Fifteen Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook
April 17, 2019 9:29 AM   Subscribe

In early 2018, Mark Zuckerberg set out to fix Facebook. Here's how that turned out.

WIRED delves into Facebook's last (and difficult) fifteen months, since Zuckerberg publicly vowed to fix the social media giant.

A fascinating read for Facebook users, ex-Facebook users, or anyone who would like a glimpse at what it would be like to be at Facebook in these uncertain times.
posted by vitout (64 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Fizz at 9:39 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


*shrug*

I'm deploying Medium Chill for all interactions with billionaires these days.
posted by Horkus at 9:45 AM on April 17 [18 favorites]




Have we entered the schadenfreude stage yet? If not, don't bother.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:51 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Something about the article puzzles me, and I"m not certain if I'm the one who's missing something or Mark Zuckerberg is...
Earlier that month Facebook had unveiled a major change to its News Feed rankings to favor what the company called “meaningful social interactions.” [...] The changes would favor interactions between friends, which meant, among other things, that they would disfavor stories published by media companies.
So if I understand that correctly: Facebook was going to be upping "Users making posts and interacting with their friends" and de-emphasizing "stories published by media companies". But....what if you have a user where most of what they post is just links to stories published by media companies?

Like, it sounds like Facebook was going to train its algorithm to tell the difference between "Ethyl Franklin making posts" and "FOX news making posts". But how does the system account for "Ethyl Franklin makes a post linking to FOX news"? Because, hell, a lot of people do post nothing but "stories published by media companies".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


So there's that meme going around about how recipes shouldn't start out with a short essay about how your grandmother's kitchen taught you about love, death, and paprika. I've ALWAYS felt the same way about magazine articles:

THE STREETS OF Davos, Switzerland, were iced over on the night of January 25, 2018, which added a slight element of danger to the prospect of trekking to the Hotel Seehof for George Soros’ annual banquet. The aged financier has a tradition of hosting a dinner at the World Economic Forum, where he regales tycoons, ministers, and journalists with his thoughts about the state of the world

fucking what?
posted by es_de_bah at 9:59 AM on April 17 [37 favorites]


This is the bit I keep coming back to (emphasis added):
Some of the company’s most senior execs, notably Chris Cox, agreed that Facebook needed to give serious publishers a leg up. Others pushed back, especially Joel Kaplan, a former deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush who was now Facebook’s vice president of global public policy. Supporting high-quality outlets would inevitably make it look like the platform was supporting liberals, which could lead to trouble in Washington, a town run mainly by conservatives. Breitbart and the Daily Caller, Kaplan argued, deserved protections too. At the end of the climactic meeting, on July 9, Zuckerberg sided with Kaplan and announced that he was tabling the decision about adding ways to boost publishers, effectively killing the plan. To one person involved in the meeting, it seemed like a sign of shifting power. Cox had lost and Kaplan had won. Either way, Facebook’s overall traffic to news organizations continued to plummet.
Republicans worked the refs so hard that they won; they got a top Bushie in an executive position declaring that the company would look biased if the platform pointed people toward high-quality news sources.
posted by zachlipton at 10:01 AM on April 17 [96 favorites]


Republicans worked the refs so hard that they won; they got a top Bushie in an executive position declaring that the company would look biased if the platform pointed people toward high-quality news sources.

And it happened because techies thought they were the smartest people in the room, and thus didn't have to learn the rules of the political game. We see something similar in this exchange:
As it turned out, most of the lawmakers proved astonishingly uninformed, and the CEO spent most of the day ably swatting back soft pitches. Back home, some Facebook employees stood in their cubicles and cheered. When a plodding Senator Orrin Hatch asked how, exactly, Facebook made money while offering its services for free, Zuckerberg responded confidently, “Senator, we run ads,” a phrase that was soon emblazoned on T-shirts in Menlo Park.
This illustrates the chasm of understanding that surrounds Silicon Valley. Within, this was seen as Zuckerberg "schooling" a Senator. But without, it was Facebook basically stating that they were in a business seen by many as amoral and predatory.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:10 AM on April 17 [17 favorites]


Like, it sounds like Facebook was going to train its algorithm to tell the difference between "Ethyl Franklin making posts" and "FOX news making posts". But how does the system account for "Ethyl Franklin makes a post linking to FOX news"? Because, hell, a lot of people do post nothing but "stories published by media companies".

Then it shows ALL those posts to 3 people, and slowly buries all their other posts until basically no one sees them.

I've watched this happen to several older family members. Basically, you get effectively shadowbanned

I, honestly, don't even totally hate this
posted by emptythought at 10:11 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I've ALWAYS felt the same way about magazine articles

Yeah the amount of magazine articles that begin with a purple half-sentence of weather description is curious to me.
posted by little onion at 10:11 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


I imagine it comes out of a goal to hook with a beautiful or humanizing element that is sufficiently grounded in your story, but it's weird in aggregate.
posted by little onion at 10:12 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


fucking what?

Not everyone wants bullet points for everything.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:13 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


> When a plodding Senator Orrin Hatch asked how, exactly, Facebook made money while offering its services for free...

If you're an infinity-term U.S. Senator I guess you can get away with putting in less prep work for a televised committee hearing regarding matters of international importance than I did for the five-minute presentation I had to give at my last public library departmental staff meeting.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:20 AM on April 17 [16 favorites]


I deleted my account a few months before the Cambridge Analytica news and sometimes get a little urge to come back to participate in one thing or another, but just can't stomach it. It's not just Facebook's selling out of American democracy, it's the company's utter contempt for its users.

My biggest takeway from this article is that the pushback following Cambridge Analytica has lost momentum, and that Facebook is eager to be a paid member of the Republican hate and propaganda machine.
posted by exogenous at 10:21 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


Not everyone wants bullet points for everything.

Translating this sentence to first-order logic is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by thelonius at 10:24 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


If you're an infinity-term U.S. Senator I guess you can get away with putting in less prep work for a televised committee hearing regarding matters of international importance than I did for the five-minute presentation I had to give at my last public library departmental staff meeting.

And there's that "smartest person in the room" mentality. I seriously doubt that Hatch - who had been doing this sort of thing for years - did not know how Facebook made their money. The point of the question is to get Mark Zuckerberg to state how - and to do it in a manner that would be rather unsympathetic. And Zuck happily stepped into the trap put before him.

One would think that techies would look at the widespread use of ad blockers and realize how unpopular the ad business is to people.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:27 AM on April 17 [22 favorites]




I am fascinated by Zuckerberg’s jealousy of Instagram, strong enough that he’s willing to kneecap his own company because he’s upset that it’s competing (or “competing”) well against the company he founded. Just another example of how behind the bluster and techspeak he’s as capable of ego-driven mistakes as anyone else.

I would happily follow the founders of Instagram to a new venture and fully disengage from the Facebook empire.
posted by sallybrown at 10:29 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]


(Also, the Instagram jealousy anecdote is a good data point for those of us who wonder how much of an effect it has to delete Facebook but not Instagram. It sounds like Zuckerberg pays significant attention to how his original baby is doing regardless of Instagram’s health.)
posted by sallybrown at 10:31 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


One would think that techies would look at the widespread use of ad blockers and realize how unpopular the ad business is to people.

So, instead, according to The Economist, they're out there screwing poor Afghans for promoted posts instead else their visibility drops among their own networks.
The biggest problem of late has been Facebook itself. It is impossible to run an online store any other way, says Mr Ullah; other, unsubsidised mobile data is too pricey. But relying on Facebook means that to reach his potential customers he has to buy advertisements from it. Recently, as the social network has tried to reduce the clutter on its users’ feeds, the price of advertising has gone up. Mr Ullah complains that it currently costs him $10 to reach 1,000 customers. Previously, he could get to four times as many for that amount. His weekly advertising bill has soared. “I need a real shop,” he says.

who cares, right? you've already bombed their economy back to the stone age
posted by hugbucket at 10:35 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I hate Facebook. I need to use it for various reasons, but have not installed FB, Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram (or any Amazon apps, for that matter) on my new phone, and I access it on desktop using Firefox's Facebook Containter. And yet... and yet! Family members still want to use the stupid thing to communicate in ways that desktop and FF don't really support, and then grumble when I refuse to install Messenger etc.
posted by JamesBay at 10:35 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Supporting high-quality outlets would inevitably make it look like the platform was supporting liberals

I remember a time when it seemed like amateur, user-generated content on the internet would be better, more honest, more democratic, more local, more diverse than the big media outlets that everybody was getting their news from. A time when I would have been immediately suspicious of who gets to define "high quality."

What too many people missed, what too many people still miss, was how easily rich bastards would be able to game the systems used to find and disseminate that supposedly grass-roots reporting and analysis.

Somebody's
gonna be deciding what news you see. The best we can do is fight for more transparency about who that someone is and hope to make informed decisions about how much we trust them.
posted by straight at 10:41 AM on April 17 [25 favorites]


how easily rich bastards would be able to game the systems

And by that I don't think it was easier than we thought but that the bastards are richer than we can intuitively grasp.
posted by straight at 10:46 AM on April 17 [10 favorites]


Human nature being what it is, I don't think Facebook or any other social media giant can truly be "fixed" even if the people attempting to do the fixing have the purest and most noble of intentions.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:50 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Supporting high-quality outlets would inevitably make it look like the platform was supporting liberals

I feel like this is just a great summary of the current political scene in general. As conservatives double down on outright bullshit, lies, false narratives, and other unrespectable hogwash, they still act entitled to fair consideration, forcing people to capitulate and meet them halfway between wrong and truth. It's obviously a flawed system that can only ever drag us backwards, farther and farther. When you compromise with a republican, they pull their hand back, so you have to take two steps closer to them to make the handshake, and during the shake they pull you back a few more steps. The next time a compromise is reached, the side of justice and morality is over the horizon and you're so far in the red it's no wonder people could refer to Obama just as Bush III.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:51 AM on April 17 [40 favorites]


I've ALWAYS felt the same way about magazine articles

Blame Frank Sinatra... or Gay Talese.
posted by me3dia at 10:54 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


fucking what?

George Soros complaining about Facebook at Davos is literally the event that kicked off the "Fifteen Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook". Unless you complaining the description of the weather. In that case, uh, welcome to magazine articles I guess.
posted by sideshow at 11:10 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


To this emotional story, Facebook had a programmer’s rational response. Nearly every fact in The Guardian’s opening paragraph was misleading, its leaders believed. The company hadn’t been breached—an academic had fairly downloaded data with permission and then unfairly handed it off. And the software that Cambridge Analytica built was not powerful, nor could it predict or influence choices at the ballot box.

But none of that mattered. When a Facebook executive named Alex Stamos tried on Twitter to argue that the word breach was being misused, he was swatted down. He soon deleted his tweets. His position was right, but who cares?


Boy does that article give Facebook hairsplitting way too much credit there.
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


I don't think Facebook or any other social media giant can truly be "fixed" even if the people attempting to do the fixing have the purest and most noble of intentions.

I think when it comes to economics there's a growing sense that there can't be a 'humane' version of capitalism that would still have billionaires, because the processes that allow for the formation of billionaires are the very same processes that are at the root of the various injustices created by free market capitalism. But when it comes to social networks, I think a lot of liberals still have this idea that there could be a 'humane' social network where they would still have the chance to accumulate 100,000 followers. You see this a lot when progressively-aligned people who are Twitter famous go onto Mastodon and then complain about how few followers they have.
posted by Pyry at 11:13 AM on April 17 [14 favorites]


And yet... and yet! Family members still want to use the stupid thing to communicate in ways that desktop and FF don't really support, and then grumble when I refuse to install Messenger etc.

I used Facebook a lot for years, reconnected with people from different segments of my life, but still never gave them my phone number or downloaded them onto my phone. Obviously they have my phone number anyway 'cause other people put it in for them. Over the last year or so as its awfulness have grown clearer I have walked away--I use others, and yeah they're all bad, but I feel like FB is the worst.

What drives me nuts is how so many of my tech-savvier and even more liberal friends use it as basically their only way to communicate. I still have my account to check in once a week or two because it's the only freakin' way some of them operate. If I would want to know someone is going in for surgery or having a baby or lost their job, I'd only know if I'm on fucking Facebook.

And the worst part is? The only way to point that out to them is by going on fucking Facebook, which inevitably leads to "Haha you're on Facebook to tell me to get off Facebook."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:21 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


Somebody's gonna be deciding what news you see.

And that really sums it up. We have a word for that: editing. Deciding what news you see is a job that editors do. Facebook makes editorial decisions based on: a secret algorithm; that's tuned based on Facebook's business interests; that's highly sensitive to feedback loops; with no real mechanism to ask them to fix problems; that applies all over the world despite the company having little to no local awareness what it's doing in entire countries; has no awareness of local/regional/national/international news; and worries about what nonsense Ted Cruz is going to yell at them for this week. That's all a phenomenally stupid recipe to edit the news.

There was a time, years ago, where Zuckerberg liked to talk about news in the broader, more old-fashioned sense that didn't involve Pulitzer prizes, the sense where you'd call up people and say "what's new?" and they'd tell you "the news": "so-and-so had a baby, did you know so-and-so's daughter is engaged, so-and-so's father had a fall and isn't doing too good, my old trick knee is acting up so I think it's gonna rain soon." And it's clear that Facebook would like to return to emphasizing that mode of communication, yet that's not particularly compatible with endless scrolling down the news feed, isn't something the company can just force its users to do if they want to keep posting about politics, and could further destroy the news business.

I don't think its a solvable problem, but there's no globally neutral answer, and Facebook can't keep pretending that there is one.
posted by zachlipton at 11:41 AM on April 17 [11 favorites]


Metafilter: love, death, and paprika.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:48 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


it's the company's utter contempt for its users

I'm shocked, just shocked, that a service that started out as a Hot-or-Not ripoff that most of its users charitably called "Stalkerbook", and has been winging it ever since, would have a contemptuous relationship with its users.

What drives me nuts is how so many of my tech-savvier and even more liberal friends use it as basically their only way to communicate.

Yeah, network effects are a really tough nut to crack. Since Google has run Hangouts into the ground (Y U DO THAT GOOGLE?), FB Messenger is now the dominant way of doing group chats with my friends. There are too many people who don't do email (because they're under the age of 25 and email is for olds people with actual fucking jobs, now get off my lawn), SMS/MMS sucks (someone's phone inevitably garbles them and sends them as a bunch of one-to-one messages, rich media limitations, no good way to add/drop people, not to mention zero security), iMessage is great for the 50% or whatever of people who have iPhones but useless otherwise, and Signal is great if I want to talk to my 4 other security-obsessed friends.

What you are quickly left with as common denominators are FB Messenger, WhatsApp, and—strangely—Instagram's messaging feature (although here you have the reverse problem from email; people over the age of 30, myself included, find using Instagram messages about as logical as Flickr Mail for serious communication). But all of them have one thing in common: they're all run by Facebook.

The slight silver lining is that you can use Messenger without an actual Facebook "account", although I'm sure it's de facto maintaining an account for you in the background. But you can at least not have the main FB app installed on your phone, and just use Messenger without providing it more information than your phone number (which you also need to provide to Signal, so that's par for the course even though I wish it wasn't).

Somebody's gonna be deciding what news you see.

I have a pet Unified Theory of Social Media Shittiness, which basically says that any social network begins to become terrible when it implements an algorithmic newsfeed instead of a straight chronological one. IMO, this is the moment when Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all jumped the shark; it's the stage of the game where they moved from drawing in users by providing a useful/fun service to trying to monopolize more and more of your time and attention, slot-machine style.

The usual excuse for moving away from chronological feeds to algorithmically-optimized "user engagement" maximizing ones, is that chronological feeds become "unmanageable" when people have a certain number of contacts or people start posting a certain amount of content. This is viewed as a problem for the social network operators, but really it's a problem with a straightforward solution—just one that they desperately don't want users to implement.

The solution, if your feed becomes unmanageable, is to start curating your "friends" / contacts, removing people or muting them, until the feed is back to showing stuff from people you're actually interested in. There are lots of ways that you can provide users for turning down the firehose. But that's not what the networks want; they want an excuse to start meddling behind the scenes and A/B testing and generally gaming things to maximize user engagement and eyeball time, while keeping the available pool of content they could show to you huge. And discouraging you from pruning your friends/contacts helps maximize network effects (see above re Messenger) and makes it harder for alternative services to compete.

FWIW, you can now set Twitter back to a chronological timeline, and I encourage everyone who uses Twitter to do this—and if you suddenly feel like you're drinking from a firehose, mute/block/unfollow appropriately. It's a much nicer service when you do this (although still full of dipshits).
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:13 PM on April 17 [31 favorites]


I for one am shocked, shocked I say to learn that Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole. There was literally no evidence of it until this article was brought to my attention.

Seriously, though, Facebook needs to die. As much as I'd rather avoid it, I'll take actually interacting with my friends and family over this clusterfuck of a privacy violation.
posted by tommasz at 12:15 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I am not now nor have I ever been a FB user. My family all knows that if they want me to engage, send me a text or an email. No filter by anyone. As for somebody deciding what news you see, I do not get that. I read about 5 or 6 newspapers a day online. Some liberal some not. I decide what to read. Everyone can do that too. Why would you rely on one source to filter what they think you should read when their incentive is advertising? That is why I read multiple papers. See more than one side to the same issue. The only way nto engage with FB in my opinion i to constantly view everything they do, every decidion they make as in their self interest to maximize profits. Now that is no different from any other company, but most other companies are selling products. As the old trope goes, with FB, you are the product.
posted by AugustWest at 12:24 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


a company trapped by its own pathologies and, perversely, by the inexorable logic of its own recipe for success

Maybe building a healthy online community is inherently incompatible with maximizing profit for a corporation.

Maybe when you have to manipulate users to drive engagement to increase virality to maximize ad impressions to drive revenue growth that's just toxic for real conversations and genuine human interaction.

Maybe a corporate "community" with no moral center just amplifies trolls, scammers, haters and propagandists, because that shit has awesome metrics for virality and ad impressions.

Maybe there's a Gresham's Law for social networks where a little toxicity repels the highest quality participants, which makes the community even more toxic in a downward spiral.

When you have to hire 20,000 people in offshore outsourcing factories to review one post every 8 seconds, maybe that's a clue that you don't have a genuine community anymore.

Maybe we can glimpse the future of healthy online communities in MeFi and Wikipedia, where profit is not the motive.
posted by ascii at 12:26 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Maybe we can glimpse the future of healthy online communities in MeFi and Wikipedia, where profit is not the motive.

Probably the first time I've ever heard Wikipedia described as a "healthy online community" and not a "dystopian nightmare of volunteer patriarchal pedants", but ok.
posted by davros42 at 12:40 PM on April 17 [19 favorites]


Eventually another candidate for the top PR job was brought into the headquarters in Menlo Park: Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the UK....“What makes him incredibly well qualified,” said Caryn Marooney, the company’s VP of communications, “is that he helped run a country.”

When her Facebook gig falls apart, she may have a real future in stand-up.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 12:42 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


zachlipton: Supporting high-quality outlets would inevitably make it look like the platform was supporting liberals

This makes me think about how spam is designed to look sketchy -- The Secretly Smart Reason Scam Emails Are Poorly Written (Mentalfloss)
While a craftier email may get the attention of more people, many of them would turn out to be “false positives” who cut contact with the scammer before handing over any cash. A consistently obvious email narrows down the pool of responders to the most gullible individuals—a.k.a. the people scammers are looking to target.
Seems like fear- and hate-mongering right-wing "news" and spammers follow the same recipe: don't try to be too clever, because that's not your target audience.

Meanwhile, Jack Dorsey Is Captain of the Twittanic at TED 2019 (Emily Dreyfuss for Wired, April 16, 2019)
“We’re on this great voyage with you on the Twittanic,” Anderson told Dorsey after roughly 20 minutes of interrupted back and forth. “There are people in steerage who are saying, ‘We are worried about the iceberg ahead!’ And you say, ‘That is a good point’ and ‘Our boat hasn’t been built to handle it,’ and we’re waiting, and you are showing this extraordinary calm and we’re all worried but we’re outside saying, ‘Jack, turn the fucking wheel!’”

Dorsey stoically listened to this comparison, like the meditative yogi he often talks about aspiring to be. “It’s democracy at stake! It’s our culture at stake! It’s our world at stake!” Anderson continued. “You’re doing a brilliant role of listening, Jack, but can you actually dial up the urgency and move on this stuff? Will you do that?”

“Yeah, yeah, yes,” Dorsey replied, but then added, “We could do a bunch of superficial things to address what you’re talking about, but we need to go deep.”

It’s been more than a year since Dorsey publicly committed to “fixing” Twitter, and figuring out what a platform that encourages healthy discussions looks like. He’s been on a mea culpa tour since then, telling the world—and regulators—that he knows Twitter is broken, that it’s toxic and terrible and that he and the team are planning to radically rebuild it. He reiterated all of this on the TED stage, explaining that he wants to rethink what behavior the site incentivizes, for instance, by possibly getting rid of the like button and de-emphasizing follower counts while emphasizing topical interests instead. He repeated that he wants to focus on maximizing the health of conversations, and prioritizing people spending their time learning on the site, rather than getting outraged or harassed. He admitted Twitter was full of problems, problems he didn’t anticipate 13 years ago when the site was founded, and which he’s still trying to figure out how to solve.
Mea Culpa tour sounds like another sort of Thoughts and Prayers -- saying nice things while doing nothing productive.

These obscenely wealthy men sure have tough lives, I feel sorry for their unbearable burden of trying to balance being billionaires thanks to their social media platforms while also trying to not destroy the world.

Or they could just quit their gigs, live off of their obscene wealth and let someone else try for a while. But I feel like the attention is part of what keeps them going. That, and the absurd amount of money they continue to make.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:44 PM on April 17 [15 favorites]


The hilariously sad thing with Dorsey's TED interview is that they put up a live Twitter feed on the background.

The Internet, of course, promptly Internetted.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:54 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


Eventually another candidate for the top PR job was brought into the headquarters in Menlo Park: Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the UK....“What makes him incredibly well qualified,” said Caryn Marooney, the company’s VP of communications, “is that he helped run a country.”

Well sure. The guy already has practice apologizing after making everyone hate him, so he's all ready for Facebook's usual "sorry sorry, we're trying to delete it" routine whenever anything happens.
posted by zachlipton at 12:55 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


The solution, if your feed becomes unmanageable, is to start curating your "friends" / contacts, removing people or muting them, until the feed is back to showing stuff from people you're actually interested in. There are lots of ways that you can provide users for turning down the firehose.

This is why I'm amazed Twitter still hasn't done away with lists, which lets you create focused groups of people you follow however you want, and then see their tweets chronologically, with as far as I can tell nary a sponsored post. They must HATE it (they sure as fuck don't publicize it much).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:03 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


George Soros complaining about Facebook at Davos is literally the event that kicked off the "Fifteen Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook". Unless you complaining the description of the weather. In that case, uh, welcome to magazine articles I guess.

It is a balmy 70°F in Menlo Park, California, where I type this comment. I have just returned from a middling lunch, selected from the sparse collection of restaurants surrounding my business park. A brisk walk to and from the local Starbucks, and attendant caffeine, has reinvigorated my outlook and forestalled the drowsiness which would naturally accompany such a languorous afternoon. Such prose is used as framing and has its place, but this article in particular was absolutely rife with detailed, fact-based reportage; a description of the weather in Davos, Switzerland was a quite circuitous and wholly unnecessary means of arrival. The article does get back to Davos near the end, but in the intervening 10,000 words, featuring vignettes from California, Washington DC, England, Australia, and beyond, neither the weather nor means of comportment [ice cleats attached to their boots] are ever mentioned. The article is fantastic but that first paragraph would have prompted me to close the tab had I stumbled across that page via any link but a Metafilter FPP.
posted by smokysunday at 1:16 PM on April 17 [8 favorites]


One idea Schroepfer discussed enthusiastically with WIRED involved starting off with just a few examples of content identified by humans as hate speech and then using AI to generate similar content and simultaneously label it.

Hm. Yes. This "Infinite Hate Speech Machine" you suggest seems like a good idea.
posted by lucidium at 2:03 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


Such prose is used as framing and has its place, but this article in particular was absolutely rife with detailed, fact-based reportage; a description of the weather in Davos, Switzerland was a quite circuitous and wholly unnecessary means of arrival.

You’re supposed to imagine yourself on an icy winter night in the Alps, brushing away a dusting of fresh-fallen snow to reveal the lede.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 2:08 PM on April 17 [12 favorites]


I for one am shocked, shocked I say to learn that Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole. There was literally no evidence of it until this article was brought to my attention.

"If we think that Zuckerbergs decisions where bad, in terms of user privacy, just wait until impatient shareholders are in charge."

Scylla or Charybdis...
posted by wildblueyonder at 3:08 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


> "Facebook makes editorial decisions based on: a secret algorithm; that's tuned based on Facebook's business interests; that's highly sensitive to feedback loops; with no real mechanism to ask them to fix problems; that applies all over the world despite the company having little to no local awareness what it's doing in entire countries; has no awareness of local/regional/national/international news; and worries about what nonsense Ted Cruz is going to yell at them for this week."
To be fair that describes Metafilter's moderation process fairly well too, except that it's meat-based, not an algorithm.

And the bit about Ted Cruz…
posted by Pinback at 6:24 PM on April 17


To be fair that describes Metafilter's moderation process fairly well too, except that it's meat-based, not an algorithm.

The CEO of MetaFilter just posted a video of someone at a baseball game getting hit by a pizza. Unclear how this dovetails with MetaFilter's business interests.

Unless... does cortex own a pizza?
posted by Merus at 6:48 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Oh whoops, another mistake. Facebook says it 'unintentionally uploaded' 1.5 million people's email contacts without their consent. They turned their contact uploading feature into a verify-your-account security feature and changed the text, but not the actual underlying feature that imports contacts.

Their response is pretty much, yep, "sorry sorry, we're trying to delete them."
posted by zachlipton at 7:09 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


To be fair that describes Metafilter's moderation process fairly well too, except that it's meat-based, not an algorithm.

Except, you know, the moderators here are human beings who are part of our community and spend hours of their day with angry mefites on the gray where there's a mechanism to discuss moderation for the sake of the community rather than MeFi's business needs plus a way to see every deleted FPP to judge the nature of that moderation for yourself. So not really the same thing at all really.
posted by zachlipton at 7:14 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


... does cortex own a pizza?

He did, but then he ate it; and soon the sewage processing plant will "own" it. It's all part of The Plan.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:35 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]




George Soros complaining about Facebook at Davos is literally the event that kicked off the "FifteenMonths of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook".

Right, because Trump wasn't elected in 2016, over a cascade of the phrase 'fake news' crashing in and out of meaninglessness. What was the relevant platform, again?
posted by es_de_bah at 11:16 PM on April 17


As long as one single, profit-making advertising based company handles the daily conversation of 2.7 billion people things will be a little weird.
posted by Termite at 4:15 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


One idea Schroepfer discussed enthusiastically with WIRED involved starting off with just a few examples of content identified by humans as hate speech and then using AI to generate similar content and simultaneously label it.

Hm. Yes. This "Infinite Hate Speech Machine" you suggest seems like a good idea.


That's what a Generative Adversarial Network does - create new data based on exemplars and attempt to label it. They're used when you have a sparse input dataset. Sadly, there's no shortage of hate speech available. It's a totally unnecessary approach; vainly hoping an algorithm can solve an, ultimately, human problem.
posted by combinatorial explosion at 5:48 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Imagine that GAN with a BCI output feed.
posted by hugbucket at 6:59 AM on April 18


"If we think that Zuckerbergs decisions where bad, in terms of user privacy, just wait until impatient shareholders are in charge."

Scylla or Charybdis...


I read the Medium piece behind the link, and it's just more tiresome Zuckerberg hagiography.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:02 AM on April 18


Zuckerbreg won't be dethroned until someone creates something with less friction and can figure out a way to push the hosting costs on the end user because the cost of hosting drops WAY down once you have the size to get zero cost peering with the big telcos.

The zero cost peering arrangements creates a barrier to enrty in favor of the incubents.


... does cortex own a pizza?
He did, but then he ate it; and soon the sewage processing plant will "own" it. It's all part of The Plan.


The process will be compiled into a fund raising video. In the response to its posting humanure will be suggested and then shot down due to shipping laws.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:08 AM on April 18


Isn’t the real issue that Facebook has successfully alienated all but its least discerning users. It’s literally AOL at this point. The only way forward is down.
posted by Middlemarch at 11:28 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I don't expect the Facebook killers to be any one single app. Unlike most of the current crop of users generating content, I'm old enough to watch web 1.0 evolve into 2.0 and this monstrosity which is a rat king of five giants. There's going to be a next web and it'll be native to the smartphone obvs. With interconnectivity but no ginormous singular walled gardens driven to scale by the merry band of investors.

Look at this interesting thing I came across - it sounds like a load of bullshit but its still been written up, framed and positioned, and thrown out there. A voter enabled digital platform. On blockchain of course.

Is it necessarily going to survive and grow? Who knows but there's probably hundreds of clones like it popping up everywhere, for PC browser internet as well as smartphone apps etc.

May a thousand flowers bloom.
posted by hugbucket at 1:52 PM on April 18


And Facebook is fighting the FCC over the latter holding Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook’s privacy failures:
"The discussions about how to hold Zuckerberg accountable for Facebook's data lapses have come in the context of wide-ranging talks between the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook that could settle the government's more than year-old probe," the Post wrote.

According to NBC, FTC officials are "discussing whether and how to hold Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for the company's history of mismanaging users' private data." However, NBC said its sources "wouldn't elaborate on what measures are specifically under consideration."

According to the Post, one idea raised during the probe "could require [Zuckerberg] or other executives to certify the company's privacy practices periodically to the board of directors."

But it's not clear how likely the FTC is to target Zuckerberg in a final settlement, and "Facebook has fought fiercely to shield Zuckerberg as part of the negotiations, one of the sources familiar with the probe said," the Post wrote.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:51 AM on April 19


I wish it were otherwise but given the current political situation, I can't help but wonder if any action from a regulatory agency coming down on a platform like Facebook right now -- especially one that's targeting Zuckerberg as personally responsible, which strikes me as fantastically unusual -- is less about establishing regulatory baselines for citizen friendly privacy controls, and more about exerting pressure on Zuckerberg to be even further cooperative with conservative propaganda, normalizing it as on equal footing to journalism, and otherwise firming up social media as a disinformation outlet that an increasingly alt-ier right can use to secure influence (on top of indulging their own black hunger for waging war against anything that might require accountability of any kind from them, as any oversight or even independent notion of truth would).

Zuckerberg is especially privileged, and like many of that class, almost certainly dismissive or even contemptuous of the concerns of others, and has probably only *barely* had to reckon with even the idea of his own blind spots in the last 2-3 years. And that's probably the best case scenario, if that's what most of his limitations come down to and he really has some values outside of that he'd like to see reflected in social media, some kind of legacy to leave the world there. It's certainly possible he's a worse person than that.

And yet he has reasons to care about Facebook as a personal reflection of him that arbitrary shareholders absolutely do not.

In a more conventional time, even a Republican-directed regulatory arm might care about ultimate accountability for their policies.

We're far enough out from norms right now -- we are close enough to Republicans fulfilling the full measure of their ideological commitment to a government which can't be trusted to do anything right -- that I think it's a safer bet to rely on the character of Mark Zuckerberg and market alternatives than on regulators.
posted by wildblueyonder at 6:25 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]




Facebook founder - "Break up Facebook":
The government must hold Mark accountable. For too long, lawmakers have marveled at Facebook’s explosive growth and overlooked their responsibility to ensure that Americans are protected and markets are competitive. Any day now, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to impose a $5 billion fine on the company, but that is not enough; nor is Facebook’s offer to appoint some kind of privacy czar. After Mark’s congressional testimony last year, there should have been calls for him to truly reckon with his mistakes. Instead the legislators who questioned him were derided as too old and out of touch to understand how tech works. That’s the impression Mark wanted Americans to have, because it means little will change.

We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.

It is time to break up Facebook.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:39 AM on May 9 [3 favorites]


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