Our useless social media

It’s been depressing watching these social media services scramble to cover their butts after a tragedy they fed.

So, Facebook, you’re telling me you’ve got 1.5 million assholes under your wing who rush to display pornographically violent videos, and you’ve managed to block individual instances of scumbaggery? That’s supposed to make me happy to be part of your big internet party? What I’d like to see is more thorough screening of the sources of this poison, but that’s not going to happen. You want to sell ads to neo-Nazis.

Right, YouTube. You’re a haven for right-wing jerks; you’ve built algorithms that drive traffic to, and monetize, misogyny, racism, and stupidity. You ought to look in the mirror at yourself and recognize that if vapid, worthless content like that produced by Pewdiepie and the Paul brothers is the most popular shit on the service, you’re doing something wrong. Something seriously wrong. You reward scumbaggery. But oh yes, when you’ve got a narrowly specific item that you can remove without offending legions of trolls, you can clean that up and pat yourself on the back for it.

People are being murdered and our governments are a shambles, and the big players in social media like to pretend that they are apolitical purveyors of totally free speech. Nothing is apolitical, and free speech has become an empty mantra recited by the deplorables to defend shitposting. Thanks to you.


  1. drew says

    Or you could point to the republicans and also the democrats here at home who refuse to regulate these industries. I realize the Internet is global but that’s within our scope of influence. We see capitalism gone wild mixed with unregulated, privately-controlled common spaces (social media). And everyone is unwilling to do something as minor as re-instituting the fairness doctrine for our public airways let alone deal with the larger problems. And don’t forget that traditional media are also allowed to profit from this – or are Fox and CNN and MSNBC refusing to show ads during this coverage? Where exactly is the public good in this?

  2. consciousness razor says

    Here’s a sort of radical idea: maybe try to avoid using useless things, as much as possible.
    You can tell me that you don’t “use” facebook in some restricted sense, or that you don’t spend a lot of time on it, etc. (Or some may come up with various excuses for why they do use it.) But how about that facebook.net script on this very site? (Not to mention a bunch of others.) Is it necessary? If it’s not necessary but is still something that you think you want, then why do you think that? I bet most of what you’re writing here is sincere, but what good is that if your actions are sending a different signal?
    Let me anticipate a response that I’ve heard more than once…. I know that I could use noscript (etc.) on my end to block things like that. That’s nice and all, but the question remains: why is it on the site in the first place? If there is no coherent answer to give, I might be able to understand that; but I’m sure it’s definitely not coming in the form of some software that people could download.

  3. says

    There are changes coming. Not very happy changes for a site that has to exist in a capitalist economy, but I’ve been nagging those people with their ads and scripts and they aren’t happy with me.

  4. Kagehi says

    @2 Honestly, a huge part of the problem is that these things have become so ubiquitous that you have things like, “My online game feeds ads using facebook, for other games, as a trade off for saving your current game state, so you don’t loose everything. So, if you don’t have a facebook account you can’t play.” Sure, you can decide to not play them, as a form of protest, but then you start looking around and realize how much other crap has something hooked into the damn service, and it starts to become almost the level of, “I should stop using the internet at all, if I want to avoid them.” Youtube is, honestly, far, far, worse, because they are a bit like a cable company – there is vast content that you “do” want, but you are forced to also support, by extension, however indirectly, all the crap too (it is, after all, BUNDLED), just like the 20 sports stations, 15 religious stations, and 8 copies of “Fox News” on every freaking TV cable service in the country…

  5. consciousness razor says

    Kagehi: I understand what you’re saying, although it doesn’t literally reach the level of “I should stop using the internet” … we’re not quite there yet, in any case. I think the problems with Facebook are more serious and more numerous, compared to the perverse incentive structure of something like YouTube. I mean, bad Youtube traffic algorithms might be substituted with better ones (or they could become less relevant to people’s behavior), but I would say there’s much more to worry about in Facebook’s case.
    I was listening to Sean Carroll’s podcast a few days ago (on Youtube), when they were discussing ancient Rome. Sometime near the end, the guest was describing how Augustus would let the normal operations of government become dysfunctional at times: cooking it up so that there was a deficit and so forth. You might think he’d be blamed for such things, at least by any of his opponents who weren’t already murdered (admittedly, there weren’t many). As usual with Augustus, it’s all about ruthless manipulation. He could “donate” some of his vast wealth (which of course was inherited and/or stolen) to prove that he was needed to “fix” these problems. It wasn’t something that put his career at risk (maybe “career” isn’t the right word), and if anything he was more powerful. His status and position was more secure, because making the system work without his meddling became practically impossible. If it goes on long enough, as it did with Augustus, many people just don’t know what it’s like to have a republican system, without the supposed need for Big Brother’s “help” and “leadership.”
    No conclusions really, but your comment reminded me of that.

  6. wanderingelf says

    One of the first questions that occurred to me when facebook claimed to have removed 1.5 million copies of the video was “did you also shut down the 1.5 million accounts that tried to post the video?” Same with their claim to be removing comments that praise or support the shooter – are those accounts being shut down? Until facebook is willing to lose white supremacist accounts, I cannot take their claims to give a damn seriously.

  7. says

    Sturgeon’s Law applies. 90% crap, but that remaining 10% is (usually) worth it.
    That said, some of that 90% is mind-bogglingly terrible, some is downright dangerous (Nazis), and as much as I’m for the right to say, feel, and believe what you want… well… there are limits even to that. And frankly, if you’re spouting off hateful shit about minorities, you deserve to be silenced on those specific topics.

  8. jamiejag says

    Do facebook and youtube plan on sharing the account information for those trying to post that video with the proper authorities? Should those who clicked on those resources be included in the lists?

  9. robintre says

    PZ, it’s not oten I disagree with you, but this Techdirt post gives some detail regarding the scale and complexity of the problems facing the big tech companies in dealing with a situation like this.https://www.techdirt.com/blog/