Facebook isn’t a 'community'. It’s a weapon

Commentary: Facebook isn't a "community". It's a dangerous tool, especially in the wrong hands.

Mark Serrels Editorial Director
Mark Serrels is an award-winning Senior Editorial Director focused on all things culture. He covers TV, movies, anime, video games and whatever weird things are happening on the internet. He especially likes to write about the hardships of being a parent in the age of memes, Minecraft and Fortnite. Definitely don't follow him on Twitter.
Mark Serrels
3 min read

Mark Zuckerberg exited his meditation chamber on Wednesday, Darth Vader-style, and approached his pulpit. It took him five days to address the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a crisis that resulted in a $50 billion price crash for Facebook on the stock market and a deluge of users leaving the platform.

The response hasn't been well received.

There's the obvious issues. First and foremost, ctrl+f "sorry": zero results. (Update: Zuckerberg subsequently said "sorry" in a CNN interview released after the Facebook post.)

Zuckerberg's post is less an apology, more a list of things Facebook is going to do to fix a situation that is literally unfixable. His post is an attempt to undo damage which has already been done.

Our data is out there. Not only is our data out there, but it's already been used in incredibly negative and damaging ways. You can't untie that knot.

Mark Zuckerberg Discusses The Internet, Immigration, During Interview
Watch this: Zuckerberg makes Cambridge Analytica statement

In his post Zuckerberg outlined a three point plan.

Step one: do a full audit of all the apps that had access to our data.

Step two: restrict that developer data in the future to prevent future abuse.

Step three: create an easily accessible tool to make sure users have a better idea of who has their data. This tool already exists, Facebook is just making it more visible.

None of these steps fixes a single thing.

In fact Zuckerberg's statement (apology, three-step plan, whatever you want to call it) is emblematic of his fundamental misunderstanding (or wilful ignorance) of Facebook as a platform.

Mark Zuckerberg doesn't understand Facebook. He doesn't understand what it's become.

He refers to it constantly as a "community". Which is terrifying.

2.2 billion people use Facebook, that's 31% of the global population. Facebook is not a "community". It's a world-changing paradigm with the potential to profligate the agendas of the rich and powerful. It's a platform where users are profiled and then targeted in election campaigns. It's a place where fake news is shared and digested without penalty. It's a place where one presidential candidate can be charged less for ads, because they're controversial and generate more clicks on site.

Facebook can influence elections. Facebook can potentially influence referendums like Brexit. Facebook can literally shape the destiny of entire continents. Facebook isn't a "community". It isn't some forum or a place to dump baby photos -- it's a weapon.

And everyone has their finger on the trigger.

The data is out there. It's already out there. We know this.

It's not necessarily an issue that a myriad of companies and corporations have access to our data. That's a reality of our existence on planet Earth. We know this. We accept this. The issue is with how that data is used and who it is shared with.

Crucially, it's about what those companies do with the data when they get it. Who they try to influence and for what reasons.

The most worrying part of Mark Zuckerberg's statement isn't that he didn't apologise. It's not even about the data. The issue is that Mark Zuckerberg either doesn't understand Facebook, or he's afraid to confront the monster he's created.

I'm still not sure which is worse.

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