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January 22, 2008

the guardian looks into the facebook conspiracy

With friends like these ... Tom Hodgkinson on the politics of the people behind Facebook

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Comments (19)

Yeah... I had an account on facebook, but only to keep up with a few distant friends. When beacon came out, that was it for me. I suspect though, that I am merely a single sandbag stacked against the tide. Time will tell I guess.

Thiel is a scary, scary man. I mean come on..."Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser?" Geez dude, calm down.

Posted by: Steven at January 22, 2008 12:59 PM

Facebook has always been a little scary for me since I heard about Beacon, but I never knew things were this complex. It's a brilliant idea and a bit unnerving.

It's always fascinating to see how information is gathered by people. I wonder how much data from Facebook has been passed into Many Eyes.

If you haven't had the chance to check it out, here's the URL: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/home

Posted by: jeremy at January 22, 2008 1:44 PM

Damnit, this is worse than when I found out Gloria Jeans was linked to fundamentalist christians!

Posted by: Ben at January 22, 2008 2:51 PM

"Thiel, [supposed creator of facebook, though maybe not] is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies. Not someone I want to help get any richer."

Now you don't have to read it guys.

"Thiel and the rest have created their own country, a country of consumers."

Consuming is, as always, a choice. No one pays to use Facebook, so just don't click the ads. This article goes way overboard and delves deep into conspiracy theories 911 truthers wouldn't even accept.

Posted by: Joshua Leonard at January 22, 2008 3:57 PM

Why do things have to be so evil? I wish I could meet that arsehole so I could fart my Armageddon judgment fart prophesied in the book of arseholes in his general direction to really expose him.

Posted by: Dan at January 22, 2008 4:50 PM

i got rid of my facebook account awhile back just for the reason that i didnt see any use for it
same with myspace
why do i need a website bloated with ads to interact with my friends?
and the 'friends' that i had on facebook and myspace were all whores
comment my new picture!
ill comment yours
comment my new profile!
ill comment yours
notice the subtle yet important changes i made to my profile. such as song, about me, who id like to meet, and a really funny video of me drunk!
then comment them!!
ill comment yours too!
perform sexual favors for me!
ill half heartedly return the favor through uncomfortable anal intercourse!

who needs all that?
not i said the cat

Posted by: adam at January 22, 2008 5:39 PM

There’s nothing like a bit of intrigue to raise the blood pressure! After digging around a bit on FB and signing up to a hundred or so pointless applications I still don’t get how 2 million a week are signing up! What are they signing up for exactly, haven’t they got email, do they really need to throw a virtual piece of cake or a toaster at a friends ‘wall’? What are they getting out of it? What does anyone get out of it?

Just 1% of that traffic redirected to somewhere like www.FindLikeMinds.com could build a meaningful resource that delivers something of real value – access to the greatest things to every influence us http://blog.findlikeminds.com/2007/07/18/hello-world/. Beyond virtual cake and toaster throwing and poorly targeted, intrusive ads there’s a whole world out there full of interesting things to discover!

Posted by: Rob at January 22, 2008 6:29 PM

I agree with Joshua, especially when Hodgkinson starts rambling about facebook being a capitalist social experiment: "Can you make money off of friendship?" Thats a ridiculous accusation. Of course you can make money off of friendship and I think capitalists have been doing so for years, long before facebook came around.

Posted by: Drew at January 22, 2008 8:47 PM

When I joined a friend sent me this: http://albumoftheday.com/facebook/

It's shorter and has a bit less vitriol. The all or nothing approach to the ether seems reactionary. Governments and marketeers have always exploited human relationships or tried to.

With every attempt at manipulation by fear those who hope to empower people to make informed decisions cast a pall over their own integrity and good intentions.

Posted by: Boo at January 22, 2008 9:08 PM

I think this guy takes the conspiracy theory a bit too far. The excerpts that he takes from the privacy policy and tries to make sound obvious are pretty standard legal claptrap. What they really say is: "Don't blame us if you post information on Facebook and we can't keep it secure." And before you all run to MySpace, remember that it's owned by Rupert Murdoch. Who would you less like to make richer?

Posted by: Gus at January 22, 2008 9:48 PM

Not specifically about Facebook but about virtual communities:


Pretty great stuff: "Virtual communities could help citizens revitalize democracy, or they could be luring us into an attractively packaged substitute for democratic discourse."

As stated on his site: "if you like what you read online, go out and buy a copy of the ink-and-dead-trees edition and give it to someone who needs to read this. Thanks! Your support will help me spend more time cooking up stuff to post here".

Posted by: ingrid at January 23, 2008 7:11 AM

Thiel is a man with utopian ideals. How many Utopias last forever? How many people live forever?


This über-libertarian may have created a virtual country but everything imaginary exists in a very real physical vessel. Instructions, ones and zeros are marked on actual hard disk drives in an actual computer in an actual building sucking up a live feed of electricity.

Substitute "Facebook" with "MySpace" and you could have played this story out 2 years ago. Similar fearmongering was sounded at the zenith of television consumption and that was a one way message that people voluntarily surrendered to for hours a day. People still do.

Virtual anything is akin to an inflatable castle. Without power and a whirring little fan, it is reduced to a useless pile of industrial strength cloth. People supply power. When they get sick or lose their house to foreclosure, they apply their power to those very real events.

Posted by: Awed Job at January 23, 2008 10:53 AM

Posted by: Richard S. at January 23, 2008 10:57 AM

Consuming is indeed a choice, but commodification isn't, and Hodgkinson is complaining about the latter, irrelevant of whether you click on the adds. Facebook is about making money from your friendships, which is not something I want (and I'm hoping you don't either).

Nothing in the article is a "conspiracy theory" - as the quotes make clear, those supporting Facebook are very explicit about what they envisage.

Posted by: Paul C at January 25, 2008 8:25 AM

Man, I saw this coming a long time ago, when I read the book, "The Right to Privacy" in the early '90s. I just recently wrote about how annoying marketing and technology has become on my own blog: http://www.wilddingo.com/2008/01/07/the-right-to-privacy/

What happened to meeting people at bars and asking what their astrological sign is? We're so "connected" that we're wholly unconnected. And lets face it, the monitor and keyboard have become our pacifiers for human interaction and all the fears that go along with human interaciton, like rejection.

The owner of facebook doesn't look like the kind of kid I would have talked to in high school, or even today, with all his "success."

Posted by: Wild Dingo at January 25, 2008 1:41 PM

The politics thing seems like tinfoil hat stuff. More bothersome to me, I recently found a pretty hardcore Islamist forum had linked the Facebook friends page of a prominent ex-jihadi turned journalist they detest, which was pretty scary. Surfing on from there I was able to view the friends pages and sometimes personal details of some very well-known people. Two things that bother me are the lack of protection of those pages - not from intel agencies but from prying eyes generally - and the profusion of applications that ask people to sign up all their friends and that are also abused to send out hoax messages of a type most e-mail filters now delete. I suspect I can resolve that by checking or unchecking a few boxes somewhere, but those applications ought to be more restricted.

I still like Facebook. It got me back in contact with people and keeps me posted even if I'm feeling unsociable, when I usually would lose contact with everyone. I just want it tidied up a bit.

Posted by: Dom at January 29, 2008 1:19 AM

I have a facebook account, but I barely use it and this article (plus a recent NPR or BBC blurb by the article's author), are enough to motivate me to remove my account. That's no big deal to me, because I place no value on Facebook.

What troubled me personally about this article:

"A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations."

Quotes like this from the guardian article made me feel bad, at the very least self-conscious, about the time I spend with fellow sportsracers. As of late, I have allowed it to take up a lot of time. I have been that guy in the quote, except you have to substitute postorg for Facebook.

The I came to this line:
"Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway."

And I think about the stark contrasts. The postorg is DIY. The people I am communicating with are the ones that are structuring the space. That's creative by definition. And I would not be interacting with the people at postorg if it wasn't there. But that does not mean I place no value on my interaction with them.

For example, without the postorg, would it have been possible to take part in an activity as absurd as this?


The spirit of the show lives on! Thanks again for bringing the duckies to the pond, Ze.


Posted by: ol'grimy at February 1, 2008 12:12 PM

Facebook is young. But the value that I see in it is that we've got tons of kids cutting, sharpening, and honing the tools for affordable tacit knowledge sharing. And they're doing it for free. I think it's pretty exciting.

Posted by: ehtnax at February 5, 2008 8:07 PM

I agree that hodgkinson does take the whole thing a little too far, but is undeniable that the background to facebook remains a murky place for joe public. Whilst you mite want to take this article with a pinch of salt, it's important not to ignore the issues touched upon in the article. A lot of people argue that although they disagree with the monopoly enjoyed by large supermarkets, they shop there because that is all they have locally. When it comes to facebook, it is all self-indulgence anyway, and in that sense i think people who disagree with the neo-conservative background or the failure to protect user's data have a real responsibility to boycott the site altogether.

Much love x

Posted by: Simundo at February 13, 2008 6:49 PM

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