I’ve Got the Power
Facebook and you.
I couldn’t publish Monday’s edition of NextDraft because I was in the midst of a nearly three day power outage caused by a transformer that was no match for the combo atmospheric river and bomb cyclone that rolled through town. It took my always-on, internet-dependent family about three minutes to panic. By the end of day one, we had discovered an activity to replace devices: screaming at each other. But by hour thirty-six, forced into a single candlelit room, we actually started getting along better than usual. At hour 40, my kids (shockingly) played a duet on the piano. It wasn’t all good news. I had recently purchased my son a trumpet and he chose the power outage as an ideal time to teach himself to play. I mentioned to my friend Dave that I really picked the wrong time to buy my kid a trumpet, and he responded, “There is no right time.” Another interesting thing happened during the power outage. I was mostly offline during the release of the Facebook Papers. Like my own, that story is one about power. The Facebook details are important, but they largely confirm what we already knew about the company. The biggest problem is not that Zuckerberg is making the wrong choices for democracy, it’s, as I’ve said, that one unelected boy king has the power to make those choices in the first place. And he has that power because we, as users, have refused to cut it off by turning off the service. I’m not pointing fingers here. I only turned off my social media when PG&E made me turn it off. Here’s what we know: The rise of social media and the widening of the economic gap have combined to divide us, increase hate, and abet a new rise of authoritarianism. Until we address these two massive global factors — the sociopolitical atmospheric rivers and cyclone bombs of our time — it will be difficult to reverse course. I was offline for three days and I come back to learn that the internet’s biggest, baddest social media company prioritized engagement over the public good, and cash over all else? Next time, don’t turn my power back on until we decide to actually do something about it.
+ Let’s catch up. From WaPo (Gift article for NextDraft readers): Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation.
+ The Atlantic: How Facebook Fails 90 Percent of Its Users. “Internal documents show the company routinely placing public-relations, profit, and regulatory concerns over user welfare. And if you think it’s bad here, look beyond the U.S.”
+ Let’s look beyond the US courtesy of Rest of World: The Facebook Papers reveal staggering failures in the Global South.
+ AP: Facebook froze as anti-vaccine comments swarmed users. (If “froze” means seeing the data and choosing to let the misinfo spread willy-nilly while collecting revenue, then yes, Facebook froze.)
+ Steven Levy in Wired: Facebook Failed the People Who Tried to Improve It. (But it succeeded for the people who benefited from its stock price, which hasn’t been dented during this supposed reckoning.)