Dismantling Fakebook

Facebook is currently in the news as information is emerging on how the company deals with its role as one of the largest global forums for free speech. Unfortunately, the discussion is still on the “he-said-versus-she-said” level and the real issues are not being discussed at the core, where the real problems exist.

Facebook provides its platform free of charge on the condition we provide a certain level of information about ourselves. This information Facebook collates into one of the largest databases of consumer profiles in the world which it then makes available to advertisers who want to target products and services, for a fee, creating billions in profits for Facebook each quarter. It also provides a free platform for individuals, companies, organizations, political parties, interest groups, ad hoc groups, marketers, and many more to express their views and influence the world.

Now the question being asked is what type of information is being distributed and how reliable is it? “Fake News” has emerged as a concept and is being used widely on Facebook to spread rumors and false information around the world, influencing everything from voting patterns to personal relationships. The bombshell Facebook is now facing is the combination of fake news, free speech, and corporate profits in an unregulated world. How long can this continue?

According to the Brookings Institute, 57% of the consumers in the USA admit to having seen fake news and 19% believe it influenced their vote in the 2018 election. The general opinion is Donald Trump could never have won the 2016 Presidential election without the help of fake news, which he and his supporters propagated, and which they still do.

Currently, Facebook is operating in an unregulated world and it is the company’s responsibility to manage its own platform. However, Facebook has no interest in eliminating lies, violence, and fake news by banning any of its users as this reduces its sales argument to advertisers. Unfortunately, people are attracted to scandals, violence, and hate speech which are all elements of content on Facebook which are on the increase. In short, Facebook is earning huge amounts of money distributing such junk.

Moreover, whistleblowers are now revealing the company even showed a blind eye to many situations where they should have intervened. The blatant recent examples have been Donald Trump and the Covid 19 epidemic. The company is repeatedly telling the regulators it is taking action to eliminate all such undesirable information when its own personnel is saying the exact opposite. 

If we try and summarize what is happening here, it would appear that one man, Mark Zuckerberg, is influencing the whole world with false information in order to become one of the richest men on our planet. He is selling our personal information to advertisers who want to target their sales, and entices us to log on to Facebook to consume false, and sometimes harmful information, see what our friends are doing or meet new friends.

He then has the power to influence the very core of democracy by spreading false information and rumors created by unknown contributors and/or political pundits. He is already creating havoc in some countries outside of the English-speaking universe where he has almost no control of the content in foreign languages (e.g. India). Internal company documents show Facebook has taken action against violent content in just 0.6% of the known cases, creating genocide in some countries.

So what is the solution? Firstly, the definition of “free speech” has to be revisited and defined to exclude violence, fake news, hate speech, character assassination, and outright lies. Next, Facebook (or Meta) as the company is now called, must be regulated. Mark Zuckerberg’s power doesn’t stop with Facebook. Meta owns not only Facebook but also Instagram and WhatsApp where similar problems occur. The company should be dismantled into separate parts and each regulated based on their individual profiles.

Large blocks of shady contributors (already well known) should be banned from these platforms and all of their content removed, not just flagged. Facebook (Meta) should face huge financial penalties for non-compliance with any of the new rules and be forced to give consumers more control over how their personal information is being used. The ability to leave Facebook altogether should be simple and swift, not complicated and slow. The ability of the different parts of Meta (Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp) to share our personal information should be prohibited.

More and more of us should also take matters into our own hands and refuse to accept that one company and one man should create huge wealth on our backs. We should all take a closer look at whether we can, or cannot, live without such social media platforms. In my own case, of the 28 “friends” I have on Facebook, only five are really active. I communicate with these five by other means already and don’t need Facebook to stay in touch. I certainly don't have time to “surf” the website. So I have decided to leave. I don't need to be part of something which is destroying civilized society.


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