Tag Archives: Facebook

The trilemma of Big Tech

By Karin Pettersson – Last week Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage in San Jose, California, and presented his vision for the future at the company’s yearly developers’ conference.

The attention given to the conference by the world’s media was testimony to the fact that Facebook is now more powerful than most nation states. Its products provide the infrastructure for core democratic functions such as free speech, distribution of news and access to information. Our societies, to a larger and larger degree, are shaped by how Zuckerberg and a small elite of Silicon Valley business leaders choose to do business. And the results, frankly speaking, are catastrophic.

‘Have social media made the world a better place?’ Poppy Harlow of CNN asked the influential tech writer Kara Swisher ‘No, not now’ was the dry answer.

The founder of the modern web, Tim Berners-Lee, has called for regulation of the internet as the only way to save it, and the virtual-reality pioneer and internet philosopher Jaron Lanier has written a book about why people should get off ‘social media’ as soon as possible.

The current situation is clearly unsustainable and the measures taken so far to address it insufficient. But before discussing solutions we need to define what the problem is. And here it is easy to get lost in details and anecdotes. Not all of the problems of social networks are fatal to democracy.

The economist Dani Rodrik has framed the discussion around the state of the world economy as a trilemma, where hyperglobalization, democratic policies and national sovereignty are mutually incompatible. We can, he argues, combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.

It might be conceptually useful to structure the discussion of the global information space in an analogous manner. One can have democracy, market dominance and business models that optimize for anger and junk—but only two at a time. more>

Rethinking the Social Network

By Susan Milligan – Is Facebook losing its base? The social media giant is already facing a credibility crisis.

Facebook began in the early 2000s at Harvard, where then-student Mark Zuckerberg started “Facemash” (often described as a Harvard “hot-or-not” site) and turned it into a multibillion-dollar site where “friends” could share news and photos, as well as personal profile information.

The site came to play an important role in campaigns and elections. Barack Obama’s campaign, for example, found that getting endorsed and mentioned in Facebook messages was often more effective than paying for TV campaign ads, since voters were more likely to trust information from someone they knew than from a professionally produced campaign commercial.

Other institutions fared poorly with young people as well, though trust was higher as the entities became more local. Just 22 percent trust the president to do the right thing all or most of the time, with the federal government, at 21 percent, and Congress, at 18 percent, coming in even lower. However, 34 percent say they have faith in their state governments all or most of the time, and 38 percent say the same about their local governments. more>

Why Twitter Must Be Saved

By Ben Thompson – Peter Thiel suggested that the best way to increase technological progress was to “Discourage people from pursuing humanities majors.”

Influence lives at intersections.

Yet, as an industry, it at times feels the boundaries we have built around who makes an effective product manager, or programmer, or designer, are stronger than ever, even as the need to cross those boundaries is ever more pressing. It’s not that Thiel was wrong about what types of degrees push progress forward; rather, it’s the blind optimism that technology is an inherent good that is so dangerous.

To say that this election cycle has only deepened those worries would be a dramatic understatement. This is not a partisan statement, just an objective statement that technology has made objective truth a casualty to the pursuit of happiness — or engagement, to use the technical term — and now life and liberty hang in the balance.

A few weeks ago, during the keynote of the Oculus Connect 3 developer conference, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg articulated a vision for Facebook that I found chilling …

What bothers me is the faint hints of utopianism inherent in Zuckerberg’s declaration: engineers can make things better by sheer force of will — and that Facebook is an example of just that.

In fact, Facebook is the premier example just how efficient tech companies can be, and just how problematic that efficiency is when it is employed in the pursuit of “engagement” with no regard to the objective truth specifically or the impact on society broadly. more> https://goo.gl/2KmU1z

Twitter’s Brilliantly Short €˜Letter to Shareholders’

By Kevin Kelleher – The letter to shareholders has long been a staple of the IPO prospectus.

Twitter’s prospectus filed last Thursday runs 222 pages and carefully walks readers through its business model and risks.

To understand what a profound departure Twitter’s filing really is, it must be compared to the modus operandi put forth by peers that went public before it. Google‘s letter, for instance, drew a few guffaws from jaded fund managers on Wall Street. Here were two Stanford grads, barely into their 30s, telling veterans managing billions of dollars what to do with the stock they planned to buy. more> http://tinyurl.com/kkw5swr

Related>

Twitter’s Brilliantly Short ‘Letter to Shareholders’

By Kevin Kelleher – The letter to shareholders has long been a staple of the IPO prospectus.

Twitter’s prospectus filed last Thursday runs 222 pages and carefully walks readers through its business model and risks.

To understand what a profound departure Twitter’s filing really is, it must be compared to the modus operandi put forth by peers that went public before it. Google‘s letter, for instance, drew a few guffaws from jaded fund managers on Wall Street. Here were two Stanford grads, barely into their 30s, telling veterans managing billions of dollars what to do with the stock they planned to buy. more> http://tinyurl.com/kkw5swr

Related>

Collegefeed, a more employable, less social public profile

By Mark Gibbs – Something that most social media users don’t think about is what their public persona looks like. They also don’t realize that that persona is part of what you might call their “digital permanent record.”

You register then create a profile in which you include personal information, and connect to your LinkedIn account which will automatically populate your profile. You can then follow companies, apply for jobs, and submit your own comments about interviews you’ve had anonymously as well as research what others experienced in interviews (this is actually a gold mine if you’re prepping for an interview with a particular company). more> http://tinyurl.com/qx3y5yk

The Surveillance-Free Day (Part I)

By Kevin Roose – Now that we know that the government can access our phone records and snoop on our e-mails, our Facebook messages, and our Google searches, will any digital interactions ever feel private again? Is it even worth thinking about life outside the panopticon?

So, after my morning coffee, I start surveillance-proofing my biggest problem spots: my laptop and cell phone. Every day, these two devices transmit millions of data points about me — where I am, who I’m talking to, what I’m shopping for, which animated gifs I’m looking at — to an armada of private-sector companies and third-party marketers. Usually, I accept these leaks as the cost of living a digital life. But today, I’m going to try to tighten the information spigot. more> http://tinyurl.com/kzmwdxv

Related>

NSA is watching, but so are retailers, Verizon and Google

By Ken Dilanian – Information gathered and exploited by Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook — and traded by lesser-known data brokers such as Datalogix and Acxiom — can be more revealing than what the NSA can legally collect on most Americans. Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used.

“We normally think of the NSA as being far ahead of corporate America, but I’m not so sure they are that far ahead anymore,” said Mark Herschberg, chief technology officer at Madison Logic, which provides data for advertisers. more> http://tinyurl.com/pztp95y

Related>

Why Google’s $1B Waze Deal Faces U.S. Antitrust Scrutiny

By Sam Gustin – Earlier this month, Google announced that it had closed a $1 billion deal to acquire Waze, an Israeli company that has built an innovative mobile mapping product that crowd-sources user data to help drivers avoid traffic congestion, road construction and police speed traps. The deal was seen, in part, as a defensive play to remove a competitor to Google Maps, and keep the service out the hands of rival tech giants Apple and Facebook, which had also been circling the company.

One of the crucial tasks facing antitrust regulators as they scrutinize the Waze deal is to define the “relevant market,” in order to determine if there are anti-competitive dynamics present, according to Manishin. more> http://tinyurl.com/pz8hvaj

France delays move to make Web giants pay for networks

By Leila Abboud – France backed away from legislation to make Internet companies including Google pay for the burden they place on telecommunications networks, opting instead to ask a commission to study the controversial issue.

France’s Socialist government is concerned that Web giants weigh down networks with traffic without contributing to telecom companies’ investments in high-speed systems, echoing a position held by European telecom operators.

Big Web companies like Facebook, Google and Netflix reject the idea of paying telecom operators to have their content reach customers. more> http://tinyurl.com/bf2d4x6