Zuckerberg’s hoarding

A post from Mona Chalabi popped up on my social this morning.

As you can see it’s a beautifully cutting analysis of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent $25 million donation to help in the fight against coronavirus. She manages to show in the simplest way possible just how much Zuckerberg has sacrificed to the greater good. Twenty-five million dollars is few millilitres, a squirt from the vast glass of his $81 billion fortune.

In the old days, in the UK, a billion meant an million million, but since 1974 the UK Government has used the American definition of a billion when announcing figures. An American billion is just a thousand million, or a one followed by nine noughts; 1,000,000,000. Even using this lower scale, Zuckerberg’s $25 million donation accounts for only 0.03% of his current $81 billion fortune.

To give this some perspective. $81 billion is the equivalent to the gross domestic product to Cameroon. A country ranked 90th by the CIA in their World Factbook, that includes a listing of countries by GDP.

Basically Zuckerberg has more money at his disposal than bottom 53 countries of the World Factbook list combined. His personal fortune is the equivalent to the combined gross domestic product of Guam, Liberia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cape Verde, Djibouti, The Gambia, Guernsey, Central African Republic, Andorra, Belize, Curaçao, Guinea-Bissau, Seychelles, Aruba, Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Greenland, San Marino, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, ComorosSolomon Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Western Sahara, Dominica, Vanuatu, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tonga, Saint Martin, British Virgin Islands, Sint Maarten, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Falkland Islands, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Marshall Islands, Anguilla, Nauru, Wallis and Futuna, Montserrat, Tuvalu, Saint Helena, Niue, and Tokelau.

Why’s that a problem? Twenty-five million dollars is a large sum of money. It’s a problem because the billions Zuckerberg has taken from the economy, and is now sitting on, might be the difference between people living or dying, not just from COVID-19 but generally.


Mark Zuckerberg reminds me of a line from Test Dept

I don’t know why, but whenever I see Mark Zuckerberg speak, I always think of a line by Test Dept.

The last track on their 1986 album The Unacceptable Face of Freedom, Corridor of Cells, contains the lyric that sums up the Web2 giant.

“Domestic fascism. Armed with a TV smile.”

Mark Zuckerberg is grilled by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

I have nothing but admiration for the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carole Cadwalladr, and the determination needed to pull back the curtain on Facebook’s TV smile.

Facebook is a data collection machine

A response prompted by a Kari Paul article in The Guardian.

The Guardian

The Sturdy app shows anyone who wants to see that Facebook is not a social network, it’s a data collection machine.

A new Facebook app will allow users to sell the company data on how they use competitors’ apps.

How does Facebook use the data it collects? I think it’s using our data against us. When I first wrote that sentence it came out as, “using it against its users”. I quickly realised, even if you don’t use Facebook, you come into contact with someone who does, Facebook knows something about you through them. When it says it’s connecting people, it really is, it’s mapping the many ways we brush against each other.

Imagine you’re walking along Piccadilly at 3.30 in the afternoon. Someone takes a picture, and posts it at 3.31. Facebook knows something about the person who posted the picture, and the location of everyone captured in the photo. What if Mark Zuckerberg was walking along Piccadilly, and at 3.32 someone spat in his face. The picture taken at 3.30 might show the assailant. It makes everyone in the picture a suspect.

Facebook gets to work cross-referencing various accounts, pulling up the latest facial recognition software. Suddenly the police are at your door, making you account for your actions between 3.15 and 3.45. You were minding your own business, but now you have to prove it, you have to prove somehow you didn’t spit in Mark Zuckerberg’s face. They’re not trying to prove you did it, you’re trying to prove you didn’t.

At this point I can hear a certain section of the population repeating a mantra, throwing it in my direction like some spunk sodden flannel, “nothing to hide nothing to fear”. That’s not an argument, it’s an accusation. You assume I have something I hide because I don’t want to account for my whereabouts.

Now imagine the world taking a sudden turn towards the authoritarian? What if people below a certain income level aren’t allowed to walk along Piccadilly? The police are at your door, questioning you about the assault on Mark Zuckerberg, but arresting you for being too poor to be on Piccadilly.

Who knows how this technology is being used, or will be used in the future? Facebook aren’t mining data because it’s fun, they’re doing it because it’s worth something. The information they collect can be used for what? Changing your purchasing habits? Telling you what you know about the world? Influencing elections?

Facebook is not a benign force, it’s a privately owned data collection machine.

Now ask yourself how’s it being used?

A private Facebook is a supplement, not a replacement

Brian Feldman in Intelligencer reports plains laid out my Mark Zuckerberg for a “social network that wasn’t aggressively tracking everything its users did”.


I agree with the basic tenet of Fieldman’s piece. A “private” Facebook doesn’t address the bad features Facebook already has.

For me the notion of a “private” Facebook is a distraction. It’s the same strategy employed by old media for decades. Faux outrage is routinely spewed by populist newspapers trying to distract us away from the real issues. They function like a pickpocket pulling our attention, getting us to look at this shiny thing over here, while they steal the Apple Watch from our wrist. But distractions are just that, a distraction. Sooner or later we’re going to realise, our watch is gone.

The question then becomes, do we care?

So many of us seem wilfully ignorant of the manipulations we are subject to. Perhaps we accept these manipulations because the “truth” is too painful to accept. We all like to believe we have agency. Accepting that we are being manipulated removes that agency. It’s easier to accept that a “private” Facebook will give us back what they took, what we wilfully gave them, than accept we have no power in this dynamic.

I don’t think a “private” Facebook will change anything. Ephemerality doesn’t remove the ethos at the core of Facebook, an ethos that believes because they own the platform they own what we share.

It is easier to accept a shiny promise of a private network than accept, Facebook owns us, and we are but serfs to Lord Zuckerberg’s want.

Parliament seizes cache of Facebook internal papers

Carole Cadwalladr reports in the The Observer “Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions”.

Another interesting piece in the unfolding puzzle that is the scandle surrounding Cambridge Analytica, Vote Leave, and Facebook.

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