Facebook’s antics have caught up with it. Facebook’s original objective was to connect individuals with each other. It was a computerized superset of what was known to college students of an earlier generation whose primary use was often to look at pictures of the opposite sex to see if they were attractive and of an appropriate height. It did have addresses but no telephone numbers. And, of course, no email address. As technology evolved, the information was put onto the Internet. And because of the large concentration of college students in the Boston, MA area who were tech-savvy, it was predictable that it would be where this would happen first. Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook, which initially dealt with interpersonal communications. And as it evolved people found it useful for communicating among groups of relatives or friends. And if it had continued to play this role, Facebook would not have run into the problems that have caused Zuckerberg to be forced to testify to the U.S. Congress in 2018. But in 2007 the company introduced Facebook Ads, which made the company a lot of money. However, some of the content posted on Facebook seriously offended the advertisers, who are giant corporations, and an increasing number have boycotted Facebook. Even though Facebook is losing these advertisers Zuckerberg cries all the way to the bank.
It seems to us that the POTUS (the President of the United States) should be dealing with the affairs of the state rather than lobbing bombs of various sizes at social media, especially these days. Twitter was historically benefitted because Trump used it so frequently and thus publicized it. But social media is now lobbing their own bombs. Starting on Memorial Day (May 25), instead of inspiring unity, Twitter applied a fact-checking notice to Trump’s tweets on the subject of voter fraud, non-usage of masks, and other issues. Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to take Trump to task, causing a bunch of Facebook employees to use Twitter to voice their objection. Some of Facebook’s larger advertisers, North Face and Patagonia in particular hit him where it hurts.
It had to happen. As the tech giants continue to grow, they start to overlap each other, simply because there are just not that many giant markets that they can pursue. In this case, it is Facebook invading Amazon’s e-commerce territory with its new “Shops” e-commerce service. It is useful to remember that a big chunk of Amazon’s revenue comes from third-party sellers. These sellers are mostly small, and they can now set up their own e-commerce on Facebook or Instagram.
We have never had a Facebook account, because we perceived it as a time-waster, fun for people who didn’t have day jobs and accepted the occasional scandals and the fact that their memberships had made Mark Zuckerberg outrageously wealthy. But more recently people have realized not only how much time they had wasted but also how depressed they were and how many impulse purchases it had caused. Although some people want to make sure they don’t miss out of what’s happening, and others actually use Facebook as part of their job, on balance people agree that Facebook does reduce their productivity. And a 2015 survey of people who have to make decisions found that 86% of them believe that social media are not useful. Social media companies like Facebook are a poor substitute for personal meetings. Zoom and similar alternatives are better for taking care of people that are not present.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has been involved in important political machinations. But this time the people were deathly sick, and were being misled as to the nature of the cause of it and guided to take useless medications. Fortunately, guardian NewsGuardTech detected this misinformation and publicized it. Curiously, this situation has provided Mark Zuckerberg an opportunity to be the good guy because he took thoughtful actions early.
The famous quote from Lord Acton—“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”—is a good guide to compiling a list of the companies that are likely to need policing. The list is pretty short—Amazon, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Twitter, and Uber (perhaps). And the effect on humankind (especially children) is pretty severe. Amazon is now so large and powerful that it is in danger of being prosecuted under the antitrust laws.
And Facebook and Google make bags of money from advertisers, and have a continuing series of privacy violations.
Fortunately, a handful of Silicon Valley notables have become activist vigilantes. And they are aiming at kids to use their smartphones for healthy purposes rather than wasting time on useless social apps.
Every major new technology brings with it not only fascinating new capabilities, and in the case of electronic technologies also some potentially-dangerous new challenges. So many auto accidents have been caused because drivers were distracted by their gadgets that it has been proposed that those drivers be punished as if they were driving under the influence of alcohol (or other substances). And it isn’t only driving. Focusing on the small screen while walking not only puts one in harm’s way but in cities like Montclair, CA crossing a street while distracted can result in a sizable fine.
Some help is on its way. At its most recent developers conference Apple introduced a feature called Screen Time (to be available in September) that lets users monitor and limit their app use on their iPhones and iPads.
A couple has dedicated themselves to the cause, creating an app called Moment and living in their RV as they travel the USA.
And at the Hearth in Manhattan, diners are encouraged to put their cellphones in picturesque boxes provided at each table.
But isn’t the real villain the pressure to keep users connected so advertisers can continue to shovel advertisements into the users’ brains?
We have twice before posted strong pleas for the giant tech companies—especially Alphabet/Google/YouTube, Apple, and Facebook—to stop expanding their Silicon Valley facilities rather than creating/expanding sizable operations in other cities. They’re mostly software companies, which could be located anyplace with high-speed data transmission capabilities!!! Are these companies afflicted by cases of hubris?
We wonder why all those cities who were campaigning for the Amazon HQ2 aren’t similarly campaigning for expansions of other tech giants.
We also wonder why Silicon Valley communities have not been able to either (1) extract enough money from these companies to compensate the many victims (long commutes, wasted time in traffic jams, inability to find housing, homelessness, etc., or (2) tax the companies so much that it makes it uneconomic to expand there.
Other organizations that are keeping up the good fight include the San Francisco Peninsula Resident Association.
Matchmaking websites have been around for a long time, with a set of entrenched ones—such as Match.com, eHarmony, okcupid, and Tinder—that have been used by millions of couples, and many married couples first met online. So Facebook is late to the party, particularly when it apparently can take an average of 34 messages before a couple exchanges phone numbers and an average of 84 matches to find a mate.
However, high-tech matchmaking has become a $3 billion business, due to its shyness- overcoming nature, rapid marriage results, and stability of marriages.
This sizable business has been made possible by the advanced software and hardware that underlie the Worldwide Web. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, so as early as 1959 a couple of Stanford undergraduate electrical engineering students—Jim Harvey and Phil Fialer—used paper questionnaires and an IBM 650 computer to pair up 50 men and 50 women. Today’s computers are 1,000,000,000,000 times as fast as this 1954-vintage computer, so it would be easy to work with Facebook’s 2.2 billion members, which are only 22,000,000 times as many as people as took part in the Stanford matchmaking.
As might be expected of bright and fun-loving young men, the full story is very amusing. Back in 1959, the shortage of dormitory rooms had led to their (and a few electrical engineering and KZSU friends) having to live off-campus, namely in the Los Trancos Woods community in Portola Valley. This location was perfect for a date-matching party. It also gave its name to the unconventional and entertaining Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band.
Taking the venerable quote from Harry Truman,” If you cannot convince them, confuse them”, Facebook will change its coverage so that three-fourths of its total user base (including those in the United States and Canada) will not be able to file a complaint in Ireland, where Facebook’s international headquarters lies. So European Union residents are covered by the GDPR rules. This change will continue to keep Facebook in the news as being untrustworthy, and could cause the U.S. congress to add more stringent laws.