Given the recent revelations about Facebook’s facilitation of data mining on behalf of Cambridge Analytica, deleting your Facebook could be a reasonable reaction. You might even consider participating in Quit Facebook Day, an international organized attempt to punish Facebook for its “confusing and sneaky privacy policies.” Unfortunately, it was scheduled for Friday, 28th May, 2010, almost eight years ago. Since then, Facebook membership has grown from 500 million to 2.2 billion. Whether we like it or not, and whether it “should” be happening or not, our reality is that many people get their news from Facebook, and conduct most of their social media interactions on Facebook, in the same way that the internet is full of ways to access content, but when Google goes down for a few minutes, it takes 40% of the entire world’s web traffic with it.

There are two main parts, which intersect heavily, to Facebook’s privacy problems: data breaches, which involve information on millions of individuals being shared with marketing agencies or political organizations for the purposes of targeting; and using existing Facebook protocols and audience targeting tools to harass people or spread misinformation for political reasons.

My Uncle Loves Trump Too Much for Someone Who’s Never Been Outside Rural Ireland

How does someone become an extremist with authoritarian tendencies without even noticing it? We’ve all seen it happen on Facebook to at least one person. How do seemingly normal people turn into intolerant, angry, vocal supporters (or opponents) of ideas they don’t seem to fully understand?

Most people probably feel that they are in charge of making a decision about whether their organs should be made available after their death. However, there is consistently about an 80% difference in organ donation rates depending on whether a country has an opt-in or an opt-out system. In other words, for 80% of us, the person who makes the decision about our organs is whoever chose the wording on the organ donor paperwork. Presumably we are more emotionally attached to our kidneys than we are to our political or social opinions.

Facebook has come in for much criticism over its complicated tax avoidance schemes and its inability to effectively deal with inappropriate content (such as gory violence, suicides, torture and groups promoting anorexia and rape), but the biggest criticisms seem to center around its tendency to entrench ideological groups in bulletproof echo chambers which can then be surreptitiously weaponized for political gain.

Two months before Trump’s inauguration, Barack Obama warned Mark Zuckerberg to take seriously the threat of abusing Facebook’s algorithms. He might have had a word with his own director of media analytics, Carol Davidsen, who claimed that her campaign used Facebook data to “append to our email lists” and that “we were about to suck out the whole social graph… [Facebook] didn’t stop us.” Last year, Mark Zuckerberg finally admitted that Russians had purchased thousands of Facebook ads to leverage racial and religious divisions to influence the presidential election using Facebook’s native audience-identification software. Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches between 2011 and 2012, said that “covert data harvesting was routine” and would happen again.

None of this should come as a surprise. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said that secret psychological tests were performed on 700,000 users. Facebook’s founders knew they were creating something addictive that exploited “a vulnerability in human psychology” from the outset, according to the company’s founding president Sean Parker. Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s vice-president for user growth, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” It’s not a bug; it’s a feature.

At that stage, it’s a very simple matter for a bunch of Russian bots or trolls to stir everything up and cause chaos. Perhaps the greatest representation of this chaos was a demonstration organized in Houston, Texas by an anti-Islamic Facebook group. A counter-protest was organized by a pro-Islamic Facebook group at the same time. Both groups were controlled by agents thousands of miles away, and the entire street battle “cost Russia about $200.”

Why Does Facebook Hate Me?

There’s a famous joke in poker: if you can’t work out who the mark is, it’s you. Most Facebook users think of themselves as customers who use a product. In fact, users are the product being sold to Facebook’s actual customers: advertisers. This is not a conspiracy theory, or even a cynical view; it’s their stated business model. There is no evil computer program taking over your brain. It’s more like the opposite; users train the algorithms to respond in certain ways to maximize engagement. Facebook isn’t trying to radicalize people; they’re trying to make money. To make money, they’ve consciously engineered, using an on-the-job team of psychologists and content creators, a series of proven methods to keep you on the site as long as possible, to increase the chances that you’ll click on one of the ads.

You might think the biggest engagement would come from positive information about stuff you care about, but it turns out to be negative information about stuff you don’t like. Facebook intentionally creates echo chambers and bubbles because when you’re angry and afraid you are more susceptible to advertising and more extreme political views. We are far more likely to unthinkingly sign up to an outrage machine than to type anything useful, constructive or interesting.

What About My Data?

Zuckerberg apologized about the latest scandal and promised to make the necessary changes. Although this was greeted in the media as a climbdown, it is a boilerplate of his reaction to every other Facebook privacy scandal. What seems certain is that we’ll keep using Facebook in our billions and our privacy will continue to be compromised until Facebook collapses for some reason unconnected with any of its privacy breaches. After all, the reasons Facebook abrogated Myspace were unrelated to any moral or legal problems with the Myspace platform. Facebook details are notoriously difficult to “scrub,” the wonderful verb used to indicate trawling through someone’s social media to delete anything that might cause trouble for someone in a job interview. At the moment, the quickest way to have your entire account and all its associated files permanently deleted is to post lots of openly racist messages or graphic pornographic images.

Even if everyone deleted their Facebook, wiping it off the face of the internet, something else would roll onto the market with an even more cynical business model. We would willingly upload private information onto it, and whoever ran that venture would probably sell your data. What do you want for your zero dollars?

If you’re going to delete your Facebook, be sure to tell all your friends. And to make absolutely sure that everyone sees it, tell them on Facebook.

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