Of course it’s in direct conflict with FB’s business model but

social networks should reintroduce friction into their sharing mechanisms. Think of it as the digital equivalent of social distancing.

makes a lot of sense otherwise. There’s no viable path of doing only content moderation or filtering. Another option is breaking monopolistic silos up by requiring open API’s for them to be seen as true platforms. That too will reduce amplification, as it puts the selection into the hands of a wider variety of clients built on top of such a true platform. Of course that too is anathema to their business model.

Came across this article from last year, The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising. It takes a look at online advertising’s effectiveness. It seems the selection effect is strong, but not accounted for, because the metrics happen after that.

“It is crucial for advertisers to distinguish such a selection effect (people see your ad, but were already going to click, buy, register, or download) from the advertising effect (people see your ad, and that’s why they start clicking, buying, registering, downloading).”

They don’t.

All the data gathering, all the highly individual targeting, apparently means advertisers are reaching people they would already reach. Now people just click on a link the advertising company is paying extra for.

For eBay there was an opportunity in 2012 to experiment with what would happen if they stopped online advertising. Three months later, the results were clear: all the traffic that had previously come from paid links was now coming in through ordinary links. Tadelis had been right all along. Annually, eBay was burning a good $20m on ads targeting the keyword ‘eBay’. (Blake et al 2015, Econometrica Vol. 83, 1, pp 155-174. DOI 10.3982/ECTA12423, PDF on Sci-Hub)

It’s about a market of a quarter of a trillion dollars governed by irrationality. It’s about knowables, about how even the biggest data sets don’t always provide insight.

So, the next time when some site wants to emotionally blackmail you to please disable your adtech blockers, because they’ve led themselves to believe that undermining your privacy is the only way they can continue to exist, don’t feel guilty. Adtech has to go, you’re offering up your privacy for magical thinking. Shields up!

Ian Forrester over at Cubic Garden has submitted a GDPR request to ClearView AI, the alt-right linked company that is hawking their facial recognition database (based on scraped online images) to law enforcement as well as commercial outfits. Should be interesting to follow along. Recently IBM stopped facial recognition work (they previously showed not being up to speed with CC licensing it seemed to me), and others like Amazon and MicroSoft did too when it comes to law enforcement. Facial recognition is extremely sensitive to bias.

facial-recognition-1Facial recognition 1, by EFF, license CC BY

Bookmarked A simple plan for repairing our society: we need new human rights, and this is how we get them. by Vinay GuptaVinay Gupta (medium.com)
It’s very hard to get adults to reason properly about the human rights of other adults, because we always tend to say “well, their conditions are their fault.” Lot of black people wind up in jail? “That’s either bad policing, or bad behavior, or both” says the adult analysis. “Lot of black children are getting substandard educations” well, this is clearly not their fault. You can say their parents are responsible, and basically abandon these kids to the mercy of their environment, whatever random spot they were born in, or you can say “the children have fundamental rights as children and these rights require us to act on their behalf as a society” and, for example, really seriously invest in and fix education. You see what I’m saying? We can get leverage on issues like race in America by using the human rights of children, free from moral responsibility for their fates, as a universal standard by which to measure our obligations. The same kind of logic applies to the environment: “is this commons being handed over to the children, its future owners, intact, or is it being degraded in a manner that violates their rights.” That gets you concepts like natural parks protection from fracking etc. very nicely. In short, making the rights of children fully explicit, and enshrining them in our legal systems may be the shortest path forwards to creating a world in which we, as adults, are also protected. But the children first: none of this is their fault, and they should be protected as best we can. And a rights framework for children, something simple, reasonably universal, clear and easy to work with is certainly possible. We can do this.

Long winded, but the point is in order to stop us externalising the destructive costs of our societies towards the future, to make that future the litmus test of everything. In the form of benchmarking everything on how it impedes or improves the rights and lives of children, putting their human rights as the key stone of every decision.

I’ve been using Signal for years, as the go to messaging app. It’s fully encrypted, and all Signal ever knows about you is when you made an account, and if you still use it. In light of the protest in the US and world-wide against racism and police brutality, Signal posted a blog post yesterday explaining how Signal works.

What if the worst should happen, and some unauthorized party were to compromise Signal? We don’t have to speak hypothetically, because the US government already tried this, so we can examine what that looked like.
The only Signal user data we have, and the only data the US government obtained as a result, was the date of account creation and the date of last use – not user messages, groups, contacts, profile information, or anything else.

Reading their blog I realised I never donated anything yet to Signal, which is a non-profit. So I set up a monthly donation. So they can keep up their great work.

Last weekend I suspended my FB account. During the months of the pandemic I increasingly felt the irritation with FB build up again. Two years ago I deleted my previous Facebook account, after having stopped using it half a year before it. I did it then foremost to delete the existing history, and created a new account. I told myself it was the only way to connect to some people in my personal and professional network. That isn’t false, but it’s also not true in the sense that this is an overwhelming effect. FB is not without use, I’ve been able to keep up with the lives of various people I care about, and have been able to respond to their life events because it’s easy to share for them, and easy for me to respond on my own terms. That is a valuable human connection. Yet, when you’re having fun in a toxic swamp, you might be having fun, but you’re also still in a toxic swamp. I cherish the interaction with people around me, but rather do that in a pleasant environment which FB is most definitely not.

My original intention this weekend was to leave the account suspended for a few weeks to see how that felt and to maybe get back in later. I realised that that is basically to let the skin irritation of the toxic swamp fade away for a few days and then expose myself to a next batch of irritants.

Then today two things happened.

Om Malik wrote about FB’s toxicity as a company, and to vote with your feet. One vote in itself isn’t much. Yet “If you don’t make good use of your vote, you enable those who would … destroy what we value. Facebook is no different. You might be one person with just one account, but you are not powerless. Being a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithmic empire is a choice. If you believe that Facebook is causing long-term damage to our society, and you don’t agree with their values or their approach to doing business, you can choose to leave.” He left FB half a year after me, but still maintained his Instagram and Whatsapp account. He’s ditching that now too, because of FB the company. He’s right. If you think you’re in a toxic swamp, why stay at all within its vicinity?

The second thing was that the mail man came. Bringing a lovely hand written note from Peter. With kind words about our friendship and how our blog writing and adjacent interaction crosses the ocean between us. His card was a great example of having fun outside of the toxic swamp. Not that I think that I should return to sending postcards only, it just points to the spectrum of other channels we have at our fingertips that aren’t FB.

20200603_131512

So, like two years ago I deleted my FB account again today, and in 30 days it will be gone. FB is betting I will try to log in within that time. I know I won’t. Because unlike two years ago I have no hold-out reason left to go back into the toxic swamp. On top of that, if I did then I’d have to return here and eat my words 😉