Why Do So Many People Rely On Facebook For Communications, Given Its Arbitrary Removal Process?

from the questionable-platform-reliance dept

The Washington Post has an interesting story about Facebook’s admission that it erroneously took down a widely shared image posted by an anti-Obama group over the weekend. The somewhat viral image (which, as the article notes, isn’t exactly the most truthful of images — but perhaps par for the course when it comes to political speech) was removed after Facebook said it “violated Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” However, people going through Facebook’s official list of Rights & Responsibilities didn’t turn up anything that the content violated.

Leaving aside the question of exaggerated political speech, this raises the same question that we’ve wondered in the past: why do so many people rely on closed platforms today, that allow somewhat arbitrary removal of speech? While Facebook eventually admitted its error, this is hardly the first such case of Facebook deciding what you can or cannot talk about. That’s a tremendously powerful position that Facebook’s users have granted to Facebook in making it their communications platform of choice. Many people will say that this is “the price” that people pay to be on a platform where everyone else is — and that the convenience of Facebook outweighs such costs. But it’s also why so many people are a bit nervous about Facebook these days.

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Comments on “Why Do So Many People Rely On Facebook For Communications, Given Its Arbitrary Removal Process?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I was aware of Facebook when it was still just for college kids, and was dismissive of it as “MySpace for college pukes.” I was similarly dismissive of MySpace, because it was “Geocities for the lazy,” and further, Geocities for being, “AOL for the Blind.”

My point being, I’ve been so dismissive of these things for so long, that even if I wanted to join Facebook, I’d never be able to look anyone in the eye or send a friend invite without overwhelming shame. And I’m glad, because nothing about the site makes me want to join the lazy, blind pukes.

Yakko Warner (profile) says:


Ok, so what’s the alternative? What is the best, open, free service for public communication and disseminating opinion and information?

Facebook and Twitter have had their issues blocking content. Blogs/websites? We’ve seen instances where blogs have been taken down by an over-anxious host faced with a legal threat (even resulting in large numbers of unrelated blogs that happen to reside on the same servers being taken down as collateral damage). Email? Targeted, rather than open and public; doesn’t tend well to public discussion. Cell phones/text messaging? Not when governments can arbitrarily order service shut down.

Is there a service that is so open and free, and also so ubiquitous to be truly useful, that can *not* be subject to influence by some powerful party to censor or shut down?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Alternative?

and also so ubiquitous to be truly useful

Diaspora: ~400,000 users (source)
Facebook: ~1,000,000,000 users (source)

So Facebook has roughly 2,000 times as many users as Diaspora. By Metcalfe’s Law, the utility of a social network is proportional to the square of the number of users, making Facebook about 4,000,000 times more useful as Diaspora for communication. Like it or not, Facebook reaches nearly half of more Americans at least once a month, with a good portion using it far more often. Posting to a site like Diaspora or to a blog, or even Twitter won’t reach anything near that level of exposure.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Alternative?

It’s not a content delivery platform, it is for communication. (OK, they have been making it a content delivery platform – a stupid one. Like us on FB to see our stupid ad! Sure, you’ll have to sign up first.) If you are using FB to communicate asynchronously with friends and family, why do you need “half of more Americans” to see it? And, seriously, “half of more Americans” are looking at everyone’s page?

Also, FB did not start out with all those users. But now it has them and, what, no one should ever use anything else? Fuck innovation. And privacy, control, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Alternative?

Oh also there are other projects like:

GNUNet which will have its own networking protocol, Netsukuku, Osiris SP(not open source), Syndie and others.


But I do have a simpler solution for that problem of privacy, just post everything encrypted so if people want to read it they will have to have a key for it.

You don’t care about the platform you care only about the data, secure the data and the rest is not important.

I have done this in the past I could go to MySpace and post anything, only the people with the keys to open the message would be able to read them, the keys were exchanged using an secure IM like retroshare or gnunet.

You could talk about anything, the pain was having to write an addon(or script) to parse the text and send it decrypted and back to the browser to be read, once that was done there was no problems.

Now that would be ideal, since you could be more relaxed about that data.

It should be a W3C standard LoL

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Alternative?

It’s called the internet. Seriously.

If you’re looking for a single service that can do all the things you want, you’re looking for the wrong thing. Anytime you put so much control into a single entities hands, you’re going to have problems. However, the internet is not a single service. It’s a collection of them, and to use it properly, you must use it that way.

However, more to your point — if you want a single service that can do all those things, your best bet is email. You dismiss it as not open & public, but that’s not true. Email has been used since before the internet for just this sort of purpose, and mailing list software makes the discussions open and public (as well as categorizing the discussion threads and so on). It’s also really easy to use, the software is readily available, and aside from email service itself, you don’t need a company to host anything for you.

In fact, this is one of the things I find odd about Facebook and such: when you boil it down, it’s really just a very gussied up form of age-old mailing list software made less free and open.

Davey says:

Re: Re: Alternative?

Excellent point. I’ve never understood FB’s appeal. It’s just sort of email for the distracted and narcissistic near as I can tell. If it’s for personal use, why in hell would I care if it’s available to a billion people or 400,000? Because I could get more “Friends”?? If so that might be the most pathetic and repulsive thing I’ve heard in a long time. It might be a good ad platform, but makes no sense at all for personal use. Certainly not enough to give up your autonomy and privacy to some creepy corporation for. I just don’t get it, other than herd instinct.

Ellie Katz (profile) says:

Re: Alternative?

Yakko, That isn’t a realistic assessment of Facebook versus alternatives.
Facebook: Long history of repeatedly violating users’ trust and privacy by selling their information, ceasing to do so when caught, then doing it again, AND
Arbitrary censorship e.g. recently removing the anti-Obama caricature as described here… yet banning a woman for posting images of herself breastfeeding her child, but protecting the rights of Facebook users to post (lots and lots of) tragic, graphic historical photographs of naked, living, starving, tortured victims of the Axis countries in World War 2. THAT is so inconsistent, absurd. The WW 2 photos weren’t posted for any clear purpose, not that I recall.
Twitter: Selective censorship under duress, content accessible regardless of whether or not one is a registered user (I can view very little on FB, as I am not a user).
Blogs/ websites: Far fewer incidents of permanent content removal and loss than on FB, even considering ICS and government action as you allude to. Yes, you might lose access temporarily to your website due to the collateral damage effect, or WordPress blog (if WordPress is DDoS’d or otherwise taken offline). In most instances, you’ll get things back when the over-anxious host calms down, or WordPress service is restored. FB is like a black hole: Weird dot php URLs, everything transitory.
Email and cell phones: For most of us, quite decent. Yes, ISP’s operate under FCC oversight, but I believe that the FCC and government(s) in general are less arbitrary than Facebook! Applicable outside of the U.S.A. too.
Newspapers: Same as email and cell phones. Major media is less arbitrary than FB.

ALL of the above, be they Twitter, WordPress, hosting providers, email services, cell phone/ telecom companies, news media or government, are arguably run by more responsible and experienced people than Mark Zuckerberg, who is the uber-controller of FB, both as founder, and as legal owner. Thus ALL of the alternatives that I mentioned (probably lots that I omitted), seem less vulnerable to external influence and irrational censorship than Facebook.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a friend that likes those things, mostly they do it out of a) ignorance and b) laziness.

Most people don’t know that there are alternatives and they all get what they see most other people doing it, because it is easier, easier to get help, easier to set up since everybody knows about it, easier to solve issues or so it goes the thinking the one thing they don’t really think it is how others can mess up with your data or how that data can be intercepted and used by others, the world is in for a rude awakening.

I can’t remember the last time anybody becoming dependent on just one source for anything didn’t end up getting screwed, not once in my 40 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Like AC#1, I’ve never been to FaceBook, don’t plan on going. With all the spying by the government, data collection for more ads by FaceBook, and from what I’ve heard the annoying pipssqueeks that come out of the wood work, I don’t think I ever will. Bad enough the two that are here. I know I wouldn’t like a crowd of them.

James Stevens (profile) says:

Simple. There’s really no other viable alternative. Everyone is on Facebook – if you’re one of those who aren’t, you miss out. Some people are okay with that. I wish there was an open alternative but there isn’t right now due to the user base.

I have two choices – be in the know on facebook with everyone else or be left out.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Everyone is on Facebook – if you’re one of those who aren’t, you miss out.

This is not entirely true, and is getting less true as days go by. When I deleted my FB account a while back, I thought I’d be missing out — but you know what? I’m not. I still keep up with all my friends just as much as always, and when something happens I would have missed b/c I’m not on FB, one of my friends fills me in.

ldne says:

Re: Re:

* if you’re one of those who aren’t, you miss out*

About 90% of what goes on in the world is irrelevant to your daily life, just as it is irrelevant to everyone else’s daily life. I don’t have a facebook account and I know that I’m not really missing out on anything, if it’s something personally important the people I care about will pick up a phone, send an email, or simply tell me the next time I speak to them. I read the news and commentary on things that may affect my daily life here on TechDirt and on a few other sites that cover the laws of the land, who’s who politically, and the world economic situation. While I don’t have a Facebook I know some who do and they’ve shown me plenty on there from time to time, it’s a plethora of generally useless personal information. I don’t need to know that someone I went to high school with 30 years ago who lives 1,000 miles away and I haven’t seen since graduation anyway got a new tattoo, went to the movies, or got a divorce.

tqk says:

Re: Re:

Everyone is on Facebook – if you’re one of those who aren’t, you miss out.

Not even remotely true. I miss out on my personal web browsing habits being sold to advertisers? No. I miss out on FB failing to protect my privacy? No. I can’t communicate with others? No, email still works. I can still read Usenet News, I can still use IRC, I can still browse the web.

You drank the Koolaid is all.

out_of_the_blue says:

Hundreds of millions of "lazy, blind pukes" can't be ignored.

A more interesting and alarming question is why Facebook is becoming a de facto credential-er to even be able to comment on various sites, or for employment. The trend is that no matter how much you despise the masses on Facebook, you’re all going to be forced to use it.

One of most dismaying aspects to seeing the big picture is to grasp that masses of dolts will go along with almost anything, and then the few with sense are easily ignored.

But where does Google differ in its arbitrary power? — You don’t know what all Google censors and slants behind the scenes; they have the mysterious “automatic algorithms” to shield them from scrutiny, and evne when caught can in effect claim “a wizard did it”. But for certain, Google censors with “tweaks”.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Hundreds of millions of "lazy, blind pukes" can't be ignored.

Facebook is becoming a de facto credential-er to even be able to comment on various sites, or for employment.

Examples, please.

I’ve yet to see a site that requires FB to comment (they all have some other way to do so), and I’ve not heard about employers requiring facebook accounts.

Davey says:

Re: Re: Hundreds of millions of "lazy, blind pukes" can't be ignored.

Whoever owns the Internet owns the world. I don’t think there’s any doubt that FB aims to privatize the Internet for it’s own power and profit and, in the process, destroy the most fundamental force for social change. And all because a stupid hack came along at the right time, right place.

Ellie Katz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hundreds of millions of etc.

Davey, I think you’re right about FB aiming to privatize the Internet for its own greater glory (power and profit). I hope it doesn’t happen.

As others said earlier, having choices is better. Best to avoid a situation where there’s intense concentration of activity, and dependency, in a single entity.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s been a while but there are a couple of sites that if you wanna comment or do something on the site, they want you to come in through farcebook so everyone gets your data.

It’s a dataminer’s haven. I laugh at the idea that some future employer might want my farcebook login. You know, to check up on what kinda person you are and what you might be saying about them. Or schools that somehow think what you say as public speech relating to them is their concern.

That’s gonna be really hard to do without an account. I have no interest in making one either. Farcebook’s idea they can track you off site with the little like button isn’t going to work when it’s connections are blocked on this computer.

Coises (profile) says:

Because most of us are not consistently interesting

?Why do so many people rely on closed platforms today, that allow somewhat arbitrary removal of speech??

I can post nearly anything that isn?t illegal or hardcore porn on my personal web site… but no one will see it.

I could start a blog… there might be two people who even know what RSS is that would add me to their readers.

Most of us don?t generate enough consistently interesting content to hold an audience by ourselves. Facebook is like an open mike night or a community talent show?it aggregates the small amount of interest each of us could generate alone into something that can maintain attention.

Facebook has captured its arena so thoroughly that Diaspora and Friendica and the like have little chance. The successor of Facebook will be something that obsoletes what it does; doing what Facebook does better (more openly, more securely, whatever) will never overcome its head start in user base. At this point, they can (and do) dick us around quite a bit without having to worry much about fallout.

Anything that?s important to me goes on my web site. My biggest complaint about Facebook is that I can?t really integrate the content and presentation I control into the feed they deliver to others… but I can see how Facebook has no incentive to make that possible, and good reasons to throw up roadblocks for anyone who isn?t a paying sponsor or partner.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sometimes you have to

I use IE (Sandboxed)to access Facebook and only IE…there’s no other history in that browser other than Facebook. For everything else other than entertainment sites I use Firefox. For entertainment stuff (ABC.com etc.)I use chrome with nothing blocked and no other history.

I finally signed up for it to be able to keep up with my grandkids scattered around the country because that’s all they use,(you know your kids and grandkids never call,right?)and that’s all I use it for. The only info I keep there is my name. No worse than a phone book listing without the phone#.

As to the data collection and Government snooping, that’s alway been there and I haven’t been locked up or shipped off to gitmo yet and no one has drained my bank account.

So they collect data…so what? Everyone does…Even Techdirt is showing six trackers as I type this.(all blocked)

Since I joined Facebook I still get up every morning and do the sames things that I always do…nothing has changed.

I live in a major metro area and everyday on the local news I hear about the muggings and murders, the thefts and home invasions, the scams and frauds, fires and storms. Believe me, compared to the real life just outside my door, Facebook and the Internet is like a walk in the park.

Ninja (profile) says:

I HATE when people whine at me because I didn’t attend an event or saw their message but when I ask when they sent the e-mail they say “no, I sent you a Facebook message/invitation”. I usually end up making fun of them and subtly giving them a big fat middle finger.


Other than that, I’d say that John Fenderson is right on spot. We shouldn’t rely on a single service. I’m trying to find a way to duplicate the posts on my blog so I’ll have a copy on Blogger and some other place such as Worldpress in case some moronic policy or a bogus DMCA takes my stuff down. I’m also trying to use different picture;video upload services for the same reason. Youtube cannot be trusted alone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

May I suggest that Usenet or Fidonet style system is much more robust as the data is duplicated on many machines in many countries. Such a system will run over the Internet, but can use any form of communication, including physical medium. Conversations will be slower, which is not necessarily a disadvantage, as it encourages more thought in postings.

Mary Withrow (profile) says:

I wish there was a alternative because..........

Getting help on Facebook, is totally a joke! I don’t have text on my mobil phone to re- verify my account, so in message form it said I must send them my government ID! Seriously I do not want them having my ID on file in order to verify my account! Why can’t they just send a email like everyone else! Before that I was reportly spammy and was disabled for 30 days. I wasnt. I seriously wish there was a alternative!

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