Facebook is Dangerous

I’ve been tinfoil-hat mode about Facebook since I worked with their API back around 2014. Back then, a 3rd-party developer could get access to your entire list of friends when you added their app (things like Mafia Wars), and they didn’t even need any further permissions.

I haven’t confirmed it myself, but I had once read that everything you typed in Facebook ended up firing API calls, meaning that every keystroke was going to their servers. It didn’t matter if you pressed “post” or “send” – the raw content was being stored somewhere.

I worked with IBM’s Watson’s API around 2016 and saw that it was capable of checking text for emotion or determining the personality of the author. All these reactions to content is a way of training the machine learning algorithms, much like captchas are used to train image recognition algorithms.

The amount of manipulation on the internet is staggering. Please be careful out there not to fall into an echo-chamber of curated content that reinforces your opinions. Facebook has made a business around this – they engage you and curate content that would be of interest to you.

I really want to stay in contact with people, but anything you say on Facebook (and other major sites) is used to build a profile on you which is in turn used to manipulate what is shown to you.

I’ve whined for 5 paragraphs without any clear point other than “Facebook bad”, but I think that’s the point I would like to make. Facebook is bad in the same way that Google is bad. They figure out the best way to get you to engage with content, and that may not be healthy. It leads to echo chambers on the internet of consuming the content you enjoy and reinforces beliefs because all of the content being served only paints one side of a picture.

I would like to see the internet take a step back to when it was an archipelago of sites, each with unique and different content, instead of the Pangea of major websites that curate the hard work of content creators and divvy it out while creating user profiles on the users.

One thought on “Facebook is Dangerous

  1. Hey Eli— it’s Tim (Thomas) your old— er, former English teacher way back at the turn of the century. I thought of you. I happened to read a piece on Conan O’Brien, who I recall was your “hero” in a writing assignment. He was to you what David Letterman was to me in the early 80s. I am sorry that I didn’t continue our email correspondence that we had going a few years back. I am so happy you have made a fascinating life for yourself in Nippon. But having taught you, it is not much of a surprise: you were always curious and questioning. I am in Toronto now with my fiancée. Let’s catch up when you have time.

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