A response to Derek Muller on “the problem with Facebook”

I have watched yesterday the video The Problem With Facebook by Derek Muller published on Devour. Although I found the video interesting, I must point out there a quite a few inaccuracies about what Derek presents and that I find his theory lacking some basic solid evidence.

Let’s watch the video and go through some points in common, things I disagree with and questions I prepared for Derek.

1) “People you disagree with will vanish from your news-feed.” I find this statement incorrect. The correct sentence should be “people you don’t engage with will vanish from your news-feed.” In fact, Facebook is also used to express disagreement over published content and I find it inaccurate to label Facebook’s algorithm as an attempt to create an echo chamber of self affirming views.

2) I don’t find it weird to have to “like” or “share” a post to express interest in a piece of content. How would Facebook then be able to adapt your timeline according to your preferences?

2) “The problem is Facebook is using is filtering power to make money” Isn’t that the technique used by any information system or media outlet? Why is it evil if this is done by a social network whose target is to become the best tailor-made newspaper?

3) The push-to-buy-advertisement point is true. Facebook is indeed restricting the reach of fan pages’ posts in order to encourage fan pages’ managers to buy  advertisement. Now, the question is “Is this practice fair?” In my opinion yes, with constraints. If a business or a public figure like Veritasium is benefitting from a service that Facebook provides, why shouldn’t Facebook, or any other social network, try to monetize these efforts?

The problem that these raises is the differentiation between what I call “genuine” and “non-genuine” social profiles. This problem also applies to Twitter and those who buy followers to gain visibility within their community. Certainly, pushing pages’ owners to buy advertisement increases this problem to the final user of the product (the regular people) for which a solid solution has indeed not been provided by Facebook.

4) The viewer-creator-advertiser triangle sounds like an interesting theory but lacks evidence. It is not true that viewers are advertisers simply because most viewers (like in YouTube) are not creator. In making this point Derek completely overlooks the differentiation between profiles, pages and groups that Facebook provides. Not all profiles are content creators and can’t then be advertisers. Although, that does apply to fan pages which are by definition content creators and, in a very far-fetching way, advertisers but only if they become non-genuine pages. Continue reading “A response to Derek Muller on “the problem with Facebook””