Why Delete Facebook?

Published October 1, 2020, 8:10 AM

by Professor Rom Feria

(Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)

How we do start weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a social media/social network company like Facebook? Well, there is no denying that Facebook is one of the best ways to reach out to people digitally, and that is its main value or advantage, at least for me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any other advantage of the platform.

As a communications tool and as a tool for online community management, Facebook isn’t the only one out there, there are tools that existed before Facebook that are still being used today. E-mail is the common denominator for most, if not all, people who are communicating online today – and not Facebook. Mailing lists continue to exist as a means to organize communities. Even online chat existed even before the World Wide Web, which predates Facebook. What I am saying is that Facebook is not the only way to communicate, as what some people choose to believe.

So why delete Facebook?

Consider what Facebook does to continue providing their services for free — note that they are not asking you to pay for anything, and remember that maintaining computers/servers and internet connections is never free – Facebook sells its users’ attention to advertisers. Whilst online advertising is not new, nor is it inherently bad, what is different with Facebook is the added value of being able to get advertisers to identify users, albeit not individually (I think, I hope), they can target. Advertisers prefer that their ads are shown to people they think will respond positively to it. How can Facebook know whom to show these specific ads? Facebook collects as much data about its users as possible. With such detailed information about users, Facebook can offer advertisers their preferred target market, e.g., users from 18 to 24 years of age, female, living alone in Quezon City, Android user, goes online between 6pm and 10pm, and on Globe’s network. The data are collected whilst users are on Facebook, the mobile app or the web, but Facebook goes even deeper — by embedding trackers on other non-Facebook-owned websites, so each time a Facebook user visits one of those websites with the tracker, Facebook gets informed with data, such as which specific website, time of access, device and browser used to access, location, among others. The third-party website data improves the accuracy of the profile Facebook has about the user. Targeted ads not that bad until they target children, used to undermine democracy, and threaten human rights.

What about the data?

In 2018, The Guardian published an article, “Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you.” The article is already two(2) years old, I am sure that in that span of time, more data has been collected. What can you do with the data? Read the paper of Kosinski, Stillwell and Graepel, “Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior” to find out what your Facebook Likes can reveal about you. Now imagine government extracting that information, scary, right?

Facebook needs fresh data to improve their targeting algorithm. As such, Facebook tries to keep users in its site or app as long as possible. The longer the user is engaged, the more data is gathered. One way to keep users’ attention is to control what users see on their timeline, and the more negative the posts, the more engagement it gets. In 2014, Forbes published an article about Facebook’s experiment to alter the feelings of its users. If that is not manipulation, I do not know what is.

Last year, Wired reported on “Why Facebook’s Banned ‘Research’ App Was So Invasive”, where Facebook collected data that users were not aware of, nor did they give consent to. Just goes to show what Facebook is willing to do to collect data. And these aren’t one-offs as well.

With a massive data trove, Facebook does not have an exemplary record keeping users’ data safe either. NBC News in 2018 published “A timeline of Facebook’s privacy issues – and its responses”, which listed Facebook’s disregard of its users’ privacy spanning as far back as 2006. In July of this year, TechRepublic released “Facebook data privacy scandal: A cheat sheet”, which shows that Facebook does not really care about users’ privacy.

Again, why delete Facebook?

Facebook does not respect its users’ data and its users’ privacy. It does everything it could to gather as much user data no matter the consequences. It mastered the science of psychology to play with its users’ emotions to achieve the company’s goal of more user engagement, regardless of whether the side-effects are harmful or not, as long as it earns them revenue.

In a January 2018 Psychology Today article, “Is Facebook Destroying Society and Your Mental Health?”, cites a research stating that “deactivating social media can improve your life.” Now, think of the children who are subjected to Facebook’s tactics of bombarding the timeline with disinformation and divisiveness, which Facebook’s executives refuse to address immediately. These children are being exposed because the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education allow schools, colleges, universities, and its faculties to be accessories in Facebook’s blatant violation of its users’ (the children’s) privacy, and Facebook’s psychological manipulation to generte more data for profit. How is getting students on Facebook, where sexual predators, extremists, disinformation spreaders spend time in, conducive to learning?

The reasons, my reasons, mind you, to ditch Facebook far outweigh the sole benefit of being able to reach out to a wider audience, most of which, in all honesty, you don’t even talk to in the real, physical world. Facebook will *not* change, despite of its promises. There are only two(2) things that will make Facebook change: one is US government regulation (all other governments are crap, as far as Facebook is concerned), and the other is decrease in engagement (which means decrease in users) until it hurts their bottom-line. No amount of oversight, whether it is their oversight for show, or the external “The Real Facebook Oversight Board @FBoversight”, matter – Facebook will just ignore them, like the rest of the world. #DeleteFacebook, that is way!