A New Campaign Asks Facebook Users to Pledge to Log Off Facebook Makes a Cyber Freedom Pledge For All Users
The digital revolution in the past two decades has wrought a vast array of social, political, and social media platforms. That has made it particularly difficult for Facebook users to choose what apps they want to use or what content they want to share. A new digital freedom campaign called Blackout Facebook wants to give users more information about what Facebook offers and what it allows and encourages them to do in return. The campaign asks Facebook users to use their own vison services, in solidarity with Facebook users around the world.
The platform essentially grants any and all app developers the ability to post from Facebook without any responsibility for those post’s authenticity or privacy.
Blackout Facebook seems like a great, principled idea, but one that would bring more backlash and abuse than gain. First, let’s think about the context of the digital age.
As Facebook became an Internet juggernaut, it established one of the first classified ad sites. With billions of page views a day, Facebook already faces a lot of risk of abuse of personal data. If Facebook builds a surveillance empire that has enough power over people, the Facebook users who engage with the platform will begin to question what happens with the data.
Facebook historically had even more authority over the social networking arena. When Facebook came into its own in 2007, the traditional social networks were subject to a lot of community control and monitoring that didn’t seem to apply to a site that is routinely used to share sensitive personal information. Today’s rampant hate and violence make those controls seem particularly irrelevant. As Facebook now has so much power over its userbase, any app on the platform will find it easier to sell their data to repressive governments that might issue an “off with your head” directive.
When it comes to social media tools, the concept of privacy is already very subjective. On one hand, Facebook in particular makes the task of social media activism incredibly difficult. As the primary means of communication for a majority of people, putting pressure on the company can put individual voices in the public consciousness in ways that other forms of activism simply cannot. Creating a site where each Facebook user posts to choose what kind of content will make Facebook’s content available to them or not puts Facebook’s creators in the unique position of having to make some of the basic democratic decisions themselves. Facebook’s ability to gather data, and then share it with its developers, puts it in a no-win situation.
That said, allowing users to take control of their content may actually limit the ease with which Facebook can further control users. If Facebook makes its content available to every Facebook user, a problem on its hands is an endless knot of suckers who can access their content and spam content, despite how they use the app. This amount of harmful content flooding the platform would probably make it hard for Mark Zuckerberg to sell a new site like Hyper or Facebook Identity to users, even if that site was constructed from the ground up.
That alone makes the Blackout Facebook campaign misguided at best, especially when it is premised on a workable vision of social media, rather than from a more personal one that will affect users more directly.
The four elements of the Blackout Facebook campaign are:
1. Delete Facebook on May 15, together with other similar actions around the world.
2. Donate to organizations like Electronic Frontier Foundation to promote the digital civil rights movement.
3. Ask your friends to do the same.
4. Sing the “Shut Facebook Down” song.
Blackout Facebook reminds me of this weird hacker goal shared by one of my college professors: “If the signal must go away, what is your signal?” Such a schizoid, technology-driven view of humanism is a historical anomaly; the idea that technology creates more problems than it solves simply isn’t acceptable. With a new generation that grew up with digital devices as their window into the world, perhaps we should be more cautious before jumping in the sand with Facebook.