By Nathan Barton
Perhaps the most loathed company on the planet? Its stock lost 40+% of its value in the last half of 2018. Its users regularly have data stolen about them, are subject to massive propaganda pushes by various and sundry, and have less and less freedom of speech as to what they post – and advertise – on the site.
Yet, according to our comrades over at Laissez Faire, their latest quarterly report shows that FB is alive, well, and growing. And people (savvy traders) are making good money on grabbing up their now under-valued shares.
Apparently, not only did sales and profit come out AHEAD of expectations, but sales rose by 30% year to year. The numbers are staggering: people who are active at least once a month rose to 2.32 billion. (Actually accounts, since that includes businesses, organizations, and people who have multiple accounts.) That’s about a third of our planetary population! (Assuming the numbers are legit, of course: FB could be lying about that as they do other things.)
Overall, it seems as though FB is being rewarded for being an evil, monstrous multinational who censors and otherwise abuses its users. Consider a very small user, the Brandon Church of Christ in Missouri which published an article “They Are Getting Away With Murder” attacking the recent abortion laws/bills in NY, VA, and elsewhere. In order to get wider distribution for their Bible teaching articles, they often will pay for them to run as “paid advertisements” on FB, where they have about 9,000 or more followers. While FB has not (yet) removed the article, the company DID refuse to run this article as a “paid advertisement” even with the usual disclaimers.
Now, as lovers of liberty, we recognize that FB is a private organization, and can censor anything it chooses. Even if what it chooses is discriminatory, biased, and demonstrates hatred of certain political and religious opinions, groups, and persons. But in other ways, FB is much like an old style telephone company. Except for TV series characters in rural areas (especially the Deep South) who played telephone operators, the phone companies did not censor what could and could not be said on the phones. Indeed, even modern cellular phone service providers do not do so: either spoken, written (text), or photographs. (I am unaware of any company that tries to censor sexting, for example.) Newspapers used to pride themselves on their objectivity (or their mercenary nature): they had no problem running adverts and announcements from the most radical, right, left, or freedom loving groups.
But FB has taken it upon itself to try and be the (Regressive, Tranzi, Neo-Liberal) conscience of the world, including the Fifty States. Even while claiming it is as neutral and objective as the examples I give above.
And even while ratting its users out to various and sundry government agencies. Copwatch discusses this sometimes. It appears that the crime reporting by FB is somewhat slanted, as many things which ARE criminal seem to be left unreported. Again, political bias can be suspected. At the same time, people use FB (and Twitter and Instagram) to report on the most private and personal of matters, actions, and circumstances. Seemingly not caring about who can or does read about it.
This is very much in line with what government seems to continuously attempt: to control speech in whatever form it is done, and to keep everyone under surveillance. It is ironic that even while we scream more and more about privacy, we find not that Big Brother’s surveillance state is forced down our throats, but that millions (or billions) of people report on themselves constantly.
What does this mean to liberty? It is not just government, and not just the politically-powerful (and wealthy) that despise liberty for anyone other than themselves and their organizations and affiliations. Many businesses (regardless of size) seek to take freedom away from competitors, customers, and suppliers. Even small operations, especially in small communities) can become conspirators with government or powerful interests to steal away our liberty. Indeed, some government agencies and some businesses are demanding that you provide your usernames and passwords to social media you use, to spy on you as a potential or actual employee.
Facebook appears to be an example writ large of something like that. Indeed, those TV-series’ old-time operators might indeed warn us of what can happen: the “private” conservation spied on by her and reported to the local sheriff or police or the parties’ spouses might be funny on reruns, but in real life can lead to very bad consequences. Worse, an incorrectly heard word can be used to destroy people, and not just figuratively.
My suggestion is a simple one: delete Facebook from your computer, your phone, your tablet, and your life. Remember, because they are a private business, we don’t HAVE to use them: vote with your feet, if not your money. If you MUST use it for business or social organizations, be very careful and be aware that anything you post can be seen by virtually anyone and can (and will) be used against you and your associates and businesses.