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.
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.
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.
Facebook and other tech giants have been fortunate that they had been essentially unregulated … until now. On April 11 we received an email titled “[Action Required] Important updates on Google Analytics Data Retention and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)” from ‘Google Analytics’ email@example.com that presumably was received by billions of people with gmail email addresses or other Google associations. It alerts all of us of this data protection law affecting users based in the EU (European Union) that will be effective May 25, 2018.
We suspect that the vast majority of Internet-connected individuals had no clue that such a law was in the works, though they could hardly have missed the fact that Mark Zuckerberg was testifying in Washington, DC. Likely this mass email was intentionally timed to coincide with his testifying.
Do First Ask Forgiveness Later
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Though some other observers have scorned the technology naivete of some of the legislators, we were generally impressed with the thoughtful questions that in general dug into the key issues—most notably privacy—that had forced Mark Zuckerberg to testify.
Doubtless the large majority of Facebook users never read Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS), just like the user agreements of other memberships they pursue. When Technology Bloopers debuted, we carefully read the TOS and included some commentary under the “Social Networks” subheading of our “Villains” heading. We pointed out two notions that have turned out to be hugely important in the current dust-up: “Users of these social networks have accepted the Terms of Service (TOS) for them, giving them permission to do many things that, upon reflection, those users might actually not want done.” and “But it is hugely one-sided in that it talks about all the things that Facebook can do and not much about the things the Facebook customer can do. And it is hugely open-ended in that it cites examples of things that Facebook can do today or might do in the future, but places no limits on them. “
The tech giants are so powerful that they feel they can get away with taking actions without asking permission, then apologizing later. Again, we had reminded in our “Villains” subheading the famous quote from Lord Acton: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
We admit to being generally anti- to social networks. In our view they are an unnecessary sugar coating of basic functionality already provided in a range of websites. Our views were included when we originally uploaded our TechnologyBloopers website in August 2014, which included our critical analysis of Facebook’s “Terms of Service”.
Among the tech giants Facebook has recently has become the poster child for taking the notion of “if something is not forbidden by law, then it is allowed”, replacing Google (which did things like copying millions of pages of books in the name of making knowledge available, but violating the copyrights of the authors). This behavior earned a “command performance” for Mark Zuckerberg with congress as the audience.