Social connector, advertising platform or the world’s largest surveillance tool? With the daily, undivided attention of a quarter of the world’s population, whatever you think of Facebook: good, bad or amoral, it’s not a philanthropic exercise, and as misuse allegations of members’ data unfold, how do we decide for ourselves what’s right?
At two billion, and rising, there are more active members on Facebook than all religious groups, bar Christianity, which it’s creeping up on fast*. “What would Jesus do?” had he a Facebook account, becomes an absorbing thought. And it’s a sobering one that, “Likes, shares, comments and friend requests are becoming the closest thing humanity has to a universal tongue.”* However, recent date misuse allegations mean that for many, our trust of Facebook and other social media is wearing thin. Is its purpose “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Or, is its purpose to maximise stock value as a highly sophisticated advertising agency? Or both?!
Do we think Facebook is doing what’s right, or is it itself being duped by those seeking to “weaponise” data and the Facebook team has been caught napping? Is the trade-off between exchanging our human need for meaningful connection in return for targeted ads, acceptable? How do we begin to decide where we stand, or indeed what to do about it?
“Likes, shares, comments and friend requests are becoming the closest thing humanity has to a universal tongue.”
Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post
“It’s important to be able to work out the RIGHT way to use Facebook and other social media platforms to connect with other people. A knife can be used to prepare the food we eat – or it can be used to stab someone to death. Is it therefore the knife that’s good or bad, or is it about us and the way we use it?”
When deciding what’s RIGHT there is a clear framework that we can apply.
Is Facebook adhering to the Rules around how they tell us we’ll be treated as members and how they’ll look after the information we exchange on their platform? Do you know exactly where your information is? The platform is free to join, so do you know the rules of the trade-off and are you happy with the exchange?
Is Facebook acting with Integrity? Thinking about moral values of honesty and trust. How are they conducting themselves and does it give us confidence in their decisions to be guardians of personal information? Is it about community or the highest bidder?
Who is Facebook Good for and who does it Harm? Is it good for us and our families, friends and wider society? How does this match against what Facebook feels is good for its own growth? How is Facebook affecting the lives of millions of people for better or worse? Is the information they hold used to harm others? Is their very platform a source of joy, betterment or unhappiness and isolation?
What’s the Truth? What is really going on? With the understanding of how our relationships, families, fears, celebrations, calamities and joys feed Facebook’s dominance and wealth creation, what else do we need to know?
Finally, in an interesting parallel with religion, as Facebook comes under fire for a breach of trust with its members, so faired the Catholic Church 500 years ago, as worshipers led by Luther rejected the sale of indulgences to buy salvation and kicked off the Reformation. Will Facebook devotees lose their appetite for life affirming ‘likes’ in the same way? And how will trust be bought back?
“It’s important to be able to work out the RIGHT way to use Facebook and other social media platforms to connect with other people. A knife can be used to prepare the food we eat – or it can be used to stab someone to death. Is it therefore the knife that’s good or bad, or is it about us and the way we use it?” Roger Steare.
* If Facebook were a religion it would be the second large in the world – Washington Post – Here>
* BBC: ‘Facebook revelations and the Reformation – The Long View’ Jonathan Freedland and guests compare the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data row with Luther’s rejection of Purgatory and a loss of trust in the Church in pre-Reformation Europe. Here>