I spent a lot of my time last night watching the video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez absolutely skewering Facebook founder Mark “Definitely A Human And Not A Lizard Man” Zuckerberg. It was a fantastic night, in case you were wondering.
While it’s great fun to watch one of the richest and most powerful men in the world blurt out such profound gems as “I think lying is bad”, and laugh about how bad his weird Caesar inspired haircut is, we should probably look at the bigger picture.
Zuckerberg was facing congress to defend Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, Libra. He called the current method we have of paying for stuff “outdated,” and used that as a reason to tell everyone how much we need Libra. Now, I know sweet f-all about how cryptocurrency works, and maybe my debit card isn’t as cool as currency that zooms around the internet, but my debit card is the one getting me groceries so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But I digress.
Once Zuckerberg had finished implying that physical money is stupid, questioning turned to some of the other business that Facebook has been involved with. He was asked about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, why Facebook won’t fact check political ads themselves, and why some of the fact checkers they do have are tied to white supremacists.
I don’t need to tell you that Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool. The bottom line is that for such a powerful company, they seem to get away with a lot of shady stuff with a slap on the wrist. We all know what they’re up to, but we’re still using their website.
I’ve heard this explained away over and over again by people saying that Facebook is just a “necessary evil”.
Let’s address the “necessary” part of that phrase first. Sure, we could all delete Facebook and it would probably solve these problems, but it would also get rid of the benefits we get from social media. Like it or not, we do get a sense of connection from Facebook. We keep in touch with friends and family who live far away, and join all sorts of groups full of people with similar interests. I’m in a Facebook support group for people with dermatillomania, and it makes me realise I’m not alone or nuts.
Also, I’ve watched bosses in previous jobs search the names of people who handed us a resume, and get suspicious if they can’t find an account. So I’m going to go with Facebook being a necessity in 2019. Sue me.
It doesn’t have to be evil, though.
Saying that Facebook is stuck in its ways and can’t be changed is just not true. Mark Zuckerberg created it originally as a way to rank the attractiveness of women on his college campus, so it’s not like the site hasn’t changed at all since the beginning. It’s gone from being all sorts of creepy and gross on a small scale, to being all sorts of terrifying on a massive scale.
It’s absolutely possible for Facebook to give white supremacist-tied organisations the boot, and to fact check political ads that run on their platform. They’re probably going to harvest our data until the end of time, but they don’t have to work with companies like Cambridge Analytica who are going to do dodgy things with it.
Just because Facebook is ridiculously massive doesn’t mean we have to accept their behaviour and move on. Mark Zuckerberg should make better choices.
Oh, and do more research next time you come up against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.