An Ugly Truth

“So we connect people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allowed us to connect more people more often id de facto good.” The title of this memo was called The Ugly”.”

I’ll be honest upfront. This book made me realise how dangerous and invasive Facebook is in our lives. This book truly exposes all the dirty tactics that Facebook employs– basically we are all being used for their own advantages. We are all essentially products.

What really freaked me out was how the Facebook app on my phone is basically a tracking device. It follows where I go, what place I visit, where I eat, where I shop, how long I spend at a shop, my travel route, and just about everything else. Even though I knew this was all happening but to realise that Facebook does this to target us all felt very invasive.

An Ugly truth basically covers the five years from one US election to the next, and how Facebook failed to protect its users as the platform was further exposed. It’s written brilliantly by award winning authors Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, who take us all inside and behind the scenes at Facebook, through the many people they’ve interviewed, to get us an intimate portrayal of a company gone wrong. It read like a fast-paced thriller and each step of the way, all the layers are exposed thereby allowing us to see how Facebook functions. And it’s not a pretty sight.

Facebook is a company based on deceit and being dishonest. It is an open fact now, especially since Facbook’s Mark Zuckeberg, is repeatedly being called into question about its’ policies. This all happened when it became clear that Facebook was involved in allowing the Russians to manipulate the voters in the US to allow for Trump to win for presidency.

Zuckerberg’s Fears

Zuckerberg’s three biggest fears are: 1- that his site would be hacked, 2- that has employees would be physically hurt, and 3- that regulators would one day break up his social network.

The Fake Origin Story

One of the biggest lies Zuckerberg lies to propagate is the origin story of Facebook. The original idea of what was once known was The Facebook was essentially to rate hot girls at Harvard University. It became extremely popular and as he said in one conversation with his friends, people just “trusted” him with their personal data. What he tells people today is that he started Facebook as a way to connect people with each other. At one speech, he talked about how the US was at war with Iraq, and so he created a platform to allow for people to express their unbiased opinions. People called him out for lying.

Upon reaching 5.5 million subscribers to Facebook, he was asked what his next plan was, and he merely replied, “domination!”

Sheryl Sandberg

One of the other really disappointing thing to read about was his partner Sheryl Sandberg. She may be a very aggressive go-getter and is brilliant at scaling things up, but her attitude towards others is very cut throat and rude. However, she is to be given due credit for leaving Google and moving to Facebook and scaling it to the highest level. She is the one who was able to get the advertisements to be so invasive in our feeds. The way she saw it, “if Google filled demand, then Facebook would create it. Facebook users weren’t there to shop, but advertisers would convert them to shoppers.” I remember reading her book Option B, which she wrote after the death of her husband and I remember thinking of her a white, privileged female who had access to the best universities and resources to lead such a rich lifestyle. This book will change your perception of who she really is.

in 2009, Zuckerberg was worried how Twitter posts were all public domain while Facebook allowed for posts to be private. One day, everyone woke up to see all their posts, Likes, visits were all public information. The settings were all set to public by default. People panicked and had to physically make their posts private. Zuckerberg didn’t care for people’s privacy, he just wanted to harvest as much information as he could from all of us.

Russia

Facebook had no playbook for the Russian hackers, no policies for what to do if a rogue account spread stolen emails across the platform to influence US news coverage. The evidence was clear: Russian hackers posing as Americans were setting up Facebook groups and coordinating wit one another to manipulate US citizens. But Facebook didn’t have a rule against it.

There are pages dedicated to this fiasco, and Trump winning for presidency made everyone at Facebook HQ go into shock and disbelief. They started scrambling for security advisers and getting down to what exactly happened, how it happened and how they all missed it. This was essentially the beginning of the company being exposed.

Cambridge Analytica was one company that was able to access the user’s details through the Open Graph application by Facebook. While Zuckerberg was warned about this easy access, he wasn’t really interested in pursuing this as his mind was set on global domination.

Myanmar and Rohingya Massacre

In what was the saddest chapter in the book, and the one that made me angry, Facebook is responsible for the massacre of thousands of innocent Rohingya Muslims. in 2017, an infantryman of the Burmese soldier wrote a hate post on Facebook to his 5000 or so followers. That hate message, along with many others, incited hatred for the Muslims. In 2018, an independent fact-finding mission led by the UN told reporters that “social media played a determining role in the genocide, and Facebook had substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict.” Although Zuckerberg and Sandberg were told of the high levels of hate killings in Myanmar, Zuckerberg was only focused on how to take his 1.5 billion followers to 5 billion followers. Hate speech, disinformation, slander, rumours– no one at Facebook was moderating any of this on the site. “Facebook was designed to throw gas on the fire of any speech that invoked an emotion, even if it was a hateful speech– its algorithm favoured sensationalism.” Facebook had the chance to do things right in Myanmar, but they didn’t. “It was a decision, and they chose not to help.”

Whatsapp and Instagram

“Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were part of a pattern to create a social media monopoly and then to maintain that monopoly by buying or killing off competitions.” I would not be surprised if one day we wake up to see ads on WhatsApp.

What is Facebook?

2009: $777million.

2020: $86 billion.

It’s a business.

Facebook has been duplicitous and irresponsible with our data for years.

The Like button allowed “companies to get information about which Facebook users were visiting their sites, and Facebook received information about what its users did one they left its site.

“How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Zuckberg paused and smiled, Senator, we run ads.”

Facebook is very well aware of how they are able to manipulate people’s emotions.

The algorithm that serves Facebook’s beating heart is too powerful and too lucrative. And the platform is built upon a fundamental, pssobioy irreconcilable dichotomy: its proposed mission to advance society by connecting people while also profiting pff them. It is Facebook dilemma and its ugly truth.”

Now what?

The dilemma that I had after reading this book was that I immediately wanted to delete my account, but what stops me is I will lose contact with my friends and family world over. I have indeed been sucked into Facebook and Instagram and it’s the most easiest and convenient way to stay connected- so in that respect, Zuckerberg has surely succeeded in getting us all connected.

However, I have deleted the Facebook app from my iPhone and iPad, and only access it on the browser. I hardly use Facebook now, let alone the Facebook Messenger which in itself is a huge problem. I’ve also notched up my security levels on Facebook and don’t entertain random messages and friends request.

So while I admit I can’t bring myself to delete Facebook (as much as I want to), I find myself very conflicted with Facebook.

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