Wherein Facebook Loses Recess For Everyone

from the with-Facebook-friends-like-these dept

Hold on tight to those memories of all the good things the Internet has brought. SESTA has just passed the Senate, and at this point it’s a clear legislative path to undermining Section 230, the law that has enabled all those good things the Internet has offered.

It is not entirely Facebook’s fault: opportunists from Hollywood saw it as a chance to weaken the innovation that weakens their antiquated grip over people’s creativity. Ill-informed celebrities, who understood absolutely nothing about the cause they professed to advocate for, pressed their bumper-sticker demands that something be done, even though that something is destructive to the very cause the bumper-stickers were for. Willfully ignorant members of Congress then bought into the bumper-sticker rhetoric, despite all the evidence they had about how destructive this law would be to those interests and online speech generally.

Even frequent innovation ally Senator Wyden joined the chorus mounting against the tech industry, lending credence to the idea that when it came to a law that would undermine the Internet, the Internet had it coming.

With all due respect, that criticism is not fair. Setting aside that many of these companies didn’t even exist twenty years ago, we have never before lived in a world where we could all talk to each other. It makes no sense to punish the people who have enabled this gift simply because we haven’t quite figured out how best to manage it. We are but toddlers in Internet time, and just as we would not crush a toddler’s ability to learn to do better, it makes no sense to punish today’s Internet service providers, or future innovators, or speakers, simply because figuring out how to handle the promise of this global interconnectivity is hard. We cannot let the reactionary antipathy against Facebook mask difficult issues that need to be carefully teased apart before applying regulatory “solutions.”

But when we tally the score on whose fault today is, plenty can still be laid at Facebook’s door. Again, not all of its current troubles are necessarily of its own making: in addition to being square in the eye of the worst growing pains that computer-mediated communication can offer, it has also been misused, and even potentially illegally manipulated, by bad actors keen to exploit the inherent vulnerabilities presented by this shift from a world of physical scarcity to a world of digital plenty. Meanwhile doctoral theses in organizational theory could be written about the challenges faced by large companies, especially those that have grown so quickly, in reacting to the challenges their success has invited. In other words, we need to separate which expectations of the company are reasonable from those that are not necessarily fair to expect from an enterprise pioneering a new business that could not have even existed just a few years ago.

Yet while much of what Facebook does should be viewed charitably, it is not beyond criticism. To say it is like a bull in a china shop would be unfair to bulls, who at least seem to have some awareness of the chaos they leave in their wake as they throw their weight around. Whereas Facebook seems to have little insight into just what it is that it does, where it lives in the Internet ecosystem, and who is in there with it. As it blunders about, stoking outrage that makes people too upset to see the need for nuance in regulatory response, it also interferes with those advocating for that nuanced regulatory response. It is becoming very hard to trust Facebook as a partner in addressing the complex issues its business choices raise when the company itself seems to lack any coherent understanding of what those choices are. After all, what exactly is the business of Facebook? Is it to aggregate data, or to connect people and intermediate their speech? Or something else? These competing agendas antagonize users and cloud the regulatory waters, leading to overreactions like SESTA that end up hurting everyone. The bitter irony of SESTA, of course, is that it only punishes the good things Facebook does?the being a global platform facilitating speech and interpersonal connections around the world?that benefit our lives, and not those that give us pause. But it also makes sure that no one else will be able to come along and perform any of these functions any better.

Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that, as a matter of politics, Facebook allowed this regulatory travesty to happen. Its shocking endorsement of these dysfunctional policies undermined the resistance that the speakers and innovators were trying to mount against these policies that so that threaten them. Facebook may be foolish enough to believe it can endure the regulatory shift SESTA will bring, but even if it were correct, no one else can. Not even Facebook’s own users.

Today is a sad day for the future and all the speech, innovation, and interconnectivity we were counting on to help us confront the challenges of living together in this increasingly small world. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the oblivious insularity of one of the biggest actors in the policy space is a deserving recipient of much of it. Not only was it a lightning rod for regulatory outrage, not entirely undeservedly, but it then greased the skids for the worst of it, indifferent to the effects on others. It will surely suffer from its choices, but so will everyone else.

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Comments on “Wherein Facebook Loses Recess For Everyone”

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44 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“With all due respect, that criticism is not fair.”

With all due respect? Fuck that, the criticism offered is not only unfair, it is a fucking farce looking to shift blame onto the not guilty crowd.

This legislation is nothing but unconstitutional fuckery, and every person that voted for it should be “recalled”. But guess what… not going to happen.

We already have the banks spying on us by the IRS and SAR.
We already have the ISPs spying on us by taps foisted upon us by NSA and the fearmongering government.
We already have our private parts felt up by the TSA because terrorism.

America sacrificed all of its liberty for the illusion of safety and protection and all that was gained was one more dick fucking us with each new law and no relief!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“I think the criticism is totally fair.”

Then you deserve what the government just gave you.

The moment you think a business is supposed to conform to your idea of social justice and compliance is the moment you welcome the jackboots necessary to ensure that social justice and compliance.

You sound like many others here unable to figure out how they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Jackboots for social justice

That’s the point of having the jackboots (id est law enforcement).

We make laws to create a society that is just, specifically to cover those realms where people are not naturally fair. Hence we have to establish rules of equality, of proper conduct, of rights of the individual.

Granted, the jackboots always get corrupt and abusive of their power, but that’s the point of having an oversight service. It’s not a paradigm we’ve entirely worked out.

But if we can enforce law (thereby enforcing social justice) without the jackboots, we’re still open to ideas.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So... fascists for social justice?

I’m not sure where this is leading, but it’s fascinating.

The problem with ideological fascism is that it is prone to tyranny and to corruption since there is no oversight of the regime. It’s possible start a fascist order with equitable ideals, but fascism itself contains no mechanism to preserve those ideals, especially if the regime should change.

Though there have been some emperors who have established rights of the people (the Napoleonic Code comes to mind), contemporary fascist orders have risen with the idea that the preservation of the state must supersede the rights of the individual, which is entirely contrary to social justice. Indeed, historical examples have demonstrated dangerously radical utilitarianism on false pretenses.

In the meantime, I’m sure some of the allies wore jackboots as well, though I think GI boots had laces.

Dingledore the Previously Impervious says:

Re: Re: Re:4 So... fascists for social justice?

It’s interesting that the people who go on about governments and laws inevitably leading to tyranny are usually the same group that goes on about constitutional rights.

And, going back to an earlier comment, to presume that businesses (i.e. “The Market”) should not need to comply to standards is ridiculous. It’s that mindset that leads directly to the jackboots the earlier poster alluded to, not the other way round.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

I've been telling you this for over a decade

“To say it is like a bull in a china shop would be unfair to bulls, who at least seem to have some awareness of the chaos they leave in their wake as they throw their weight around. Whereas Facebook seems to have little insight into just what it is that it does, where it lives in the Internet ecosystem, and who is in there with it.”

Facebook is chiefed by a sociopath and operated by ignorant newbies who haven’t got the slightest idea how to professionally manage a large (or even a medium-size) operation connected to the Internet. Nobody there seems to have mastered Internet Operations 101. Nobody there seems to have learned anything from prior successes and failures — ESPECIALLY failures. Nobody there seems to grasp that being on the Internet is a privilege, not a right, and that responsible exercise of that privilege requires due diligence. Nobody there, and this restates your point, seems to have the slightest idea of the enormous amount of damage they’ve done and are doing.

Facebook is, top-to-bottom, a failure. It didn’t have to be, but it chose to be from the very beginning and it’s stubbornly refused to admit and fix its mistakes.

(By the way: did you read Zuckerberg’s formal statement? Did you notice what was missing? The words “sorry”, “apologize”, and “regret”.)

If this failure was solely confined to Facebook, then it wouldn’t matter much. But as you observe, the consequences are going to reach far beyond that and are going to impact a lot of operations who DID do things right (or mostly right), operations that are far more important than Facebook, operations that were here before it existed and will still be here when it’s gone. And that’s the saddest part of this: a lot of good people who worked hard are going to have to pay for mistakes they never made.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've been telling you this for over a decade

It didn’t have to be, but it chose to be from the very beginning and it’s stubbornly refused to admit and fix its mistakes.

When even the sites that you’d expect based on their name, to call companies like Facebook out, instead mostly act as Facebook apologists, what reason does Facebook have to change?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've been telling you this for over a decade

Nobody there seems to grasp that being on the Internet is a privilege, not a right, and that responsible exercise of that privilege requires due diligence.

If you want your own controlled walled garden on the Internet, buy your own servers and select the users you allow to use it.

It is obvious that social media sites will be gamed, by the same people who run botnets and spam. By and large that is a small price to pay for a universal world wide communications system that allow anybody to talk to, cooperate with and share what they create. Demanding that companies keep you safe from false news, spam etc. it to hand them control over the conversations that can be held, and the creativity that can occur using the Internet as a communications and distribution media.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Re: I've been telling you this for over a decade

“If you want your own controlled walled garden on the Internet, buy your own servers and select the users you allow to use it.”

If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have spent several decades trying to do the opposite.

“It is obvious that social media sites will be gamed, by the same people who run botnets and spam.”

No. It it obvious that people will TRY to do that (and much more, of course). There is no reason for social media sites to fall for it, not when techniques to defend against it are well-known, well-understood, and readily available. It’s just not that hard and it’s an expected, baseline level of competence in the field.

The only reason any operation becomes overrun by this nonsense is that it’s chosen to. It’s chosen to be cheap, or negligent, or incompetent, or it frankly just doesn’t care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I've been telling you this for over a decade

There is no reason for social media sites to fall for it, not when techniques to defend against it are well-known, well-understood, and readily available. It’s just not that hard and it’s an expected, baseline level of competence in the field.

You’ve said this before but haven’t provided any evidence or proof that this is the case. (And yes I’m well aware you’ve linked to RFCs but those have had nothing to do with this)

The fact of the matter is that if you create a medium for people to communicate freely on, then it will be abused and there is jack all you can do to prevent it. People abuse landlines (telemarketers, phishing, scams, etc…), cellphones (same things as landlines), email (phishing, scams, malware, spam, etc…), television (commercials), radio (commercials, whacky nut jobs with their own programs), and so on, so forth, etc…, etc…, etc…

If you allow any kind of speech at all, it will be abused. That is a fact of life, not limited to social media or the internet and sadly there is no way to prevent it. Can you mitigate it? Sure, there are things like call block lists, spam filters, etc… But when you’re talking about simply the content of what someone posts? No, there’s nothing for that because machines are pretty bad at inferring context.

Two guys talking about how they are going to "kill each other" in a video game is way different than two guys talking about how they literally intend to commit murder in real life. There’s no machine that can filter that. Machines can’t do fact checking either, so if someone claims the sky is purple, a machine can’t go out and say "Nope, it’s blue". (Ok, bad example, a machine could do that, theoretically, but you get my point)

So you can mitigate to a certain extent but you will never EVER prevent it from being abused in some way shape or form.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I've been telling you this for over a decade

Facebook is, top-to-bottom, a failure.

Tell that to the massive amounts of money it rakes in, the massive amounts of people that use it, and the massive way it has revolutionized communication and staying connected with people on the internet. I would hardly call it a failure, in any sense of the term.

I think you’re just jealous someone else thought of it first.

Anonymous Coward says:

All watched over by machines of love and grace

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJrqhYpgykk

You believed in seti@home, it was fun who wouldn’t want to hunt for aliens?, you believed in alta vista cause they where cool and had that translation utility plus DEC and they did cool stuff because ALPHA, you believed in smart phones cause your palm pilot was really useful and those Trio’s had internet!(even if WAP was a cumbersome hack, you believed in IRC and USENET because arguing with people on the internet was fun! also porn, you believed in a universe of knowledge and idea’s available to anyone with a computer and a phone line… Well guess what people that own and govern the planet never believed in any of those things, you forgot when Poindexter complained that all the NSA had where these decrepit CRAY II’s what the NSA did, you looked up songs on napster and though “Hey cool it’s all the music in the world”, not realizing that the people that ran the industry don’t care about music or about social benefits or anything but there own wealth and power.

Then there is google and there model was surveillance, and you said well… I’m not sure if I believe… but all the experts came alone and said well it’s only to serve ad’s and they have to pay for those servers and bandwidth and admins to staff the place not to mention the “cutting edge” search tech.. and you said well that sounds right, even though there algorithms where proprietary and you never really knew what they where up to.. look over there it says “Don’t be evil”, they where not talking about them, that was a threat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Facebook is hardly a “toddler”. It’s a company that’s over a decade old at this point with a heavy profit motive that leads them to pulling some of the most scumbag moves I’ve seen under the guise of wanting to connect the world and make it a better place, scumbag moves that would harm the open Internet. Remember Free Basics/Internet.org?

The idea that it has little insight into what it does, or that it’s just bumbling about, is ridiculous. Facebook knows what it’s doing, and tries to maintain a façade that it’s this young little startup that still needs time to get everything right, and it only fixes some problems after it receives massive public blowback. Facebook is a lot like EA in that regard, and people sure as hell don’t put the kid gloves on when they swing at EA; It gets treated as the dirtbag company that it is, and Facebook needs to be treated like that as well.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin...

What this may end up doing is simply giving more legitimacy to the darknet and cypto-enforced anonymity, though it’ll take a few years while the internet public adapts to the new methods of hunting down what they want and where they can talk. The common web surfer will learn the tools once the purview of terrorists, pirates and child-porn enthusiasts.

This reminds me of the porn crackdown in California, where laws to stop prostitution instead used the word pandering and so the DA used it as a means to crack down on porn production (hiring someone to have sex in front of a camera is hiring someone to have sex, after all). A bunch of lengthy lawsuits, California is now one of the few places where it explicitly states in our law that the production of porn is legal.

We may in up with such a situation regarding the internet, lest the US become a big-corporations-only zone…

Or the US may just become a big-corporations-only zone. The dystopia gets more cyberpunk with each passinng year.

Anonymous Coward says:

By the way: if anyone considers multiple comments NOT planned,

then you’re mistaken. Sorry. I’m just protesting in only way can my EVERY comment being hidden, no matter that well within common law and that vile ad hom from fanboys is NEVER hidden, by forcing more clicks (including from an Administrator to okay it), making it unmistakable violation of the forms contract here, and showing the lack of “good faith”.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Au contraire

We are but toddlers in Internet time, and just as we would not crush a toddler’s ability to learn to do better, it makes no sense to punish today’s Internet service providers, or future innovators, or speakers, simply because figuring out how to handle the promise of this global interconnectivity is hard.

They would and have crushed toddlers before, and will do so again in the future. We’ve seen time and again where politicians claim something is for the good of some group (children, exploited, etc), but it’s only there to promote themselves and their interests.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Today is a sad day for the future and all the speech, innovation, and interconnectivity we were counting on to help us confront the challenges of living together in this increasingly small world.”

This statement completely ignores the history of any methodology of allowing the public the ability to having free speech.

Did people suddenly forget how copyright was introduced? It all started by limited the use of the printing press, a device which would allow the public to share their speech quickly and efficiently.

Anytime such power is given to the public, the few with money and influence will be the first to rush to remove it.

Just as copyright has been abused over the centuries by those very audiences, so to will the internet fall victim of this abuse.

These laws aren’t about “protecting” anything but the money and influence of those who have the most to gain from them.

Techdirt was spot on to see that SESTA/FOSTA was a sheep’s cover, considering the same entities celebrated child pornography laws as a way to instill more draconian ways to strip people of those rights.

This isn’t an issue within the US, either. Almost every nation on the planet has, is currently, or will continue to pass these laws because giving the public the power to express themselves undermines governments and those who can influence it.

Our current media, just for the record, is still controlled by these various laws for controlling free speech.

This is why I’ve mentioned multiple times using the FCC to dictate the definition of the internet was a bad thing.

The very laws the FCC imposes are the exact same restrictions which impose free speech!

This is why the FCC has lost more cases when trying to fine broadcasts for using words made “illegal” by the FCC rules.

If people want to see change, fix the government. It’s clearly broken as it’s heavily influenced by those with money and the ability to shape the laws for their benefit.

Despite my advice, nothing will change. Ever. We still have copyright, outdated communication, and restrictive use of speech laws, both federal and state level.

To see so many people complain about SESTA is disheartening, because the *exact same outcome* is no different than history has shown will occur.

If people think SESTA is bad, wait. It’s going to get much, much worse.

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