Are you on Facebook? Some of the latest reports indicate there are approximately 3 billion or so regular users of the obviously popular app. That’s out of a worldwide population of roughly 7.8 billion people. If you figure that maybe a couple billion of those are kids more concerned with Pokeman Master Journeys or even Peppa Pig than what their friends are eating for dinner or where they are on vacation, then you’re talking about a huge percentage of teenagers and adults onboard Mark Zuckerberg’s social media train.
That’s a whole lot of folks providing a whole lot of information to a whole lot of other people every day. Speaking of information, according to extensive research, did you know it took roughly two million years for the earth to be home to 1 billion people . . . but it only took 200 years to hit the 7 billion plateau. Maybe I should post that fact. Facebook, by the way, went from zero to 3 billion in about 17 years.
I’ve been thinking about the ubiquitous app a bit recently because of news that apparently the organization is not exactly treating all users the same. (Imagine that.) It seems that VIPs (as defined by Facebook itself) are somewhat exempt from the company’s “standard moderation practices.”
From what I’ve read, that basically means that while most of us lower human being forms can have our content taken down in an instant if the watchdog moderators or artificial technologies believe our posts are in violation of company rules, there are a lucky 6 million or so bigwigs who are exempt from such action. (As an aside, does that mean AI robots are deciding what’s cool and what ain’t?)
As an example, one report I saw said a certain sports star (one of the chosen) posted some, shall we say, compromising photos of a woman who had accused him of quite a bit more than unwanted advances. For Joe Average, that type of post would probably last slightly less than a nanosecond. But the athlete’s post lingered until a separate group of Facebook moderators took a closer look. (No word on when the post was taken down, assuming it was, although there was a report that more than 50 million social media users saw the content.)
The screening program apparently is (or was) called “Cross Check” or XCheck. It seems the practice might be on the way out. But that kind of policy does give rise to a question about how Facebook operates as a whole. Many have long thought the company has its own political agenda. No surprise there, I suppose. Pretty hard to name an organization that doesn’t these days. But if you’re going to offer an open forum, shouldn’t the same rules apply to everyone?
Take Congress as an example. Oh, no, wait a minute. Forget that. It pretty much exempts itself from any and all laws it foists upon We the Peons. (And if I had to guess, a whole lot of our elected representatives, especially those of a particular political persuasion, are on the XCheck list.)
While it’s disturbing that the favored few get preferential treatment, and certainly agreeing there needs to be some monitoring of content, I’m at least as much concerned about how Facebook uses the information posted by its users. And how other Internet media are intertwined with the company.
I don’t post much on my Facebook page. As in, nothing, really. Except for birthday greetings. Which is pretty much the whole reason I have the account. It serves as a great reminder of big events in the lives of friends and family members. But I certainly use the Internet to look things up. And it’s amazing how something such as the running shoe I googled on Wednesday night turns up in ads on Facebook Thursday morning. Not to mention in my email inbox as well.
Should I decide one day, however, to share an opinion, and perhaps say something negative about an elected official the Facebook content police revere, I’m pretty certain there’s a document kept under lock and key at the National Archives in Washington that gives me that right . . . without censorship. Might be kind of fun to test the waters a bit.
Not that Mr. Zuckerberg and his associates will actually read this column, but they do obviously keep track of my shoe choices. And these words do appear on the Internet. So, I’ll try and let you know if even the threat of posting something derogatory about one of their favorite politicos suddenly causes my Facebook account to be shut down in the next few days.
©MMXXI. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer