5 (More) Reasons Facebook Is Even Worse Then We Thought
Facebook is a useful birthday reminder service that keeps doing evil shit faster than we can write about it. No, seriously. We were touching up this article when they copped to letting Netflix, Spotify, and other companies read your private messages. Geez, give us a break, guys. Anyway, here's another installment in this series which, the way things are going, we'll be adding to until the end of days.
Facebook's Fake Video Stats Might've Crashed The Online Media Economy
As you're probably aware, the internet economy is an absolute shambles at the moment. Or you might not be aware. A lot of news websites have closed down, after all.
One of the big reasons for this was the ill-fated "pivot to video," whereby online outlets started focusing less on written content and more on the kind that starts with "What's up, YouTube?" Why? Mainly because they could see through Facebook's tools that videos shared over social media got way bigger numbers than written articles. "We're entering this new golden age of video," Mark Zuckerberg proselytized in a 2016 interview. "I wouldn't be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people ... are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video." Naturally, everyone wanted in on that action.
Fast-forward a few years and ... whoopsie-doodles, it turns out Facebook was lying their asses off.
The video metrics that Facebook reported to publishers -- such as total number of views, average viewing time, etc. -- were inflated by as much as "60 to 80 percent," a little glitch they reportedly discovered in early 2015 but didn't (quietly) cop to until September 2016. They knew this looked bad, because it was bad, so they rolled out the fixes veeeeery slowly and without telling anyone, specifically so that "advertisers ... won't notice significant changes." It's like if a restaurant found out they'd been accidentally seasoning food with rat poison, then took two years to replace it because they didn't want to change the taste.
Meanwhile, the media-wide pivot to video was marching onward, as publishers laid off writers and editorial staff in order to "ramp up video production" (said Vice) or "shift resources into short-form video content" (said MTV) or "focus on our fans' growing appetite for premium video" (said Fox Sports) or ... well, you get the picture. And of course, once publishers failed to see the gains Facebook's geniuses had promised them, they began laying off the same video staff they'd invested so much money in. It's a heartbreaking situation for many of your favorite websites, and you can find out more information about it in the video version of this article on You- oh, right.
Facebook Paid A Company To Spread Conspiracy Theories About George Soros
Facebook plays a large role in how conspiracy theories enter the mainstream (population: your dingus uncle), but you probably assumed that said role is restricted to standing around and refusing to do anything about them. Well, as it turns out, they see nothing wrong with giving online wackos new material if the target is someone they don't like.
Enter George Soros -- billionaire, philanthropist, Holocaust survivor, and (despite what Alex Jones and Roseanne Barr might tell you) definitely not a Nazi. After Soros called Facebook a "menace" to democracy that needed to be regulated, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg immediately ordered her staff to look into his financial interests, figuring that getting even richer was his only possible motive. Yeah, why would someone who lived through the Nazis be honestly interested in helping preserve democracy? It simply doesn't add up.
Eventually, Facebook pulled out the big guns and hired an opposition research firm called Definers Public Affairs to start spreading reports that Soros was the secret puppet master behind an anti-Facebook group called "Freedom From Facebook." (He wasn't.) It's a complicated situation, so here's a simple explainer:
Somehow, this was the most sober, evenhanded reporting we could find on the story.
The problem is that conspiracy theorists love sharing fake stories about Soros being behind everything from the migrant caravan to their wives leaving them, as well as being part of an evil cabal of Jewish people ruling the world. Recently, a believer in such theories tried to kill Soros with a pipe bomb. Facebook presumably knew this (because a lot of these stories are shared through their site), and they still threw gasoline on the fire.
In the wake of these revelations, Facebook quickly cut ties with Definers Public Affairs, and Sandberg denied knowing about this rogue operation ... until everyone's time for burying bad news, Thanksgiving Eve, when she confirmed that OK, yeah, she knew everything. Anyway, if someone ever tells you we're using all of our internet media billions to fund anti-Facebook campaigns, please refer them to the previous entry in this article.
They Allow Dangerous Pseudoscience-Peddling Health Cults To Thrive
In 2017, a man suffering from pancreatic cancer, Bruce Wilmot, died after following the teachings of Jillian Mai Thi Epperly -- a random nobody who farted up her own personal theory about how all diseases, including cancer, are caused by a type of fungus living in our guts. This fungus, claimed Epperly, can only be expunged by drinking dose after dose of a fermented cabbage juice she calls ... "Jilly Juice" (because on some level, even she must know she's full of excrement).
The way she broadcast these teachings? Guess.
A few weeks after switching to a poop juice diet with Epperly's enthusiastic support, Wilmot was found near death in his apartment, his body emaciated from starvation and the health conditions (including virulent diarrhea) brought on by his constant juicing ... all of which are the point, apparently. According to Epperly, the juice is meant to purge the body, and the symptoms that Wilmot suffered were just proof of its effectiveness. How could it be killing him? Look at all the pain and suffering he was in!
Facebook repeatedly refused to delete Epperly's group, saying that they only remove content when "there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety," and that the company wants to "encourage discussion among its users (...) and does not want to censor provocative ideas." To be fair, action was eventually taken against Epperly ... by the Ohio AG, who demanded that she provide proof of her claims or risk getting the shit beaten out of her, legally speaking.
The thing is, it's not just her. There are countless groups with similarly crazy ideas that Facebook refuses to take action against, even when they're objectively lying. Like Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury, who has convinced a non-zero amount of people that AIDS is a hoax. When questioned why Chowdbury was still allowed to spread his "wisdom" on Facebook, the company argued that the best way to "build awareness around facts" is to give a platform to insane, dangerous ideas and let others reply with "accurate information." We've tried that. It always ends with everyone shouting at each other about 9/11, and no one learns anything (except Facebook, which gets more data for advertisers).
WhatsApp Is Helping Spread Fake News In India, Leading To Mob Lynchings
The last time we brought up Facebook's lighthearted shenanigans, we spent a significant time discussing how they're helping to facilitate a state-sponsored genocide in Myanmar. Well, this whole "mass death" thing seems to be a part of their brand nowadays. At least, that's what we're taking from the fact that one of its subsidiaries, WhatsApp, is being used to spread fake news in India, leading to the deaths of multiple innocent people at the hands of ordinary folks doped up on mass hysteria.
It always starts with a rumor about strangers going around snatching children, killing cows, or something similar. The rumor goes viral over WhatsApp, which makes it easy to share text messages between private groups and has a massive install base in India (over 200 million users). The majority of these rumors fizzle out and go nowhere ... but every once in a while, some poor bastard gets caught in the crossfire and accused of being the latest child-snatching cow-killer.
These rumors have caused the deaths of over 20 people, mostly strangers in towns visiting relatives or passing through. Last June, for instance, a safety video from Pakistan was re-edited to make it look like footage of a child kidnapping. Someone cut out the part at the end where the "kidnapper" returns the kid and holds up a sign about keeping children safe. It would be funny if it hadn't directly led to the deaths of two men, who were attacked by a mob after they stopped to ask for directions.
The problem is that it's nearly impossible to shut down these rumors. One feature that WhatsApp likes to brag about is its airtight end-to-end encryption -- which is great when you're bitching about colleagues, but much less so when you need to contain false information or track down the asshat who created it.
It's worth noting that WhatsApp has taken some steps to curb the sharing of these messages, and even put out newspaper ads on how to spot fake news. So we guess that's the difference between being a Facebook subsidiary and being Facebook.
Facebook Flat-Out Hates Sex Workers
Before the internet, the only way sex workers could get their names out there was by literally going out there and exposing themselves to creeps, abusive clients, and potential serial killers. Today, they can arrange everything online and use certain websites to vet potential clients. Or at least, they could before the passage of the horrendously flawed FOSTA-SESTA, which was supposedly about fighting sex trafficking, but in practice have endangered sex workers by killing off tools they could use safely ply their trade. Pretty much the only ones happy about this are politicians and pimps.
And who do we have to thank for helping to get this bill passed? Oh, a little mom and pop joint called Facebook.
Remember that story about how they hired people to spread theories about George Soros? You should; it was only a dozen paragraphs ago. Well, the New York Times expose that revealed this also outed that Facebook lobbied hard to get FOSTA-SESTA passed ... not because it was a good bill (it isn't), but because it was both a way of cozying up to their GOP critics in Congress and smearing business rivals such as Google.
Between this and the fact that the site keeps outing incognito sex workers to their friends, family, and clients, the question has to be asked: Does Mark Zuckerberg personally hate sex workers because they make his clockwork android loins quiver in a way that doesn't compute? Hey, we're only sharing "provocative ideas" here!
Adam Wears is on Twitter! He also has a newsletter dedicated to depressing history facts. It's not as heartbreakingly sad as it sounds, promise!
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