There is an expression I like a lot that goes like this, “Activism is equal parts love and anger.” In the wake of the horrifying disclosures over the past few days about how Facebook collaborated with Cambridge Analytica to corrupt the 2016 election, I am outraged. In fact, I have decided to delete my Facebook account and I urge you to do the same. In my considered opinion, what Facebook has done is nothing short of aiding and abetting the overthrow of the United States government. According to everything I have been taught, that is treason and those responsible belong in prison.
Marshall McLuhan once observed, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Facebook, like all social media platforms including Twitter and YouTube, is a tool that is new to most people and it has certainly shaped us. Boy, howdy, has it ever. Back in 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg was slapping together the first version of what would become Facebook, he asked 9,000 people to submit personal data about themselves to help him get started.
He sent a number of instant messages to colleagues at Harvard marveling at how eager people were to share private information with him according to The Guardian. “People just submitted it … I don’t know why … They ‘trust me’ … dumb fucks.” Nice, Mark. Your parents must be very proud of the sociopath they created. Zuckerberg has been missing in action since the recent allegations came to light.
If you aren’t familiar with the backstory here, it has come to light recently that Cambridge Analytica gained access to more than 50 million Facebook accounts prior to the last election and used private user data to design algorithms that would boost Donald Trump and diminish Hillary Clinton. As CNN explains, it is not accurate to describe what happened as a data breach, because what CA did was entirely consistent with established Facebook policies.
“Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge professor, accessed the data of more than 50 million Facebook users simply by creating a survey filled out by 270,000 people,” CNN says.”Facebook provided Kogan with the data of anyone who took the survey, as well as their friends’ data. In a statement, Facebook said, “Kogan gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels that governed all developers on Facebook at that time.”
Sandy Parakilas was the platform operations manager at Facebook in 2011 and 2012, He was responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers. He tells The Guardian that he constantly warned senior executives their lax approach was an invitation to abuse. “My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he says. “It has been painful watching because I know that they could have prevented it.”
Not many people know about Cambridge Analytica or what it does. The firm was created by tech billionaire and right wing conservative wingnut Robert Mercer in conjunction with Steve Bannon. (You can read more about Mercer and his conniving daughter in Michael Wolff’s book, Fire & Fury.) Now we are being treated to statements by CEO Alexander Nix about how he met with Donald Trump “many times” and a senior manager bragging that his team was the engine behind the “crooked Hillary” campaign. “We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community, but with no branding, so it’s unattributable, untrackable,” he says.
The upshot of all this is that Facebook is monetizing the private information of its subscribers. Are you OK with that? I’m not and it’s why I closed my Facebook account today. We don’t have to be sheep, or lambs to the slaughter, if you prefer. We have it in our power to put Facebook and its insultingly smug founder out of business. Stop doing business with Facebook. Watch its stock price collapse. Watch Mark Zuckerberg have to sell his house and all his possessions to pay for the harm he has done in the name of unmitigated greed.
This is a make or break moment for Facebook and Google and YouTube and Twitter and all the other companies who do nothing, make nothing, and contribute nothing except selling private information to advertisers and political campaigns. They are successful because we let them be. We have the power to punish these marauders and reclaim our privacy. I urge you to join the millions of people who are closing their Facebook accounts right now this very minute.
The world of social media today is like the Wild West in America in the 1800s. There are no laws, no rules, no standards, no oversight. It’s just grab as much money as you can as quickly as you can before people catch on to the con. Don’t stand for it, people. Go to your window, open it, and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” Then delete your Facebook account, just to make it official.
Note: Prior to writing this story, I discussed it with CleanTechnica senior editor Zachary Shahan, who encouraged me to go ahead. It is a privilege to be part of the CleanTechnica community of dedicated, committed activists for a greener, more sustainable world. If you think this story has nothing to do with clean tech, you simply aren’t paying attention.
This story pulls the curtain back on the illegal manipulations that put Trump in the White House and populated the entire federal government with despicable people like Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Betsy Devos, Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, and all the other hateful and hate-filled people who now are in charge of the federal government and increasing the odds that global warming will be the death of our beautiful planet.
In all likelihood, no one will go to jail because of these recent revelations. Just like the vile investment bankers who crashed the global economy in 2008 (and are busy getting ready to do it again), all of the big fish will escape accountability because, while the United States has a legal system, it lacks a justice system. Which is why a presidency that is little more than an organized criminal conspiracy continues to operate unfettered by rules, ethics, or morality. That, more than anything else, may lead to the ultimate downfall of this once great country, possibly taking the rest of the world down with it.