16 votes

Facebook is acting like a hostile foreign power; it’s time we treated it that way

7 comments

  1. [7]
    skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    The author is really reaching with this metaphor. One important difference is that hardly anyone (other than maybe employees) feels loyalty to Facebook and there is no pro-Facebook ideology....

    The author is really reaching with this metaphor.

    One important difference is that hardly anyone (other than maybe employees) feels loyalty to Facebook and there is no pro-Facebook ideology. Consumer sentiment ranges from indifference to extreme distrust. It’s also easy to disconnect for a while. Relatively few people delete their accounts, but an inactive Facebook account doesn’t seem any worse than an inactive account anywhere else?

    Facebook also doesn’t seem essential for doing business? It’s a popular place to advertise, but there don’t seem to be businesses that rely on it to the same extent that, say, mobile app companies depend on Apple and Google? It’s not part of the business infrastructure like Amazon and Microsoft. There are no Facebook taxes everyone has to pay, and despite some attempts they’re doing hardly anything with financial transactions.

    Of course they do have power of a sort but as big tech companies go they seem less essential than some of the others.

    8 votes
    1. [3]
      wcerfgba
      Link Parent
      There are several local businesses in my area who use Facebook as their homepage / primary web presence (along with Instagram, which is just Facebook :P ) and their only point of contact. It's...

      Facebook also doesn’t seem essential for doing business? It’s a popular place to advertise, but there don’t seem to be businesses that rely on it to the same extent that, say, mobile app companies depend on Apple and Google?

      There are several local businesses in my area who use Facebook as their homepage / primary web presence (along with Instagram, which is just Facebook :P ) and their only point of contact. It's impossible for me to engage with these companies online without a Facebook account.

      14 votes
      1. streblo
        Link Parent
        Are you sure you actually need an account? There are a few places where I live that have eschewed a website in favour of a Facebook page. I haven't had an account in years but I can still view...

        Are you sure you actually need an account? There are a few places where I live that have eschewed a website in favour of a Facebook page. I haven't had an account in years but I can still view their pages without one which is probably what most businesses would want.

        3 votes
      2. skybrian
        Link Parent
        Interesting. Do they publish their phone numbers?

        Interesting. Do they publish their phone numbers?

        1 vote
    2. [2]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      I disagree, I think the metaphor works pretty well. I think that's kind of the point they're trying to get at. The employees (or at least, some section of them) could be considered the foreign...

      I disagree, I think the metaphor works pretty well.

      One important difference is that hardly anyone (other than maybe employees) feels loyalty to Facebook and there is no pro-Facebook ideology.

      I think that's kind of the point they're trying to get at. The employees (or at least, some section of them) could be considered the foreign "country". They are the ones who are choosing how the organization operates, carrying out those decisions, reporting on results, proposing new ideas, etc. The rest of us are all foreigners to them. They happen to sell a product that is used by billions of people. Their goals are not going to be the same as my goals, or yours, or any particular country's. Even removing malice from the equation, if the goals of a foreign power are disrupting another country, that government of that country is going to take issue with that foreign power to some degree.

      We take issue when certain companies based in non-US countries start gaining too much of a foothold in the US. Look at how much consternation there has been around Huawei for instance. Now we have Facebook, which doesn't really need to be located in any particular physical location in order to operate, and has the money and influence to do damn near anything it wants if it chooses to.

      You posit that the comparison to a country doesn't hold because they seem less essential. I think to you and me personally that's true. However they do matter de facto. I don't think they should matter, and especially not as much as they do, but they do. They matter because people collectively choose to make them matter. Their longevity compared to a lot of their predecessor social entities and their current market dominance makes me believe they're not going anywhere "naturally". They need to be regulated and broken apart.

      7 votes
      1. skybrian
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        The reason I said maybe employees is that even the employees at the big tech companies often have mixed feelings about them. There is often internal dissent, some of which becomes public when they...

        The reason I said maybe employees is that even the employees at the big tech companies often have mixed feelings about them. There is often internal dissent, some of which becomes public when they leave, or even before due to leaks.

        That’s not to say they’re immediately disloyal - usually you start out hoping your new employer will be a good place to work (or you wouldn’t have picked them), and they do treat their employees very well in some ways. There is privilege to being on the inside and it’s fun to find out how things really work. But employees read the same news stories and websites as everyone else, and reading in the news about bad things happening in other parts of the company is upsetting, even allowing for how distorted the news often is. You wonder what’s really going on in (other division), and some people do more than just wonder.

        Also, unlike with countries, most employees only stay a few years. IBMers would often stay with the company for life but those days are long gone. So it’s less like citizenship in a country and more like a university, with a transient population. If you want to compare with a country, everybody is an immigrant (sometimes literally so) and they’re not as out of touch with the outside world as the “nation” metaphor suggests.

        New people come in all the time with whatever political beliefs they already had and they don’t necessarily change all that much. Someone who was really woke in college is still going to be woke. Though, culture changes and we do get out of touch as we get older.

        On the other hand, another way people are out of touch is that these are global companies and most of the world is literally foreign to them. There are offices all over the world staffed by locals who know their own country well (for the bigger countries anyway). Even the staff at headquarters tends to look like the United Nations, which is an interesting perk if you like meeting people. (Or at least it was before they closed the offices.) But the dominant culture for a Silicon Valley firm is going to be SF bay area culture.

        I don’t know about Facebook in particular though; just generalizing from my experience at Google which ended several years ago.

        4 votes
    3. EgoEimi
      Link Parent
      I agree. The author is really straining to argue that Facebook is some sort of neo-nation. It's a very "draw the rest of the fucking owl" statement. The "people" part hand-waves away a lot of...

      I agree. The author is really straining to argue that Facebook is some sort of neo-nation.

      The basic components of nationhood go something like this: You need land, currency, a philosophy of governance, and people.

      It's a very "draw the rest of the fucking owl" statement.

      The "people" part hand-waves away a lot of important sociological variables, like loyalty, ideology, unity solidarity, ethnicity, and so on. It also misses a few very critical ingredients like state monopoly over violence and sovereignty.

      I feel absolutely zero kinship with another Facebook user on the basis of us both being on Facebook or Instagram, whereas I feel a little kinship with other Americans on the basis of our being part of the same nation body.

      6 votes