Don’t Be Fooled by Its Spin: Facebook Plans to Remain a Data Company
Mark Zuckerberg's apologies notwithstanding, his social media creation is first and foremost a tool for gathering information about everybody
His company has hit troubled waters, some of which stem from a lack of understanding of how the company really operates — and others of which are completely of Zuckerberg’s own making.
Let’s be honest. If you put material on Facebook, you have lost control of it. The company vacuums users’ personal information and traffics it into the marketplace. Data have become currency, and America’s tech industry, led by Google and Facebook, are the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers of data information sales.
It should come as little surprise that the company, as Bloomberg reports, goes so far as to scan links and personal photos people send by Facebook’s messenger app.
Your information is what fuels its bottom line and the company is one of the largest and most powerful corporations in human history.
Zuckerberg's initial response to the "crisis" is typical of the company and an example of what Rahm Emanuel said: "Never let a good crisis go to waste." In response to congressional concerns about privacy, the company announced it would sever relationships with third-party data providers.
Facebook claims its action will tamp down on the information, but the truth is that it will monopolize the data the company has collected. If Congress allows this sleight of hand to happen, Facebook will emerge stronger and more powerful than ever before.
For conservatives, Facebook has become a chokehold on information. From Rare, a libertarian-leaning news and information platform, to RightWingNews.com, a long-standing place for conservative-leaning stories, a tweak of the Facebook's algorithm was enough to limit traffic to their sites, which ultimately led to their demise.
The fear that the progressives who dominate the tech industry will use their platforms to punish conservatives is not conspiracy. It is a fact. Google tips the scales on search results by using the race-baiting and vehemently anti-GOP Southern Poverty Law Center.
Facebook has partnered with Snopes, the liberal "fact-checker," to determine what is fake news. Twitter has banned conservatives with large followings while ignoring liberals who often call for President Donald Trump's demise.
Recently, Zuckerberg added gasoline to the fire by telling Vox.com that his vision for the platform is not free speech but the creation of an independent "supreme court" that would determine what is acceptable speech.
"[O]ver the long-term, what I'd really like to get to is an independent appeal," Zuckerberg said. "So maybe folks at Facebook make the first decision based on the community standards that are outlined, and then people can get a second opinion.
"You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a supreme court, that is made up of independent folks who don't work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world."
Over the last few days, Facebook has been rolling out some positive-sounding policies to provide Zuckerberg with some ammo before Congress, including giving users greater control over what information third-party apps can gather and bulk-delete capabilities for such apps.
Congress would be foolish to allow Zuckerberg to use the privacy issue to gain even greater control of the marketplace.
But the company isn't changing much about the info it collects and use. Make no mistake about it: Facebook remains a data company. It can make rhetorical claims about protecting user privacy, but it profits, and profits mightily, from consumers' information.
Congress would be foolish to allow Zuckerberg to use the privacy issue to gain even greater control of the marketplace, while allowing him to walk away from the upcoming hearing without addressing the elephant in the room. That's the tech industry's willingness to limit speech and information in a manner that discriminates against conservatives.
Michael J. Daugherty is a director at the National Cybersecurity Society and a board member at Netshield Corp. He is the author of "The Devil Inside the Beltway: The Shocking Expose of the U.S. Government's Surveillance and Overreach Into Cybersecurity, Medicine and Small Business."