In a panic over fleeing advertisers, Facebook launches PR blitz to announce it is "a mirror to society"

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Facebook has subsumed the roles held in earlier eras by the telephone, the newspaper, the tavern and the public square. Never in our history has there been such singular envelopment of the public forum under the control of a single commercially motivated entity. Here in the states Ma Bell and the big oil trusts were broken up for less pervasive consolidation of power.

What does the better alternative look like at at this stage? Going to another extreme - what outcomes might a completely autonomous decentralized non-owned user-controlled network produce? I’d venture that some of the most destructive aspects of facebook are to be due to (for lack of better descriptors) harmonizing and context-flattening characteristics of the medium. Could we design a comms channel that fulfills the functions that our current technologies promise totally absent of structural institutional manipulation - (and if so what would the societal effects look like?) Personally I don’t know, but I would be very keen to find out.




That was my first response too, “Nick Fucking Tory-Whipping Boy Clegg?”


Hey, Mark is right after all; Facebook is a mirror, and that’s Mark talking to his own reflection.


Like in society it does matter where you look and who you associate with. There are for example some lovely fan groups or places to share art.

Yes, there are some places that can make Ankh-Morpork’s The Shades look like a Disney theme park but nobody is telling you to go there.

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Best decision I ever made…I completely nuked my account on Facebook on Nov 20, 2016.

That was the day I saw some Trump guy post that they couldn’t wait until it was time to round up and take care of the Democrats. I reported it and nothing happened (shocking, I know).

Fuck Zuck and fuck Sandberg for good measure.


I guess you are not in US or UK? I agree with core utilities being publicly managed. But in UK and US the best we can hope for, for the time being, is strong and enforced regulation of those. Internet infrastructure is one thing - and ought to be publicly owned and managed. But Facebook is not internet infrastructure (however much they want to persuade some parts of the globe that it is). Those that use the internet infrastructure should be regulated, and that includes Facebook. But if you decide it should be in public ownership then where do you stop? BoingBoing?

As for those who profess that they cannot leave it, I call bullshit. I do not care what the excuse is (I’ll never be able to share with my granny, my friends in the Antarctic, my community group again, etc. If I left the other hundred people in my ‘group’ would not leave too, so I have to stay there with them) they are just not trying hard enough. Campaign among your groups, propose alternatives, and - frankly - if they wouldn’t listen I’d ask myself is this is a group I want to remain part of. Yes, that’s very ‘robust’. Yes, it allows for no subtleties. But the time has come to make Zuckerberg and his cronies - and all those who are its products! - realise things must change. If Facebook disappeared overnight, after a short panic, everyone would find new ways, just fine. (Hopefully some of the old ways, like email.)

Plus what @cepheus42 said a few posts above.


It’s a weird fish that filter-feeds on people’s privacy.

Are these companies stopping FB advertising for good or only for the month of July?

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Some are stopping the advertising through the end of the year. It’s a token gesture, but in combination with the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign that more major brands are joining it’s enough to spook the markets and make FB’s share price fall (the only thing Zuckerberg cares about). That, in turn, has led to this panicked response that does everything except address the actual problem


Exactly. I always wonder what people talk about when they complain so much about other users on Facebook. By all means complain about their advertising and their data hunger and their pernicious influence on political culture but if it’s other users you are bothered by then you desperately need better friends or friends with better friends. I can probably count on one hand the times I have been confronted with Trump, AfD or Brexit followers in the decade or so of my being there in anything but public groups which are basically the equivalent of newspaper comment sections.

On the other hand a lot of my professional contacts depend on being connected on Facebook. My field doesn’t congregate on Linked In and Twitter usage is sporadic.


I think it’s more an expression of general frustration that people they otherwise respect are still on that garbage platform. Personally, beyond setting an example of never having been on it and explaining why when asked, I don’t complain about people I know staying on FB. The people who matter in my life know they can get to me by e-mail and text, etc. and they know not to bother sending me links to FB posts.

That is an area where, if I were in your field, I’d make a more active effort to get people off Facebook and onto a more professionally-oriented and grown-up platform like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is far from perfect, but it’s not the toxic sludge pile that FB is.

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LinkedIn is entirely unsuitable for something like academia. It’s entirely geared towards the corporate world.

And if you want to try to herd a bunch of medieval archaeologists, many of whom are over 65 towards a new platform, be my guest to try.

(I’m not being snarky; it is what it is)


Surely there are professional social networking sites geared toward academia (if not, please let me know – that’s a business opportunity waiting to happen).

Doing your professional networking on Facebook is like choosing to hold an academic conference in a derelict Chuck-E-Cheese that’s filled with rat poop and that has deranged old people shouting racist statements wandering through it, while creepy voyeurs record the attendees’ every move and sell the footage to fascists and grifters.


But that’s my point. It’s more like a fairly clean Holiday Inn in a business park that otherwise contains mostly rat infested Chuck-E-Cheeses. The nature of social networks is that like associates with like and a lot of what I am talking about happens in closed groups with tight entrance requirements and moderation.

There are social networking sites for academia btw. (such as or Researchgate) but they are mainly used as public repositories for papers. If I quickly want a sherd identified by the world’s experts on a specific pottery style, posting it on those will do nothing while asking in the right (closed) FB group will give me a comprehensive answer in minutes.


Any business park that allows that situation to exist is not one any self-respecting professional would go near, unless they see no other options (which seems to be what you’re describing). And I get it about the inertia and lack of imagination.

Thanks. I might have one of my clients look into seeing if either of those sites would want to add real social networking and CV/credentialling functionality into their offerings.

Closed listservs used to accomplish that sort of thing when I was in grad school, many aeons ago.


Oh, and the worst public meltdown and drama I have seen in that world recently was on… a listserv mailing list.

Edit: I actually wrote this comment before reading your answer mentioning listservs. Well, there you go. Plus ça change…

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Yeah, you’re going to get drama and meltdowns on any platform. But you have to admit that a meltdown on a platform that (unlike FB) doesn’t actively encourage and enable them to promote “engagement” is a lot more entertaining (at least before the offender is kicked off – something FB won’t do). All the more so when academics are involved.

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Well just like on a listserv it’s the moderators who would kick the offenders out of the group so Facebook doesn’t really come into it.

But we are clearly going in circles here, I think we have both made our points.