I'm already pretty annoyed with the narrative around the Cambridge Analytica data and Facebook. Granted, Facebook should have done more to ensure the data gathered by skillful developers exploiting weak data protections. That said, if this is your smoking gun for the last election, you weren't paying much attention. CA would probably have not gotten to this point if they had just acted as consultants to help candidates get this data while paying Facebook for the privilege.
That is basically what the Obama campaign did. They used similar permissions to create social graphs of their most loyal voters and responded to that data to try and increase voter turnout. The critical difference is that it was clear what information they were taking, and why they were receiving that data. Now if you had a friend who shared your info for both of these uses, you'd be mad either way.
I'll cede now that details came out that CA grabbed some users' private messages, that there was an overreach here of what regular app partners would get. On the other hand, that's a problem with Facebook's API implementation.
We're spending a lot of time focusing on the "breach" nature of CA and tying it into Russian troll ads, fake news, and the storm of things we blame for electing a bloviating reality gibbon to the White House. There's a weirder undercurrent, the threat to "break up Facebook." What I think that I can pull apart is the idea that we could tear apart the platform and advertising sides of the company. One doesn't exist without the other. Facebook follows you around and tries to get an idea of everything you're doing to make you a particular advertising target; those ads are delivered to you on Facebook, the platform exists itself as an ad delivery service. The rest of your content is ancillary.
Doing a better job of tracking who is buying ads and making sure that they're following the law is something Facebook needs to do. From their recent dust-up around not enforcing Equal Housing laws in ad buys to the Russian Troll ad buys, it's clear that Facebook has to follow the same rules as any other media platform.
There's another rub in things like the story that a Black Lives Matter page was a fraud and took in around a million dollars in donations. It's a simple fix but requires they put in identity verification around group/business pages, but it increases fictions in getting people using the platform.
Facebook isn't the only company vacuuming up your data, which is why FAIR pivots to discussing Amazon and Google. Facebook isn't the only social network, nor is using Facebook mandatory to do anything. The Orange Shitgibbon is governing via Twitter, and people are acting like Facebook is Standard Oil. Every company you do business with is getting as much data on you as possible and creating sophisticated models to predict your behavior. If we actually believe that this something to regulate, it needs to be done correctly. It shouldn't be done to single out Facebook.
It seems to me that this is far more about finding SOMEONE to punish for the 2016 election in some way. The culture has singled out social media as the source of our polarization, but the data doesn't back that up. As I have said previously Facebook doesn't make you an asshole, it just lets everyone else know.
Photo Credit: Thought Catalog Via Flickr
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