Facebook owns us

Facebook has become the event planning system. It’s the place where you have all your friends (and other people) somewhat sorted and organized. All in all, it’s the organized system in the chaos that is otherwise known as the internets.

This is leading Facebook towards a virtual monopoly. There are lots of issues with monopolies, but one of the more interesting ones when it comes to Facebook is the impact is has on our social lives, online as well as offline.

A friend of mine creates music videos. He’s great at it. He is also very proud of them, so he uploads them to Facebook to show his friends and relatives. It’s the easy way to do it — all of us are already there.
Facebook however doesn’t like this behaviour. They deleted the videos and said that my friend was violating copyright. Even though they really have no clue if that is the case or not.

Both my friend and I are very into people being treated as they should. We don’t take crap from anyone. That’s why my friend wanted to get even with Facebook, in a sort of childish way. He uploaded a picture of a male genitalia as a profile picture. Harmless enough. Friends seeing his profile picture would laugh or become a bit annoyed that they have a childish friend.

So what happens when you do something like that? Facebook delete you. They erase you from the digital earth. All pictures that he was tagged in seems to be gone (I can’t find one single picture with him on there right now). He’s no longer in my list of friends. Facebook didn’t send out a notice saying that my friend was erased. I actually found out that he was gone from Facebook when he didn’t show to the moving in party at Flattr, when someone there told me he never received an invitation. It was weeks after, and I had invited him to another thing he didn’t show to either. I now know why.

Like everybody else today, I invite people via Facebook to events. If they’re not on there, they won’t get invited, it’s too much hassle, and “everybody is there” with few exceptions. This means that if Facebook deletes a friend from your online catalogue, you might actually stop hanging out with them offline as well. This is not acceptable. In a democracy we break monopolies and we allow for trials to happen (some of them are actually fair as well). On facebook, we’re being treated as goods.

We’re all in this mess together. Facebook owns us, our offline and online connections. If they have moral objections towards who you are, you might be erased. You’re never sure.

I don’t want to support this anymore. Is there another system, open in the way that makes me the master of my own profile, makes me safe from someone elses moral decisions? Facebook has (so far) censored 4 of my sites from being mentioned on their “walls”, in facebook mails etc. I am no longer allowed to speak of things that they object to. I am not allowed to know why. They do not condone some of my friends. We should all leave, we are obviously not welcome!

29 comments ↓

#1 abeijer on 04.24.10 at 21:21

Been looking for alternatives to FB as well. There is an interesting project called daisychain, also called GNU social:
http://groups.fsf.org/wiki/Group:GNU_Social

#2 Svavar Kjarrval on 04.24.10 at 22:13

This is unfortunately somethings which is hard to prevent. Facebook is so big it starts to think less about its users and more about profit. It takes less and less chances and avoids anything which can be construed as a legal challenge. If they ignore/bend even a single letter of the law, they could be made to pay many millions in legal fees and damages. If they do, it’s because they’ve figured they can make more money out of it than they need to pay if it’s challenged.

I agree Facebook is beginning to become a monopoly in its field. It’s kind of like vendor lock-in but in terms of social networking (social lock-in?).

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Social comments and analytics for this post…

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#6 Zack on 04.25.10 at 03:01

I’ve been contemplating this for a while now and I really would like to move to an alternative or worse-case scenario just do things the old fashioned why (store people in my phone and use calendar tools for event management).

With stuff like what you’ve mentioned and the ever increasing privacy bullshit that Facebook is doing with my e-person I’m about sick of dealing with them. I’m a person not a tool. I’m a human being not a commodity.

#7 Shloogy on 04.25.10 at 04:07

Great article, Peter.
We should all show them what we’re made of (or just show them our genitals…)!

#8 Michael LaFrance on 04.25.10 at 04:15

Facebook is a great concept with very good execution, but they are overreaching. Unless they implement an appeal and ombudsman system they will become another AT&T like monopoly. The difference here is that it won’t take a government break-up to foster competition. People will move to the next best thing in spite of their time investment in Facebook because it is easy to do so.

Look at MySpace – that is a perfect example. In a matter of months a ground swell of discontented users became a tsunami. If Facebook becomes too arbitrary in their conduct, people will leave. I see this happening with YouTube. Many people are seeking alternatives to YouTube because of their arbitrary and capricious methods of blocking videos. When the average Joe & Jane hear one too many stories about their friend’s being knocked off Facebook, and a reasonable alternative exists, there will be a rush to the next best thing.

Remember, none of these services are more than a few years old. The next new and better thing is always just around the corner. If Facebook wants to be in the game for the long haul, they will have to be fair and reasonable because the market will dictate it.

#9 Michael LaFrance on 04.25.10 at 04:21

P.S. – I posted your link on my Facebook. ;)

#10 Andreas Ekström on 04.25.10 at 05:29

I couldn’t agree more. Facebook is in many ways trying to become the internet; Facebook is for most of us becoming the one single “contact constant”. You get a new cell phone number, you get a new address, you get a new e-mail address, you get married and get a new last name – but your Facebook account is still there, staying the same, as the one constant and certain way to get a hold of you.

#11 Beta Alfa » Blog Archive » Noterat 2010-04-25 on 04.25.10 at 05:59

[…] Facebook owns us- “I don’t want to support this anymore”, skriver Copy Me Happy. […]

#12 Juho Rutila on 04.25.10 at 06:29

Hi,

Check out Peerscape (www.peerscape.org). It is P2P and works as a Firefox extension. I don’t know if it is mature enough yet, but interesting idea still.

#13 buddard on 04.25.10 at 07:48

Maybe a mailing list could be up to the job? You can even run your own server, but in my experience services like Yahoo Groups works fine as well.

#14 jardenberg kommenterar – 25 Apr, 2010 | jardenberg unedited on 04.25.10 at 10:03

[…] Facebook owns us — Copy me happy […]

#15 Josh on 04.25.10 at 11:09

That’s exactly the reason why I deleted my account there after using it for 2 weeks.

I would flattr you for this post if I already had an account ;)

#16 Just Mee on 04.25.10 at 12:02

i hope more people realize the gravity of what’s just being said – “owning” and ‘monopoly” are key words here. the Y-Z generations have not seen or felt a physical oppression yet (at least in the western world), but we may have virtual oppression now. it will be a new form of corporate leverage and social engineering – virtual punishment – it’ll hurt just the same. “Shift Happens”, but in what direction?!

#17 Carl on 04.25.10 at 12:21

Wonder how long until they block this blog.

#18 pros on 04.25.10 at 19:39

thank god i’m not a member of the network of facebook, if I whant to talk friends I use msn och mail korspondet.

#19 Thomas Tvivlaren on 04.25.10 at 20:52

Excellent blog-post and very timely too!

Today Facebook censored the Pirate Party initiative “United Pirates”. The group was intended to bring Pirate Parties across the globe together in order to enable better cooperation and communication.

No explanation or notification has been sent to me or the other administrator of the group so far…

#20 Mind on 04.26.10 at 00:48

First of all, welcome back! I couldn’t comment on your last post. And second, I totally agree on Facebook. The thing is, most of us have a bunch of clueless friends, relatives, etc who either doesn’t know about the implications of Facebooks rules or doesn’t care. Everyone signs up on it only because everyone else is already signed up. We need something new and free, and we need to start building up social momentum so we get a reason for everyone clueless to get of the Facebook bandwagon as well.

#21 openess on 04.26.10 at 08:12

jag läste en bok en gång där folk försvann på dethär sättet. 1984 hette den ;)

varför ser jag inte den uppenbara storebrorsreferensen i kommentarerna än?

#22 Ismael on 04.26.10 at 14:52

People that works with XMPP (former Jabber) is beginning to make specs and even proof of concept code for distributed social networks.

At first with microblogging.

This kind of project can build a independent and interconnected network .

It’s important to spread the word about alternatives, and about this kind of monopolistic behaviour.

#23 RR on 04.26.10 at 16:21

Happy to hear this from you… I’ve been dreaming about a P2P social networking system for years but unable to realise it myself. I recently stumbled upon http://www.peerson.net which seems to be the beginning of this idea… We really need to layer some such network over I2P with lots of encryption and easy way to allow or remove access to your data _yourself_.

cheers!

#24 Natanael L on 04.26.10 at 20:42

Possible solutions:

http://www.foaf-project.org/
http://microformats.org/wiki/xfn
And other microformats based systems…

Google Wave when you host your own server (the protocol is 100% free, free clients and servers already exist)

http://dataportability.org/ – They are working on making it easier to backup and transfer data around the way you want it

#25 Johan Bouveng on 04.27.10 at 00:22

Oh please! Do you offline your friends IRL if they dont appear in your friend list on FB? Come on, FB is not an replacement for IRL, its just an addition. Violate terms, and get kicked out.

I dont understand how this can be an issue at all. Censorship is another thing, i fully agree on that one. But the crying story that your friend didnt show up on a party because you use facebook to invite ppl, and he was deleted for having a cock on his profile pic? Allow me to smile. :)

Internet is and will always be a playground that hosts the static of the mankind.

ps. You can always create your own community using http://elgg.org ‘s open source community :)

Peace man!

/J

#26 Derek Lackaff on 04.27.10 at 14:24

In addition to GNU Social mentioned above, there is a recently-launched project called Diaspora (http://joindiaspora.com) that aims to develop an open-source, decentralized, privacy-aware, encrypted social network platform. It sounds great, and they are well on their way to funding a summer of development via a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. I don’t know how far they will get, but I’m excited to see some real movement in this area.

#27 Dave on 04.27.10 at 19:47

Its a good hint if you do want to escape from facebook – if you try and do it voluntarily it is extremely hard to get out and they never really delete you.

So – put something obscene as a profile picture and they save you the effort!

#28 Johan Andersson on 04.29.10 at 04:38

Leave Facebook if you have an account or more there. I’m not a Facebook user and probably will never be. I use XMPP some you can reach me sometimes at j85@jabber.se

#29 ANNM on 04.29.10 at 16:03

I don’t use Facebook, but I can see the appeal.

However, using a centralised online system for things like that, with everything that means in terms of technical vulnerability, censorship, and lack of control, is bad. Any Facebook replacement really needs to be distributed, or at least have easy mechanisms for migrating all your data from one server to another. GNU Social looks interesting, as well as building systems on top of XMPP.

For the hardcore crypto geek, a distributed, encrypted, content-addressable system like Freenet or GNUnet could be interesting to use as a basis. It would probably be too slow though.