratically elected legislators. Otherwise you facilitate for a social media organization to turn into a monolithic structure of policing of thought and massive oppression of the freedom of expression. The structures are already there, and Facebook is doing it as we speak.
Privacy, data mining, freedom of expression – we need to act, we need legislation on social media and if Facebook wants to play an integral part of democracy Facebook must step up to the task and fulfil basic democratic requirements and reassurances.