Regardless of what you might think of Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, his call for legislation banning UK children from accessing social media is a unique opportunity for the politically mischievous to seize. Other than that it’s a rather droll and predictable suggestion coming from someone with any authority. Still, it’s conventionality may have the potential to do unintended good things somewhere else down the line.
Sometimes when selecting magical objectives, it’s ideal to go with the flow of history rather than oppose its momentum.
Speaking of someone going against the grain rather than harnessing the flow of sentiment, I find myself contemplating the guile behind Facebook’s urgency to move forward with its somewhat recently announced kid’s messenger app.
It smacks of particular sort of corporate desperation. How else can you describe a business plan dependant upon an intrusion into the psyche of a demographic primarily associated with dimples, button noses, but more famously—snips, snails, and puppy dog tails.
Concurrent to this demographic is it’s accepted binary, children comprising of sugar, spice, and everything nice. (I’m not sure how well that 19th-century rhyme plays in our current era except that it may need to include some Spice snails or Sugar Snips to accommodate a broader range of experiences, but I digress. Except insofar that at a very early age I felt objections to the characterization of my boyhood with dog shit and snail mucus—that’s probably a sign I’m in over my head…)
These aspects of childhood make this particular demographic particularly enticing for marketers and internet start-ups alike. A child’s primary source of income may be limited to whatever grandma sent in their birthday card, but their cognitive functions regulating impulse control are practically non-existent. Jackpot, baby!
“Suppose they don’t clog the app with advertisements?” You say, “Wouldn’t parents be depriving their children of critical social interactivity that their peers are enjoying, you Luddite?” I’ve decided you’re arguing the “we just need so much more internet in our daily lives” argument I’ve never heard expressed on the internet by someone who didn’t have some financial stake in it, for some reason.
Look, if you’re targeting children, your primary objective is no longer connectivity, regardless of what Zuckerberg claimed in front of Congress. The aim to obtain corporate immortality is the more likely outcome of rejecting the sentiment of people who have kids.
Disney, McDonald’s, and cigarette companies, all have cultivated unnaturally long business lives by building brand loyalty through coercing children into engagement with their toys or food or what-have-you. And it’s a pretty old, very dull marketing strategy. It’s been with us at least since Howdy Doody and the ad-breaks filled with commercials featuring puffed sugary grains and puffed smooth nicotine.
Curtailing the health risks of nicotine addiction by limiting access to cigarettes or exerting pressure on McDonald’s to clean up their menu has had net positive effects. And while I acknowledge that Jeremy’s impulse is purely archonic and conforms to broad sweeping and invasive policies we’re all so tired of hearing about and living within, I think perhaps this might be one of those exceedingly rare instances to fight fire with fire.
That isn’t to say it will be an entirely robust solution, but it will encourage future legislative efforts looking to moderate online platforms profiting from entangling our lives in their endless dopamine drenched honeypots.
Yes, I’m angry. Aren’t we all these days?
Isn’t that why there are hundreds of similar think pieces being produced right now highlighting every succulent nuance of ethical shenanigans Facebook’s responsible for over the last month?
My problem is that I can’t care about Cambridge Analytica when no one cared about Equifax. It was cute how the news tried to underemphasize the damage by quoting abstract numbers. “150 million Americans had their private data stolen,” they reported. Some places were more to the point, “If you’ve ever had a checking account your info was compromised.” Oh. So, uh, everyone then, I guess.
Meanwhile, on the rage incubation engine that lives on this brick in my pocket at the hall of justice: *crickets*.
Speaking as a web developer, Equifax mattered. Where I cast my jaundiced, still twitching eye in the direction of Facebook is the way it’s reshaped our lives and called it disruption. Of all the things that we shouldn’t platonize. Grosser still is the litany of business and marketing blogs championing this concept.
It’s hard not to think about every time I’ve ever disabled your facebook for a day suddenly swarmed with questions about why you ‘blocked’ a friend. No matter how many times you explain it to them, they’re so dependent upon Facebook’s ubiquity they don’t believe you or anyone could want to cut ties with that website. I am endlessly bewildered at how this platform nurtured insecurities that never would have existed without it. Myself included.
How about all the other uncomfortable social niceties that manifested as a result of Facebook’s existence. For example, the weird assumption that if you weren’t friends on Facebook, then you weren’t friends at all. In reality, the opposite was more likely to be true. For many, the existence of a relationship mattered less upon the act of people enjoying each other’s company than the new taxonomical categorization and indexing of those who are and aren’t your friends or lovers in a semi-public venue.
The only imaginary thing I can think of to cause friction between people that is arbitrary to almost the same degree would be the endless debate surrounding Dippin’ Dots and if it is ice cream or some other hypothetical substance. A substance that also happens to need storage at temperatures below the freezing point of water.
Facebook’s core design philosophy conflates the knee-jerk and emaciated modes of thought over any that are salient, insightful, or at the very least required some research to assemble.
Take any news post for example. You will immediately notice the preview of the comments section has more screen real estate than what the smaller area afforded to news post excerpts— often due to character count limits.
Most news related comments on social aggregation or media sites are a direct response to the headline and not the content. These comments often spark unbroken cascading chains of increasingly less informative or less relevant discussion surrounding the initial story that most people haven’t read.
Both of those statements are common knowledge. What we think about less often is to what extent the user engagement strategy Facebook deployed (it’s post and photo sharing systems) is responsible for how other interactions conducted on Facebook unfold.
The entire point of Facebook, and how it attracted its user base, is founded upon our individual need for recognition with the least amount of effort possible. This dynamic translates into every facet of Facebook’s business model. It’s within this radioactive farmland that this mutated diet of information grows. For a long time, it comprised a significant part of our media consumption starting way back in the aughts.
Or should we say, the aught-naughts? (rimshot). I’ll see myself out, be sure to tip your waitress.
The sudden eruption of unbidden narcism and banality served only to enshrine this caricature of news and discourse in most peoples lives.
It is a cohesion of the death drive into a systemized interactive platform. It is the gratification of desire eternally deferred. The pleasure derived from always being certain but never knowing why.
Facebook’s growth into near-ubiquity is likely a black swan, the need for distraction, validation, and the hope for any potential economic opportunity, reaching a feverish peak as a result of the 2008 recession.
It’s mass adoption, and it’s centralizing imperative have spurred tectonic reconfigurations of the role the internet plays in our lives. Within its shiny new blue and white gravity well of connectivity, emerged a new sort of pedagogy in orbit of Facebook’s central thesis. Impulses to capitalize upon a captive audience trapped in an endless cycle of baby pictures and status updates could not be ignored by developers and marketers alike.
Should I bring up the scope of economic disruption and displacement Facebook’s presence in Silicon Valley has caused residents to San Fransisco? No? Okay.
Consider how the trade-off of Facebook’s omnipresence in our lives has been sold to us versus its reality.
Investors and consumers (by and large) understand it’s supposedly a marketing platform. Sums of money that would pale even the Scroogiest of McDucks have been raised by Facebook for access to the promise their technology offers businesses. Access to a special sort of database that on one hand gives social media marketing specialists distinct insights into their audiences and allegedly the potency of their marketing campaign’s successes and failures. Consumers often trade off privacy for connectivity to friends and loved ones. People start pages to reach their audience’s newsfeed and inform people who have opted into notifications of up and coming deals, promotions, or special events.
Or at least, that’s what we’ve all been lead to believe.
Marketers will tell you that they have no idea how effective their campaigns are if they are at all. Facebook in recent years has only scaled back the usability of their tools and no one is certain exactly what, if any, the ROI on an ad campaign is anymore, even with the massive psychographic database available to exceptionally talented app developers—something most of the marketing world is not. The existence of Facebook’s extremely competent and revolutionary design team suggests to me at least that hobbling the marketer’s dashboard is not an accident. It is very much an intentional.
User connectivity is the palest shadow of human contact with friends and loved ones. Some prefer, instead access to specific apps and games to pass the time which is fair enough depending on what it is. And while most of us realize it’s a terrible deal, we contend with it anyway because seriously, who wants to call Aunt Martha on her birthday in the first place? Just gonna click this like button here and boom, done. She knows I was thinking of her. Happy Centennial, Martha!
Three years ago, business pages saw 70% of their total posts fail to transmit to their opt-in subscribers so Facebook could monetize a fundamental component of the connectivity the Zuck claims to be about in front of Congress.
Do you see my point? Facebook dismantled every political and social arena it could reach in exchange for nothing.
If I haven’t convinced you to hop on the Jeremy Hunt Express train that takes stops at Satanic Panic Station, and Overly Judgmental Food Pyramid Posterburg, do me a favor. Hold that objection for a moment.
From one U.S. citizen to his U.K. friends, let me just say: keep reading, think of the children and please hold my beer.
A Weapon’s Platform Called Desire
The difficulty in putting this teaching into practice lies in “setting aside desire, clarifying the mind, and entering into stillness.” This is particularly hard in the present day, when so many material and human resources are devoted to serving an endless procession of desires and ambitions, without ever really satisfying them, and without ever getting an objective understanding of the effects of this whole process on human society and its relationship to Nature.
Kaiguo,Chen; Shunchao, Zheng. Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard (p. 15). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.
What if I told you, without an ounce of hyperbole, that Facebook is actually a weapons platform.
Not just any weapons platform, but one worthy of serious occult consideration. When we gaze into the black mirror and whisper ‘Send Friend Request’ three times while burning some sage, what fogs the backside of the glass isn’t Farmville. Rather, its some sort of materialist analog for breaching and influencing human collective consciousness in a way that resembles how the spirit world often brushes up against the human collective unconscious.
Facebook’s primary database is something called the social graph, and from it, both psychographic and sociological maps can be constructed to affect groups with targeted messaging to elicit specific actions or outcomes within those groups.
To be concise: large-scale mind control. Subtle mind control, but mind control none the less.
I’ve seen a few threads on twitter by marketers who openly admit that the dashboard they utilize to gauge the effectiveness of their ad campaigns tells them relatively anything useful. They’re firing blind, and yet this myth of online advertising persists. Today, it’s a ritualized practice maintained by marketing departments too slow to adopt social media when it first disrupted traditional marketing practices.
As far as social connectivity is concerned, Facebook’s other news feed, aka Instagram, works closer to the original Facebook than Facebook does now, and has seen a huge swell in its usage. Small businesses will actually show up in your timeline without being strong-armed into having to pay to do so.
So if Facebook isn’t what it says it is, then what exactly is Facebook?
I’ve compiled a list of things that should answer this question somewhat. In a very particular order:
- The recent dust-up over the ‘kids messenger’ app
- The mood manipulation experiments they apologized for but never stopped
- Their targeting emotionally vulnerable teenagers in Australia (but probably definitely not just in Australia)
- Mark misleading Vox about Facebook’s role in (not) censoring hate speech in Myanmar
- And Honorable Mention: Censorship of Art and History in News Feeds
To sum up: Facebook expanded it’s engagement into childhood and early childhood development, while at the same time it conducts mass experiments on Australian teenagers to identify and manipulate them at their lowest and most unstable—targeting posts where teenagers felt “worthless”. Preceding this revelation, Facebook in a collaboration with DARPA gained years of experience conducting mood manipulation experiments on a segment of its U.S. adult demographic. A project they all at once admitted to and apologized for—but not once in their PR release made any mention or promise that those experiments would end.
Meanwhile, Zuckerberg is on the record saying he and his team intervened to stop messages that incited religiously motivated violence in Myanmar transmitted over the messenger app, while hard documentation of that not being the case is in the public record. All of these things happening on a backdrop of Facebook proactively censoring pieces of historical artwork, Pulitzer prize winning photography, and anything else Facebook finds objectionable.
The margin’s of what is and isn’t objectionable to Facebook is poorly defined as you already know if you’ve ever tried to report a gore photo popping up in your news feed during a lunch break. In retrospect, I find myself wondering if the whole chain of events and how they played out weren’t part of that mood manipulation technique they were testing.
And look, I’m not saying Facebook is explicitly designed for the outcome my bullet list points too. I’m suggesting that in aggregate, what Facebook is capable of doing in light of the trajectory of its many initiatives should give you some pause.
Facebook is the Jessica Rabbit of our lives. It’s not inherently bad; it’s just drawn that way. The problem is who exactly Facebook has been playing patty-cake with.
The Kid’s Messenger thing is because it’s lost the bulk of it’s of the 18-25 year old demographic. Thus Facebook is facing the end of its lifespan and hopes to change that outcome. It has matured into obsolescence.
The Myanmar thing is likely a much more complicated story, and its censorship of media is left up to individual employees of Facebook screening information based on personal sensibility rather than some all-encompassing algorithm reining down from on high like some judgemental god of old.
The intelligence community’s involvement and seizing of opportunities Facebook provided aren’t in doubt, but a recent suggestion of its role in the origin of the world’s creepiest surveillance network created by one of the creepiest college students of all time might be. Despite recent reports that suggest otherwise the documents linked above are why I suspect Facebook was probably co-opted rather than a government front from the day it first launched.
Still, Facebook is achieving a mission the U.S. Government, and its various agencies have aspired to accomplish for decades. A mission that only Facebook could achieve without raising the same suspicions that spiking a city’s water supply with psilocybin would have. Except rather than make populations susceptible to organic changes in belief systems, by insulating them into increasingly potent echo chambers they can create social reactionary blow-back. South Park modeled this idea elegantly in ‘Trevor’s Axiom’.
Considering it’s scope, influence, and track record the notion Facebook and it’s staff directly influencing the outcomes of democratic elections, rather than Russia, isn’t just a stretch. It’s almost a certainty.
That One Time Facebook Almost Certainly Rigged a U.S. Election… and no one noticed
If Cambridge Analytica somehow probably “fixed” the election for Trump (it didn’t, but that’s reading between the lines of the news right now) then Facebook definitely “fixed” and also “rigged” the primaries for Senator Obama beginning in January 2008.
As many have argued, Obama’s 2008 bid for the Presidency utilized tools and techniques similar to Cambridge Analytica. What’s lesser known is that those tools in 2008 were more robust than what Cambridge Analytica had access too. And not only did the Obama Campaign use the data harvesting tools made available through the Facebook Developer API, but the Obama/Biden campaign also had a distinct advantage over other candidates during the 2007 U.S. Primary Election Season.
Evidence suggests that Obama campaign insiders were given advanced notice and resources to utilize the soon to be released Facebook Developers platform ahead of other presidential primary candidates including both John McCain and Hillary Clinton, granting them advanced access to an audience of then 50 Million U.S. Voters. This isn’t insignificant considering the ebb and flow of news cycles and PR strategy. The first one out the gate always controls the narrative. Six months later, Hillary Clinton’s shocking upset, her implosion at the Iowa caucus caught political pundits and experts entirely off guard. Perhaps this sheds a little light on why.
The other campaigns found out about Platform’s with the rest of us, on Friday, May 25. If Facebook let the Obama campaign in but kept all of the other campaigns out, this was a serious breach of trust. Tim Tagaris, who is part of the Internet team for Chris Dodd, said he found out about Platform from TechPresident. “They never reached out to us,” he said. “Every communication we’ve done with Facebook has been us reaching out to them through regular contact forms on their site.” Christian Ferry, eCampaign Director for McCain ‘08, told me that while they intend to build an application, they “have not heard anything from Facebook” either. From our conversations with other campaigns, it’s become apparent that this was the pattern across the board — Facebook did no outreach to any campaigns but Obama’s.
-Editors “Did Facebook Play Favorites with Obama?” Web blog post. TechPresident, June 4, 2007. Web 17 Apr. 2018
Individuals who dispute this claim correctly report that the Facebook developer’s platform beta launch was in the summer of 2006. They fail to mention that the beta version of the Facebook Query Language, the programming language used to access Facebook’s user information database, were incomplete and only accessible via an invitation from Facebook’s internal development team. But also that the Obama campaign’s Facebook App launched on the same day that the developers.facebook.com opened to the public.
Since we are social animals and easily gamed, shaping public opinion on a matter is just a matter of flicking the right domino in the right place within the social graph. Flick it correctly, and you can start a chain reaction of consensus. Considering the scope and the reach of this technology questions should remain about precisely who was responsible for what. To flick the right domino, you need to know which ones will have the most significant impact when tipped. To do that, you lean on Facebook’s most significant technological advancement: the Social Graph.
What is the social graph?
You’re probably asking yourself “What is the Facetrix… I mean the Social Graph?”
Look Neo; nobody can be told what the Facetrix is, you have to see it for yourself. The social graph everywhere. It is all around us. Even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or turn on your television… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth:
Here’s a quote from Facebook’s blog in 2007, remember this is cribbed in marketing lingo promoting the Facetrix’s newest feature:
“We started working on Platform a little more than a year ago. Since then we’ve taken Platform out of beta, written FQL (Facebook Query Language), and various other tools for developers, and now we’re ready for the next step. With this evolution of Facebook Platform, we’ve made it so that any developer can build the same applications that we can. And by that, we mean that they can integrate their application into Facebook—into the social graph—the same way that our applications like Photos and Notes are integrated.
For example, the Facebook Photos application is actually the #1 most trafficked photo application on the entire web because it uses people’s real connections—what we call the social graph—to help people efficiently share their photos. Facebook has this graph of increasingly powerful connections that people use to communicate.
We started working on Platform a little more than a year ago. Since then we’ve taken Platform out of beta, written FQL(Facebook Query Language), and various other tools for developers, and now we’re ready for the next step. With this evolution of Facebook Platform, we’ve made it so that any developer can build the same applications that we can. And by that, we mean that they can integrate their application into Facebook—into the social graph—the same way that our applications like Photos and Notes are integrated.”
Katie Geminder, June 1, 2007, blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2437282130 (Emphasis mine, Link deprecated, read here)
So the social graph charts not only your friends and friends of friends. It documents your every association and affiliation. Every group, every event, every photo, your likes and so forth; and gave access to these same data points for your friends as well.
This is how you pick your domino to flick… to whatever end you want.
The probability of a meme being adopted by influential users can be gamed exponentially. I also suspect this might have influenced some of the recent-ish thinking on sigil casting for some reason.
The level Facebook’s dragnet is on goes way beyond anything you’ve imagined. If you think they care if you’re watching pornography, you’re right. But they’re not interested in the moral value of that action… yet. Facebook, their ‘backers’ and advertisers are more concerned with what you watching that video or videos similar to it mean to the rest of your day, week, and month. They’ve tracked how that will affect your behavior over the course of years, and the behaviors of others who are similar to you. The potential for how this data can be modeled is nearly as limitless as its applications.
The Social Graph is then a real-time map of human desire as expressed through the network. Conner Habib points out why this matters.
My main view of the world is that desire underpins everything. Economy? Politics? Just aspects of desire.
What I don’t talk about much is that underpinning desire is the occult. Occult and spiritual forces, in a way that is perceivable without conspiracy or new ageism.
— Conner Habib (@ConnerHabib) April 18, 2018
In summary, your life, the choices you make, the places you go, the websites you visit, the language you use, the comments you make, the photos you take all comprise one small part of a ‘node.’ Extrapolate this out to the entire Facebook user base and suddenly you find a very complex and accurate map of human conscious intent, the expression of desire, and the potentiality for its persuasion over time, and ultimately: actions taken by individuals to satisfy desire’s urgency. I guess copious amounts of alcohol and Amazon.com is indeed the site for instant gratification or whatever, but the dynamic is still at play.
The good news is, in 2014 it narrowed access to this information for third-party developers, no longer allowing them to access information about your friends when you engaged with an app or vise versa. Thankfully, the people with access to dominoes are no longer anyone with internet access and some database query know how. The chances are that people like this are the ones giving us cause to remain wary.
Being angry at how Facebook has reshaped our lives is okay. Companies like Cambridge Analytica are not the problem but occur as a result of technology driven by the naive utopianism espoused by Zuckerburg. Platitudes we should distrust considering his past. The death rattle of the social network is a catharsis we can all like, share and promote. Perhaps this unique opportunity to channel the force and momentum of the Archon’s reactionary legislative tendencies may have lovelier outcomes for once. It is at least an exercise in our special brand of social manipulation, and in honing our giftedness with the art of the possible.