Frances Haugen: The Facebook Whistleblower

 

 

Now that’s a rock star.

You remember rock stars, don’t you? Probably not if you’re a millennial or younger. Rock stars were musicians who channeled the truth, who stood up to corporations and bad behavior around the world. They were explicit, not complicit. And they and their messages were so powerful that money rained down upon them.

But it hasn’t been that way for a very long time.

First we had MTV. Which soon made looks more important than the music. Good luck getting signed if you weren’t beautiful. They had whole teams of people to help write your songs, to groom you, because there was big money at stake, and the executives wanted it. That big money was based on technology, i.e. the CD, which sold for two times viny and cassettes, yet to “help the format” artists halved their royalties, with promises they would be raised once the CD got traction, and this never happened. It was a game, the major labels, MTV, radio and print media were in cahoots. They built beautiful stars, who became more and more vapid.

And then came the internet. The paradigm was blown apart. But within the last decade a new order has been established, akin to the old one, but this time on steroids. Now the major labels sign very few acts, and don’t release any music from said acts until they’re sure they’re going to be hits. Furthermore, they have untold power at the streaming services, because they provide the lion’s share of their product, not only new music, but catalog, which represents in excess of 50% of streaming by everybody’s calculation. So every major label priority gets priority at the streaming service. It’s put on banners, it’s put on playlists, it’s given a chance. Good luck with your indie record. And as was proven in the movie business over the last forty-odd years, if you don’t have a library/catalog you can’t pay the bills, you end up selling or going out of business, because it’s the already paid-for assets that generate reliable income at essentially no cost while you do your best to make new hits. And now it’s even easier, it used to be impossible to get all your catalog in the retail store, you’d be lucky to get a greatest hits package, but today every one of the label’s owned songs appears on streaming services, and a lot of the past is better than what we’ve got today, but no one on the inside will say so. And don’t expect a whistleblower in the music business, where loyalty is everything.

So “The Wall Street Journal” did a series on Facebook based on documents received from a whistleblower. But not only were the lengthy, detailed articles behind a paywall, they were in print, and most people don’t read, at least not beyond the headlines and captions on news or social media sites. It was big news amongst the intelligentsia, but that leaves out most Americans. But today the whistleblower went on “60 Minutes”:

Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen: The 60 Minutes Interview.

It’s less than fifteen minutes, you can afford the time, and it’s fascinating.

First and foremost Ms. Haugen. She’s a 37 year old woman. She’s the antithesis of Elizabeth Holmes. She’s the antithesis of today’s social media influencers, the Paris Hilton/Kim Kardashian paradigm, where it’s only the exterior that counts and money trumps everything. Haugen went to the not even 25 year old Olin College, an engineering specialty school, and ultimately got an MBA at Harvard. Should you listen to the uneducated nitwit in your neighborhood or Ms. Haugen? It’s no contest.

“Ms. Haugen was initially asked to build tools to study the potentially malicious targeting of information at specific communities.”

That’s from the one hour old “Wall Street Journal” article on Frances Haugen, now that she’s revealed herself, they’re detailing her history. You can read about it here:

The Facebook Whistleblower, Frances Haugen, Says She Wants to Fix the Company, Not Harm It – The former Facebook employee says her goal is to help prompt change at the social-media giant”

But that’s behind a paywall. It took twenty five years, but that’s where the internet is going, I point you to this article centered around Patreon in “Bloomberg Businessweek”:

Patreon Battles for Creators by Investing in Original Content – Ahead of a potential IPO, the $4 billion startup is transforming itself as competition from tech giants intensifies”

It used to just be Patreon. Then came Substack. Now all the usual suspect platforms want to be gateways for content provided by citizens that sits behind paywalls so the creators can get paid. So what we’ll end up with is a bunch of niche creative providers, forget whether they get paid or not, who will reach tiny slivers of the public as the big outlets get bigger, then again will the big outlets gain dominance? This is still up in the air. Sure, the “New York Times” has just under 10 million subscribers, but we live in a country of 330 million, and those subscribers aren’t all Americans. Ditto music, the big acts might be bigger than the indies, but in the aggregate, the indies are quite large. Never mind that there’s only so much money to go around. Everybody wants to get paid, they’re sick of giving it away for free, they’re going behind paywalls. And if you don’t pay, soon you’ll be in the dark.

But not on Facebook or Instagram, because there you’re paying with your attention, the time you’re logged-on, during which they can serve you advertising.

That’s right, Facebook changed the algorithm a couple of years back such that content that delivered a reaction was favored. Because you’d interact with said content and you’d stay on longer, it was a win for Facebook, but a loss for society.

Haugen says that Facebook turned on safety systems before the 2020 election, but once the contest was over, they turned them off, end result being the 1/6 insurrection.

That’s what everybody was saying on Workplace, the Facebook intranet where everything was available to everybody.

So Haugen wanted to move to Puerto Rico. Facebook said she couldn’t work there. So Haugen decided to quit. But during the month she transferred her projects to new people, she downloaded as much information as she could from Workplace. She was stunned what she could see and she was stunned that no one saw her looking, especially in areas outside her purview. Bottom line, Facebook commissioned internal studies that detailed over and over again the negative effects of the service. Instagram’s negative influence on teenage girls. The trade of drugs and human beings in plain sight. How people who posted frequently or were famous were whitelisted and could say anything with impunity.

And then she contacted the SEC and provided this information to “The Wall Street Journal.”

Now what happens?

Well, even Haugen says that breaking up Facebook wouldn’t work. She says there must be governmental regulations because the company prioritizes profits over safety.

But it’s worse than that. Facebook is not a manufacturer of physical goods. Half of the world is on Facebook, and the bottom line is the service is now out of the control of the company. As bad as it is in America, it’s a free-for-all in most countries. And, once again, it’s Europe cracking down on the service, saying it’s interfering with government, not the U.S.

“a betrayal of democracy.”

That’s what Haugen says about Facebook turning off its restrictions after the election. And democracy does hang in the balance. It’s been three and a half years since the Cambridge Analytica story broke, but now the anti-Facebook movement is gaining momentum.

But don’t expect Workplace to be available to all Facebook employees in the future, they’re gonna close that loophole posthaste, never mind already shutting down internal operations that deliver information the brass doesn’t want to hear. If you don’t hear it, it doesn’t exist, right?

Wrong!

But you knew that.

But you also thought the power resided in the public. Like yesterday’s inane anti-abortion/women’s rights marches. I sympathize with the sentiment, but not the method. We marched all the way through Trump’s term, did it make a difference? Of course not. It’s the twenty first century, not the twentieth. Battles are fought online. That’s where you make your statements and organize, a person behind a computer is much more powerful than a person at an evanescent rally.

But really, we need the big players, the government, the investors to get involved or no change happens. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s not. That’s what voting rights are all about. At least you get a say in theory, but if the rules make it too hard for many to vote, and a partisan legislature is in charge of the results, irrelevant of the public’s will, look out.

This is what is happening right now.

And what is everybody doing?

Looking to make a buck for themselves. Everybody’s deep in their hole, trying to elbow out others to get ahead. They’ve got contempt for others, there is no common good. That’s what “Squid Game,” the most popular show in the world, is all about. It’s not a revelation, it’s reality. People will do anything to survive, to keep the world running how they want it to.

Meanwhile, people are addicted to social media. At least there are alternatives to Amazon, but no boycott of the operation has ever worked. But California has instituted warehouse workplace rules targeting Amazon. Good luck working in another state. Where odds are you’re going to get hurt, with repetitive stress injuries if nothing else. Oh, Amazon provides aspirin and band-aids, but the truth is you’re just a cog in the system, disposable, while the company and Wall Street make ever more money. That’s another message of “Squid Game.”

So one individual has already had a huge impact. What are the odds other major tech companies will be reaching out to hire her? NADA! She’s white hot, untouchable, let’s hope she gets a big whistleblower settlement, but even if she does, that takes years.

Meanwhile, our nation, our world, is being run by a college dropout with tunnel vision. And his number two is leaning into him, not the public at large, screw the public, it’s all about money, isn’t that the essence of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos?

But there’s a lot more truth in “Squid Game” than any of today’s music. And the goal of “musicians” today is to sell out to the corporation, or become a corporation, to sell crap to brain dead listeners. That’s to be lauded?

No, Frances Haugen is to be lauded. She will be remembered, the Spotify Top 50 will not. Because Haugen did something important, took a stand, risking her career, her future. Who else is doing this?

And if this were the pre-internet era, this “60 Minutes” story would be known by essentially every citizen, if they didn’t see it, they’d hear about it, but “60 Minutes” no longer has that kind of reach, nothing on network TV does anymore. Then again, Facebook hate knows no political boundaries, it can appeal to both right and left.

But not really.

Did you see that YouTube shut out anti-vaxxers? Trump wants back on Twitter. Trump had more reach than anybody in the world, now it’s been scaled back, but he’s already convinced his troops that Democrats are socialists who will ruin society and they must fight to protect their way of life, however bogus it might be. That’s what 1/6 was about. And the word was spread on Facebook. And despite all the doublespeak of Nick Clegg and the rest of the Facebook press team, we know it’s true.

In reality, Mark Zuckerberg needs to lose his job. He can keep his money, but he can’t have his hands on the steering wheel of Facebook anymore. But that would require the board to have balls, which it doesn’t possess. Unlike Uber, where Travis Kalanick was exiled for bad behavior, Facebook throws off a ton of money, and since profits are everything, there is no change unless the government insists. But you can’t get agreement on anything in D.C. And not only is there no longer any trust in Congress, there’s no trust in the Supreme Court. And Ted Cruz is single-handedly holding up the appointment of 59 ambassadors, how does that help us exactly?

But welcome to the modern world.

Where what happens online supersedes everything else. And it happens so fast that elected officials cannot keep up with it. And the internet itself is fluid, so you end up playing a game of Whac-A-Mole.

Meanwhile, China is clamping down.

But Evergrande has revealed the country’s economic underpinnings are shaky. But Xi is trying to minimize the bad influences of the internet, he’s trying to tamp down celebrity culture, he’s trying to return China to the past, and ultimately that will never work. What did the Rascals say? “People everywhere just want to be free”?

But things have to get really bad before they react.

They’re really bad at Facebook. This is the first shoe dropping.

What’s next?

~~~

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