SuttaCentral

“Facebook is bad, but we’re fixing it”, says Facebook. (They weren’t fixing it.)


#1

So, remember that thing where Facebook is bad? Just in case you forgot, here’s Richard Stallman’s page on this (thanks @Charlie):

https://stallman.org/facebook.html

But don’t worry, Facebook is on it! They’ve developed a new plan to solve the problem. :hugs: :dog2: :unicorn: :star2:

Here is Facebook’s survey — in its entirety:

Do you recognize the following websites

  • Yes
  • No

How much do you trust each of these domains?

  • Entirely
  • A lot
  • Somewhat
  • Barely
  • Not at all

That’s it. That’s what FB thinks is an adequate solution to it’s problems. :face_with_thermometer:

Just in case you think that FB can’t really be relying on people to answer these questions in good faith, let Mark Zuckerberg himself explain (or rather, whoever is posting on his FB account):

Here’s how this will work. As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we will now ask people whether they’re familiar with a news source and, if so, whether they trust that source. The idea is that some news organizations are only trusted by their readers or watchers, and others are broadly trusted across society even by those who don’t follow them directly. (We eliminate from the sample those who aren’t familiar with a source, so the output is a ratio of those who trust the source to those who are familiar with it.)

So this is the master plan.

  1. Get work done by the users (or as Stallman calls them, “useds”)
  2. Collect even more data on its users. (Somehow the incredible billions of gigatonnes of data that it already has are not enough, but this will make the difference?)
  3. Assume that people will answer in good faith (!)
  4. Reduce a complex human and social problem to a simplistic engineering hack
  5. Crunch this through even more opaque and unaccountable algorithms
  6. When it fails, say “But we tried!”

Hey, here’s another idea: delete your account.


Should we promote Sutta Central project to Western Buddhist temples?
#2

Thanks for the link to Richard Stallman’s page.

In case people don’t realise, Stallman is responsible for organising work on the GNU open software tools that made the GNU/Linux, and derivative operating systems such as Android, posible.

https://stallman.org/biographies.html#serious

I had the opportunity to chat with Stallman in a meeting organised by a local comper socifity in a cafe in New Zealand a couple of decades ago. He’s an interesting, driven, guy who has argumably done more for the development of IT systems than those who have made millions or billions from them…


#3

The discussion seems to have migrated from the original claim that Facebook is bad because of social media addiction to new concerns about Facebook being bad because of fake news or something.

Frankly, the discussion smacks of obsession.


#4

An advocate of a particular cause might conclude:

  • Delete your account.

An honest broker of alternatives would likely conclude:

I assert that the honest broker approach is in the nature of being a scholar, Buddhist teacher or spiritual friend.

There is a place for advocates and advocacy. But I advocate honest brokering as the more precious jewel.


FB is a fascinating ongoing story on several levels.
One about how the world seems constructed with snares to lure us in.

Another about an attempt to be, or appear to be, simultaneous open, fair and non-discriminatory while also acting as a curator of information while also not being entirely transparent about the process.

Curated: selected, organized, and presented using or expert knowledge.


#5

Stallman is an advanced being. Unfortunately the masses just want what they want without regard for consequences, without considering the deeper problems.

I saw the problems with facebook on day 1. I do keep a fake account to communicate on a qigong discussion group on facebook, linked to a fake email, but otherwise have no need or desire to use it.

Bhante S. should be commended for patiently and persistently educating people about dangers, and patiently enduring criticism for it.


#6

My critique was limited to this. His education about the dangers becomes confusing, if not somewhat misguided , when it comes to the advise about what to do about it. @Frankk you effectively acknowledge that you reject @sujato’s advise. Rather you adopted the second option as below.

I saw this as a “teaching moment” on the important difference between issue advocacy and honest brokering. As I see it the distinction tends to improve the wisdom of advise. I assert that the honest broker approach is in the nature of being a scholar, Buddhist teacher or spiritual friend.


#7

I’ve thought of doing this many times, but to me it’s useful for things like 1. getting useful information from and communicating with groups such as Italiani in Paris or Italiani in UK when I travel there and 2. there are some websites where the only way to leave a comment or to ask a question is to log on with a FB account.


#8

Well I live in the United States, where our government does all kinds of nasty things. But I haven’t renounced my citizenship yet! :slight_smile:

At least Facebook has not, as far as I am aware, nuked any cities, assassinated people, supplied arms and training to death squads, or violently invaded and colonized other countries.

My point is just that with any large and complex social system or institution, one must unfortunately take the good with the bad, and balance positive reasons for engagement and participation against negative ones.

The reason so many people are on Facebook is simply that so many people are on Facebook. That is, people are on that network rather than others because they want to access the widest possible pool of friends and transmitted information. Joining some alternative network of open source geeks just isn’t going to do it for me personally, given that a large percentage of the people I want to interact with aren’t going to be there. Also, there is no reason think that as any such network scales up in size to connect more people, it won’t be faced with all of the same conundrums that Facebook is faced with concerning the regulation of content and online behavior, and sensitivity to the norms and governing principles of the societies in which its users live.

A lot of these Cassandra warnings are coming from what I loosely identify as the hacker-geek-open source community. My feelings about this community and its “alt” ethos are ambivalent at best, tending toward negative. My overall impression whenever I bump into that “scene” is that it is predominantly (i) very male, (ii) permeated by a libertarian, laissez faire and very pro-capitalist ideology which I do not find morally or philosophically congenial, (iii) suffused with paranoia and hyper-individualistic fears and obsessions, (iv) a breeding ground of crackpot financial schemes and scams such as cryptocurrencies, (v) pulsing with alt-rightish sexual and racial resentments and micro-aggresions - and sometimes macro-aggressions.

Sorry to be so blunt, and no doubt the above includes some stereotyping, but I wanted to explain why I am generally not very enthused by the kinds of pitches one gets frequently from the open source cult and tech-geek community about turning everything off, changing one’s operating system, and joining their alt-libertarian utopia.

I am very open to realistic suggestions for improving online social networks, changing the ways they are operated and regulated, improving user utilities for identifying and blocking low quality information sources, and reducing the amount of economic exploitation and plutocratic capital concentration they currently involve. But so far in this discussion I don’t think I have heard much.


#9

This is slightly off topic, but I have a proposal: due to the fact that you haven’t actually used Facebook, Bhante, why don’t you create an account for a couple of weeks and give it a try? At the end of your trial period you can delete your account and never go onto Facebook again – and then you can write us all a lovely essay with your thoughts and experiences. Think of it as an experiment, Bhante Sujato’s 14-Day Descent Into the Depths of Facebook Hell. I think it would be great! :grinning:


#10

I like it. Science!!!


#11

“The author, an engineering manager at Facebook named Ben Chen, wrote that it was not merely possible to detect that two smartphones were in the same place at the same time, but that by comparing the accelerometer and gyroscope readings of each phone, the data could identify when people were facing each other or walking together. That way, Facebook could suggest you friend the person you were talking to at a bar last night, and not all the other people there that you chose not to talk to.”

To be fair, the next line in the article states that Facebook has denied actually using this technique… lol.


#12

I see you, Māra. You are Māra, the Evil One.


#13

I doubt he would find out anything new.
It’s poor experimental design … Many of the things he has reported on are not obvious to the user – I think you want him to get a job with Facebook. :face_vomiting:

< evil grin > Yes, and let me expand on that great idea. Maybe he can break all the precepts while he is at it. Brilliantly great! Probably make it a global Best Seller ! :japanese_ogre:

To maintain the excuse that this is about the EBTs – are there sutta’s on the entertainment value of being a voyeur ?

FYI: To be clear. I am mostly in agreement with @sujato’s diagnosis of FB. I disagree only with his single prescribed treatment. Instead I recommend getting a second opinion on the range of treatment options.


#14

It’s expensive! I looked into it. In 2015 it went from $300USD to $3000USD and several interrogations. Renouncing facebook is a lot cheaper!


#15

One person’s obsession is another person’s serious concern. I believe in the principle of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.


#16

:smiling_imp: laughs maniacally

Come on, Bhante, do it (as Dan says) for science! :wink:

No, I just want him to try Facebook out and tell us his what he thinks.

Lol, using Facebook isn’t bad sīla! :joy: You never know, Feynman, I could totally see it on the shelves in bookstores right next to Ajahn Brahm’s Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?.


#17

There was a punk album that went gold in the US called “Give me convenience, or give me death.” This crude insight became a rather sacred software design principle later, called “Don’t make me think”. That’s about the size of it, I say.

Virtually nobody will close their Facebook account until something even better comes along, and becomes popular enough. It’s been my experience that most people tend go with the most convenient and popular choice, and the finer philosophical underpinnings are lost on like 90% of people.

At least there is a viable Twitter alternative quickly gaining steam called “Mastodon”. I feel that a “campaign” against Twitter is more likely to yield a win. Note: the Mastodon server can be installed via Docker container, which I would call a critical ingredient of success (for a social media platform) these days.

At present I don’t see any realistic alternatives to Facebook (not like I’m looking all that hard). Facebook has an event scheduling feature that everybody seems unwilling to abandon.

I think the event-scheduling feature of Facebook should be explored in particular (not necessarily by Ajahn Sujato), then similar functionality should be added to, say, Mastodon, Diaspora, or suchlike.

Edit: Nextcloud does have a Calendar App, and you can draw upon a Facebook account as a Calendar source (fast forward in to 2:32 here), however Nextcloud servers are not part of any sort of “Fediverse” by default, as is the case with Mastodon servers (allowing any Mastodon user to potentially reach any other Mastodon user anywhere on the planet, conveniently, regardless of which joined-to-the-fediverse Mastodon server they have an account on).


#18

Facebook is sort of the white bread of social media but people love to be part of something new and unique and I think Facebooks position could change quite quickly if something catches peoples attention. I really like the idea of these open-source distributed networks like diaspora and mastadon - people may come to enjoy having an add and malware free environment.

I imagine one day your social media node will simply be your phone or computer and then we will see facebook and the rest of the gang getting into the phone business.


#19

Agreed. The way I see it, people can pretty much listen to the open source geeks now, or listen to the open source geeks later.

I’m the sort of unusual person who will wait for decades for some good open source technology to come along, which is convenient and polished enough to be worth using. In the meantime, I almost always “hold out”, resisting becoming beholden and locked into any proprietary technologies if I can help it. This has been my approach for like 20 years, and it’s saved me many a headache.

Slowly but surely every computer-related functionality I actually have a legitimate purpose for using (as a monk) gets “filled in”.

Once I find these tools, I’ll probably use them for decades. I only need check in every year or two to see which noteworthy projects have ripened up for the picking.

There usually isn’t the same breakneck pace seen in the open source world, as you find in the highly-corporate, cut-throat commercial IT industry. It’s much more mellow and much less sleazy.

Even a cheapo 7-year old laptop with a DVD drive (and NVidia graphics, ideally) is all you pretty much need to take a casual stroll into an almost entirely sleaze-free computing world.

It will always feel a few years “behind the times” when compared to what commercial software is delivering, but so what? I always manage to make do with what it conveniently offers, which is actually a lot. To me, the glass is 90% full, not 10% empty.

The trick is to not get one’s hopes up for progress that may never come, or get obsessed with trying out too many things. I think that such open source technologies having, say, at least 1 million users (better yet, 10 million), might be worth trying out. Less than 1m users probably means “not mature enough yet”.


#20

There is an alternative to deleting your account, which is to deactivate it (it reactivates when you login, but it’s still better than not deactivating it).

Also, do look into the privacy settings (especially disabling the search engine option).