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Is It Finally Time to Quit Facebook?
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Is It Finally Time to Quit Facebook?

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I will be honest, I have a Facebook account and just before writing this article I posted a photograph of myself on it. And even though I have often criticized it on many fronts, trying to quit it has been difficult and so far, I have failed. However, now that I am through with all my Christmas and New Year celebrations, I thought of pondering over whether it is now time to finally quit Facebook.

Revelations after revelations in 2018 showed us that Facebook has the scantest of regards for our privacy. Month after month in 2018 Facebook has made it absolutely clear that it is a morally bankrupt company that is never going to change. All the privacy-related breaches that occurred at Facebook, and the manner in which the social media behemoth responded reminded me that Zuckerberg had once famously called the first Facebook users “dumb fucks” for handing their personal information over to him. His disdain for the people whose data he deals with doesn’t seem to have lessened over time. So now if I still continue using Facebook after it betrayed my trust time and again, then maybe Zuck was right, maybe I am a dumb fuck.

So, I will quit Facebook this year. But will you? 

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE found that most of Facebook's 2 billion users are willing to see past the recent privacy and data security breaches, and ignore its role in facilitating violence and genocide. Most users think Facebook is "so fun and so useful that they're willing to set aside their privacy concerns," says Jay Corrigan, a professor of economics at Kenyon College. We are also constantly told that privacy or rather the lack of it should not be a major concern unless we have something to hide. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google at the time, said: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.” But let me assure you, this premise is entirely wrong. We all have something in our closets that we want to remain there and not come out in the open.

As this year begins and we all plan to set our priorities right, let me remind you how in 2018 Facebook violated public trust, our trust. So, let’s begin:

March 2018:

12th: The United Nations blamed Facebook's for the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. UN experts investigating genocide pointed fingers at Facebook for its role in spreading hate speech and inflaming ethnic tensions in the country.

17th: The Observer published reports into how the political research firm Cambridge Analytica misappropriated tens of millions of users' data.

24th: It is revealed that Facebook collected SMS and call data of Android users, unbeknownst to them. The company in its usual arrogant demeanor responded that users had consented to the data collection. But as we all know most people never read the ‘Terms of Service’ before signing on to any platform, so understandably a lot many of the users were offended which resulted in public outrage.

April 2018:

5th: TechCrunch, an American technology related online publisher reported that messages sent by Mark Zuckerberg to other users were being quietly deleted from those users' inboxes — a feature not available to normal Facebook users.

30th: Jan Koum, a co-founder of the messaging app WhatsApp, quit Facebook, presumably due to concerns over the company's lackadaisical approach to privacy.

June 2018

3rd: The New York Times reveals how Facebook struck deals with smartphone makers and granted them access to significant amounts of users' data. Partners included Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL which the U.S. intelligence had flagged as national security threats.

7th: Facebook admits that a bug affecting 14 million people made private posts publicly viewable.

July 2018

18th: Zuckerberg defends the presence of Holocaust deniers on Facebook stating that according to him they might not be "intentionally getting it wrong.”

August 2018

15th: A Reuters investigation found that Facebook's moderation efforts in Myanmar were inadequate and hate speech was still proliferating on the site despite Mark Zuckerberg's promises to crack down on the problem.

21st: Research linked the use of Facebook in Germany to violent anti-refugee attacks.

September 2018

4th: Reports show that in the Philippines Facebook was used to spread hoaxes about President Duterte's rivals, fuel fake news, and boost his bloody drug war.

16th: Business Insider reported on how Facebook is fueling a dangerous black market for human blood in India.

20th: Reuters reported that to combat fake news, Facebook partnered with murky government organizations like the International Republican Institute (IRI) which played a key role in the 2002 coup against the popular leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

21st: A Business Insider investigation found Instagram's video app IGTV to be recommending videos of potential child abuse to users.

24th: The co-founders of Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, abruptly quit the company, again citing privacy-related issues being the thorn between them and Zuckerberg.

26th: "I sold my users' privacy," says WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, and details disagreements with Facebook's leadership over how to monetize the privacy-focused app he created.

In another revelation on the same day, Gizmodo revealed that Facebook has been using phone numbers provided by users for two-factor authentication, a highly recommended security measure, to subsequently target them with advertisements.

28th: Facebook announced it had been hacked, and about 50 million users' data stolen by unknown attackers exploiting a vulnerability in the company's software.

October 2018

7th: Massive hoaxes and misinformation were spread on WhatsApp in the first round of Brazil's presidential election.

11th: The New York Times reported on how American political actors were increasingly using Facebook to spread politically motivated hoaxes and misinformation.

November 2018

13th: According to BBC reports, police in Nigeria claimed that fake news spread using Facebook was resulting in massive killings and was instrumental in inflaming ethnic violence.

14th: The New York Times dropped a bombshell report into how Facebook's leadership attempted to deflect criticism and hired a PR firm to demonize billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros.

27th: Mark Luckie, a former Facebook employee accused Facebook of racism and said that it is failing its users and employees of color.

December 2018

14th: Facebook discloses that a bug exposed photographs of nearly 6.8 million users, many of these photographs even being unpublished, to over 1,500 different apps.

Apart from these serious breaches of privacy, there's also evidence to suggest that being addicted to Facebook can make you less productive, more insecure and, ironically, less social. "Just because we spend a lot of time on social media doesn't necessarily mean that it's good for us," Corrigan says.

If you don’t believe us, hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. In 2017, former Facebook vice president Chamath Palihapitiya noted that his children "aren't allowed to use that shit."  He further said that he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,”

So, if you’re still on Facebook, even after knowing how Facebook played with your trust, you need to ask yourself why. Is the value you get from the platform really worth giving up your privacy? Are you comfortable being on a platform that has, among other things, helped incite genocide in Myanmar and fueled bloody massacre in the Philippines? I’m fine being dumb. But being complicit in evil is something I am not fine with.

By the way, even after reading this article if you still feel that lack of privacy is not a concern for you, because you have nothing to hide, then hand me your unlocked smartphone and drop your pants!!

Author: Pradeep Banerjee