Do People Want A Better Facebook, Or A Dead Facebook?

from the there's-a-difference dept

The question in the title is one that I actually think is worth discussing, because seeing the reactions to both Mark Zuckerberg's announced plans for greater privacy in Facebook's messaging tools, and to Elizabeth Warren's not very well thought out plan to break up Facebook, it seems quite clear that some people just want the company dead at any cost. Indeed, I've seen a lot of people pointing to this AP article, derisively, about how Facebook's plans for more privacy are all a misleading game because the the company might profit from it.

As if that's a bad thing.

For years, we kept getting told that the reason big companies like Facebook and Google didn't treat user privacy very carefully was because there was profit in scooping up all our data, and that there were no profits in privacy. This was seen as a problem. Yet, now that Facebook is exploring ways to provide more privacy and snoop less, some are still complaining that it might profit from it? Shouldn't we want to see business models that align with protecting user privacy? Shouldn't we want companies to realize that protecting user privacy both can and should be profitable as well? Won't that encourage companies to move away from data surveillance business models into ones that are more respectful to end users?

That's why I highlighted the positive concepts in Zuckerberg's post. Because I think it's good to encourage companies to go in the right direction.

But many people, clearly, do not agree. And, as far as I can tell, the thinking is that they don't care about a better Facebook or a Facebook that protects privacy. All they want is a damaged or (even better) a dead Facebook. And, frankly, that kind of thinking makes no sense to me. Look, I'm all for something better coming along and killing off Facebook that way. I'm all for creative destruction -- especially the kind that destroys big stodgy businesses by giving their customers a much, much better experience. But, focusing just on killing off Facebook for no reason other than "company bad" doesn't make much sense. Like it or not, billions of people use Facebook.

And most people can agree that Facebook has a history of fairly egregious behavior at times, but slamming the company for finally doing something positive, doesn't seem particularly productive. It doesn't encourage other companies to do the right thing either. Sure, it makes sense if your goal is just a "dead Facebook," but arguing for a "dead Facebook" for no other reason than you just don't like Facebook is irrational. I want to see more competition in the marketplace, and I'd love to see Facebook not be as dominant. But I'd also greatly prefer a Facebook that is a good actor, rather than a bad one.

Filed Under: antitrust, big tech, consumers, elizabeth warren, mark zuckerberg, privacy
Companies: facebook

Reader Comments

The First Word

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  1. icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 13 Mar 2019 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    We banned it, but preceded the ban with a phase out. Leaded and unleaded gasoline were sold at the same time, and the phase out of lead took 20 years. It wasn't until 1996 that the full ban went into place, though at that point leaded gasoline only accounted for 0.6% of sales, and lead formulations had lower concentrations then in the past when the final ban took hold.

    The issue is you associate Facebook with the lead, rather than the bad practices. The sale of lead was the bad practice. Facebook has value to me, and I trade off levels of privacy for that value.

    Mike's point, in my mind, is that people have claimed that they dislike the business practices, and then go so far as to say the concept of Facebook making money is the problem. That making money by changing business practices (and it wouldn't be the first time) doesn't matter. They don't dislike the business practices, they dislike the business. The argumentation becomes worthless, because any effort to argue how to reign in Facebook wont be enough, unless Facebook is closed. Any attempt to discuss the merits of the Facebook proposal is worthless, because the entire idea is tainted forever by association with Facebook.

    You can hold that Facebook is bad and corrupt in its current form, and still argue that the ideas it is ostensibly arguing for are good ones. You can then also simultaneously argue that Facebook can't be trusted. But mike seemed to be noting that people are attacking the ideas in its statement are bad because facebook expresses them, and that's a logical fallacy.

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