Facebook, By Its Very Design, Cannot Avert the Tragedies it Creates

4 minute read
| Particle Debris

Recently, Facebook has suffered some difficulties that were caused by its very design. It’s clear now that one of the features of large, complex social services is that they contain within themselves the seeds of tragedy. Worse, thanks to the money at stake, there’s no remedy. Not even a tough-to-implement one.

Facebook and the Web of Trust

Facebook has the popularity and power to become the new Web of Trust – and the features are already in place (Image Credit: geralt)

Two recent tragedies come to mind. The first has been the systematic exploitation of how Facebook functions to distort the news, influence Facebook subscribers and even promote the interests of a hostile foreign government.

The second event was an abuse by a subscriber so horrendous it brought national attention to the foundations of how Facebook is used. “Father in Thailand Kills 11-Month-Old Daughter Live on Facebook.

In the first case, Facebook has issued a report that, according to The Verge, “details a comprehensive plan for dealing with what Facebook calls ‘information operations’ — any sustained attempt by an organized force to distort public discourse.” The Verge analyzes the 13 page report here: “The most important part of Facebook’s disinformation strategy is what it leaves out.

Facebook After Action Report

Author Russell Brandom has some interesting and depressing things to say about this Facebook report.

In some ways, Facebook faces an impossible task.

But what we’re left with is the real prospect of foreign powers manipulating public discourse, and no clear way to fix it.

As a result, what should be a reassuring document ends up as an admission of defeat.

No matter how one feels about Facebook, it’s slowly becoming clear that the very design of Facebook naturally leads to the exploits and abuses described above. In the case of that horrid video, CEO Mark Zuckerberg may suggest that Facebook will do a better job filtering those kinds of videos, but it’s really just a continuing game of whack-a-mole.

I’ve heard it said that a uniquely American psychology is that we think we can fix any social problem, no matter how difficult. However, some things just can’t be fixed by their very design, complexity, size, and financial ties.

It seems to me there are only two approaches. The first is to remain stuck amongst the Facebook goings on, remain immersed in the wretched hive and slowly become more and more depressed.

The second is to delete your account and go skiing.

Next Page: The News Debris For The Week Of April 24th. False narratives about Apple.

6 Comments Add a comment

  1. skipaq

    I always read Diger’s articles; just as I always read yours. He is very good with his analysis.

    Anything is better to do than time spent in Facebook.

  2. geoduck

    Facebook and the other platforms that allow live streaming are going to re educate people on why editors are a good thing.

  3. geoduck

    Thank you as well for the links to Dilger’s articles. They put things into perspective very nicely. I loved the bit where Samsung makes more off of the components they sell to Apple than they do from their own smartphones. That’s priceless. The bit about the Apple Watch and integration was interesting too. Since its introduction it has gone from a device I was actively annoyed by to something that’s interesting but just doesn’t do anything to make it a must have for me. However if they are successful in adding blood glucose monitoring, we will be in line the first day.

  4. Lee Dronick

    It seems to me there are only two approaches.

    Three, a replacement for Facebook that is run by responsible people that respects the users and the advertisers. Easy to understand settings, filters, reporting, and privacy.

  5. wab95


    Leave it to Dilger to destroy a perfectly beautiful narrative with an ugly set of facts about Apple’s products and their market performance relative to their competitors’. Is no nestled narrative safe from the purgative light of truth and evidence? Such wanton and data driven disregard for alternative facts runs afoul of today’s political and social climate, is a slur against siloed sanctums of secure echo chambers, islets of inbred pseudo-intellectualism, and smacks of pointy-headed, double-domed elitism. I’ll bet that the man actually reads books.

    Lest someone take that sarcasm literally, or better still, levels the charge of hypocrisy for failing to acknowledge Apple-centric sites as ‘echo chambers’, let me hasten to add that among these, TMO stands out as a fact-based forum for thought and discussion that never hesitates to criticise Apple whenever its writers feel that Apple deserves it. Indeed so fast and thick have come some unsparingly critical pieces from TMO of late that one could be forgiven for thinking it an Apple-sceptic site. Articles lambasting iTunes, software missteps, the Mac Pro, and Apple’s level of productivity, to name but a few, suffice to make the point. These fact-based, thoughtful discussions are among the principal reasons that yours truly continues to visit this site.

    Apple, like most thriving enterprises, is adapting to an evolving dynamic interplay of society, technology and culture (hence the company’s emphasis on expanding the diversity of its workforce, but that’s a topic for another time). As such, and specifically because Apple play the long game, the company must evolve on an arc commensurate with that of the wider society. Because that arc far exceeds the minute span of a human lifetime, it can appear to us as linear, flat or unremarkable. Moreover, this can lead us to a curiously contradictory set of reactions to Apple’s transformation from a boutique computer house to a global platform behemoth, and to a grossly incorrect assessments of reality.

    On the one hand, we perceive the evolution of Apple’s platform as flat, with little to no change relative to the episodic, oftentimes frenetic or marginally successful experiments of Apple’s competitors. This leads us to ask why didn’t Apple do that if they’re so ‘innovative’, or at least why aren’t they following suit. Herein lies all the difference between the organic evolution of an integral whole and the accidental growth spasms of a discontinuous and inharmonious amalgam of parts.

    I suggest that Apple’s arc appears flat to our individual time – bound perspective in much the same way that the physical horizon appears flat to our earthbound visual observation. To appreciate Apple’s growth arc and projected course requires both observation and, sadly for those in search of a simplistic world view, thoughtful organisation of those observations into a harmonious narrative that both explains what we have seen and reasonably, perhaps accurately, anticipates what we have yet to see. In science, we call this a working theory, which is distinct from either an opinion or a baseless and fact-free assertion. Indeed, this is precisely analogous to our reasoning out the true shape and size of our planet in ancient times. (Most physical phenomena have their analogues in our intellectual and spiritual life, but I digress).

    On the other hand, when we pick out isolated features of that expansive arc, such as a new product that our static world view failed to anticipate, we are discomfited, quibble about its value, meaning and relevance, and swear by all the gods and goddesses of tech and the idols of our desires that the company has lost its true north and needs new direction and leadership.

    We are correct in asserting that this is not our father’s Apple, nor could it be and have the technological and cultural footprint that it currently enjoys, let alone the market cap.

    Regarding what we have yet to see, this is, in my opinion, not about specific products per se, but about directionality and relevance to our present unmet and emerging needs. This requires that we look at Apple’s skill set, specifically Apple’s capacity to integrate hardware and software, its trajectory of leveraging those to products of increasingly greater complexity and capability into an integrated platform of products and services, and project forward to logical next steps of function and need. And while this may seldom lead us to predict Apple’s next product or service, it may, more often than not, lead less to dismay and despair when we are greeted with the unexpected, than to a recognition of new options and opportunities.

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