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SOCNET  February 2009

SOCNET February 2009

Subject:

Fwd: Again about facebook

From:

Moses Boudourides <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moses Boudourides <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 19 Feb 2009 09:17:38 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (382 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

FYI, --M


Truth About Facebook (video):

http://blip.tv/file/1613641


http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-02-29-with-friends-like-these

With friends like these ...

TOM HODGKINSON

Feb 29 2008 00:00 - Mail & Guardian Online

I despise Facebook. This hugely successful American business describes
itself as "a social utility that connects you with the people around
you". But why would I need a computer to connect with the people
around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through a bunch of
supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub?

And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn't it rather disconnect
us since, instead of doing something enjoyable with my friends, I am
sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in
cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend recently told me he
spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his
desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook isolates
us at our workstations.

Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us. If I
put up a flattering picture with a list of my favourite things, I can
construct an artificial representation of who I am to get sex or
approval. ("I like Facebook," said another friend. "I got a shag out
of it.")

It also encourages a disturbing competitiveness around friendship: it
seems with friends today, quantity is king. The more friends you have,
the better you are. Witness the cover line on Dennis Publishing's new
Facebook magazine: "How To Double Your Friends List."

It seems I am very much alone in my hostility. At the time of writing
Facebook claims 59-million active users. That's 59-million suckers,
all of whom have volunteered their ID card information and consumer
preferences to an American business they know nothing about. Two
million new people join each week. At this rate Facebook will have
more than 200-million active users this time next year.

Facebook is a well-funded project and the people behind the funding, a
group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought
out ideology that they hope to spread around the world. Facebook is
one manifestation of this ideology. It is a social experiment, an
expression of a particular kind of neoconservative libertarianism. On
Facebook you can be free to be who you want to be, as long as you
don't mind being bombarded by adverts for the world's biggest brands.
National boundaries are a thing of the past.

Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark
Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon
Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher, Peter Thiel. There
are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel,
Zuckerberg and Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel
Partners.

Thiel invested $500 000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg,
Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz met him in San Francisco in June
2004, soon after they launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7%
which, at Facebook's current valuation of $15-billion, is worth more
than $1-billion.

Thiel is widely regarded in Silicon Valley and in the US venture
capital scene as a libertarian genius. He is the co-founder and chief
executive of the virtual banking system, PayPal, which he sold to Ebay
for $1,5-billion, taking $55-million for himself. He also runs a
£3-billion hedge fund, Clarium Capital Management, and a venture
capital fund called Founders Fund. Bloomberg Markets magazine recently
called him "one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the
country". He has made money betting on rising oil prices and correctly
predicting that the dollar would weaken.

But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is
a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from
Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which
is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology
that dominated Stanford.

While at Stanford, Thiel founded a rightwing journal called The
Stanford Review -- motto: Fiat Lux ("Let there be light"). He is a
member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure
group set up to attack MoveOn.org, a liberal pressure group that works
on the web. Thiel describes himself "way libertarian".

TheVanguard is run by Rod Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel
greatly admires. On the site Thiel says: "Rod is one of our nation's
leading minds in the creation of new and needed ideas for public
policy. He possesses a more complete understanding of America than
most executives have of their own businesses."

Their aim is to promote policies that will "reshape America and the
globe". TheVanguard describes its politics as "Reaganite/Thatcherite".
The chairperson's message says: "Today we'll teach MoveOn [the liberal
website], Hillary and the leftwing media some lessons they never
imagined."

Thiel says PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find
value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between
human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with
no restriction.

Clearly, Facebook is another über-capitalist experiment: can you make
money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national
boundaries -- and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly
uncreative. It makes nothing. It just mediates in relationships that
were happening already.

Thiel's philosophical mentor is Ren Girard of Stanford University,
proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard
reckons people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another
without much reflection.

The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because
it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in
business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and
suchlike. The internet opens up a world of free trade and laissez
faire expansion. Thiel also seems to approve of offshore tax havens
and claims that 40% of the world's wealth resides in places such as
Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, Monaco and Barbados. I think it's fair to
say that Thiel, like Rupert Murdoch, is against tax. He also likes the
globalisation of digital culture because it makes the banking
overlords hard to attack.

If life in the past was nasty, brutish and short, then in the future
Thiel wants to make it much longer. To this end he has also invested
in a firm that is exploring life-extension technologies. He has
pledged £3,5-million to a Cambridge-based gerontologist called Aubrey
de Grey, who is searching for the key to immortality. Thiel is also on
the board of advisers of something called the Singularity Institute
for Artificial Intelligence.

From its fantastical website, the following: "The Singularity is the
technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence. There are
several technologies ... heading in this direction ... Artificial
Intelligence ... direct brain-computer interfaces ... genetic
engineering ... different technologies which, if they reached a
threshold level of sophistication, would enable the creation of
smarter-than-human intelligence."

So by his own admission, Thiel is trying to destroy the real world,
which he also calls "nature", and install a virtual world in its
place. It is in this context that we must view the rise of Facebook.

Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation and Thiel
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.

Jeremy Breyer, the third board member of Facebook, is a partner in
venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12,7-million into
Facebook in April 2005. On the board of US giants Wal-Mart and Marvel
Entertainment, he is a former chairperson of the National Venture
Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really
making things happen in the US, because they invest in the new young
talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like.

Facebook's most recent round of funding was led by a company called
Greylock Venture Capital, which put in the sum of $27,5-million. One
of Greylock's senior partners is Howard Cox, another former chair of
the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel, which is, believe it
or not, the  venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11 the US
intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new
technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that
in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which
"identifies and partners companies developing cutting-edge
technologies to help deliver solutions to the CIA and the broader US
intelligence community to further their missions".

The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes
spying easier.

In-Q-Tel's first chair was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of
the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita
K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the
US department of defence, and -- with Breyer -- board member of BBN
Technologies.

Now even if you don't buy the idea that Facebook is some kind of
extension of the American imperialist programme crossed with a massive
information-gathering tool, there is no way of denying that as a
business, it is mega-genius. Some net nerds suggest its $15-billion
valuation is excessive, but I would argue that, if anything, it is too
modest. Its scale really is dizzying and its growth potential
limitless.

"We want everyone to be able to use Facebook," says the impersonal
voice of Big Brother on the website. I'll bet they do. It is
Facebook's enormous potential that led Microsoft to buy 1,6% for
$240-million. A recent rumour says that Asian investor Lee Ka-Shing,
said to be the ninth-richest man in the world, has bought 0,4% of
Facebook for $60-million.

The creators of the site need do little bar fiddle with the programme.
Mostly they simply sit back and watch as millions of Facebook addicts
voluntarily upload their ID details, photos and lists of their
favourite consumer objects. Once in receipt of this vast database of
human beings, Facebook simply has to sell the information back to
advertisers, or, as Zuckerberg puts it in a recent blog post, "to try
to help people share information with their friends about things they
do on the web".

On November 6 last year Facebook announced that 12 global brands had
climbed on board. They included Coca-Cola, Blockbuster, Verizon, Sony
Pictures and Cond Nast.

"Share" is Facebookspeak for "advertise". Sign up to Facebook and you
become a free walking, talking advert for Blockbuster or Coke,
extolling the virtues of these brands to your friends. We are seeing
the commodification of human relationships, the extraction of
capitalistic value from friendships.

Now, by comparision with Facebook, newspapers, for example, begin to
look hopelessly outdated as a business model. A newspaper sells
advertising space to businesses looking to sell stuff to their
readers. But the system is far less sophisticated than Facebook for
two reasons. One is that newspapers have to put up with the irksome
expense of paying journalists to provide the content. Facebook gets
its content for free. The other is that Facebook can target
advertising with far greater precision than a news paper. Admit on
Facebook that your favourite film is This Is Spinal Tap and when a
Spinal Tap-esque movie comes out, you can be sure that they'll be
sending ads your way.

It's true that Facebook recently got into hot water with its Beacon
advertising programme. Users were notified that one of their friends
had made a purchase at certain online shops; 46 000 users felt that
this level of advertising was intrusive, and signed a petition called
"Facebook! Stop invading my privacy!" to say so. Zuckerberg apologised
on his company blog. He wrote that the system has changed from
"opt-out" to "opt-in". But I suspect this little rebellion about being
so ruthlessly commodified will soon be forgotten.

Facebook pretends to be about freedom, but isn't it really more like
an ideologically motivated virtual totalitarian regime with a
population that will soon exceed the UK's? Thiel et al have created
their own country, a country of consumers.

Now, you might find this social experiment tremendously exciting. Yes,
and you might decide to send genius investor Thiel all your money and
certainly you'll be waiting impatiently for the public flotation of
the unstoppable Facebook.

Or you might reflect that you don't really want to be part of this
heavily funded programme to create an arid global virtual republic,
where your own self and your relationships with your friends are
converted into commodities on sale to giant global brands. You might
decide that you don't want to be part of this takeover bid for the
world.

For my own part, I am going to retreat from the whole thing, remain as
unplugged as possible and spend the time I save by not going on
Facebook doing something useful, such as reading books. Why would I
want to waste my time on Facebook when I still haven't read Keats'
Endymion? And when there are seeds to be sown in my own back yard?

I don't want to retreat from nature, I want to reconnect with it. Damn
air-conditioning! And if I want to connect with the people around me,
I will revert to an old piece of technology. It's free, it's easy and
it delivers a uniquely individual experience in sharing information:
it's called talking. -- (c) Guardian News & Media Ltd 2008

‘Facebook fatigue' sets in
British internet users are falling out of love with Facebook and the
social networking site has shed 400 000 visitors between December and
January, the website's first decline in users, writes Richard Wray.

Facebook remains the United Kingdom's most popular social networking
site with 8,5-million unique users at the end of January, according to
new figures from Nielsen Online. But that is down from 8,9-million in
December.

Users are beginning to suffer "Facebook fatigue", according to
Nielsen's European internet analyst Alex Burmaster. Having joined over
the past year and spent hours finding and adding friends to their
profiles, users are finding that the sheer amount of trivial
information their contacts create is a turn-off.

"A lot of people who jumped on to Facebook over the past year and
built up their friends and used applications are tiring of it," he
said. "The aura has worn off a bit."

Nielsen started collecting data about Facebook in July 2006. "The
figures for the numbers accessing Facebook at work have dipped
slightly," Burmaster said. "After 17 successive months of growth there
had to be a more general dip at some point.

"Everyone knew that social networking sites could not keep growing to
the extent they had been, but I think it really is significant that
that point is now being reached. This year we are likely to see a
plateauing of social networking."

Facebook's audience is still 712% higher than it was a year ago and 9%
higher than three months ago, but there is a growing sense in the
online world that the hype around the company has been overdone and
the honeymoon is over.

Faced with a barrage of information when they log on to Facebook, web
surfers are choosing to join more niche websites instead. These sites
are based around particular interests such as music or aimed more at
business users who need to keep in touch with colleagues and contacts
around the world.

"These are the sites that will see the strong growth over the coming
year," Burmaster said. "They will not hit the heady heights of
Facebook's audience but they have a very engaged audience which is
attractive to advertisers.". -- (c) Guardian News & Media 2008

Facebook's privacy policy
Just for fun, try substituting the words "Big Brother" whenever you
read the word "Facebook"

1. We will advertise at you

"When you use Facebook, you may set up your personal profile, form
relationships, send messages, perform searches and queries, form
groups, set up events, add applications, and transmit information
through various channels. We collect this information so that we can
provide you the service and offer personalised features."

2. You can't delete anything

"When you update information, we usually keep a backup copy of the
prior version for a reasonable period of time to enable reversion to
the prior version of that information."

3. Anyone can glance at your intimate confessions

"... we cannot and do not guarantee that user content you post on the
site will not be viewed by unauthorised persons. We are not
responsible for circumvention of any privacy settings or security
measures contained on the site. You understand and acknowledge that,
even after removal, copies of user content may remain viewable in
cached and archived pages or if other users have copied or stored your
user content."

4. Our marketing profile of you will be unbeatable

"Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources,
such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users
of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg,
photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a
more personalised experience."

5. Opting out doesn't mean opting out

"Facebook reserves the right to send you notices about your account
even if you opt out of all voluntary email notifications."

6. The CIA may look at the stuff when they feel like it

"By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data
transferred to and processed in the United States ... We may be
required to disclose user information pursuant to lawful requests,
such as subpoenas or court orders, or in compliance with applicable
laws. We do not reveal information until we have a good faith belief
that an information request by law enforcement or private litigants
meets applicable legal standards. Additionally, we may share account
or other information when we believe it is necessary to comply with
law, to protect our interests or property, to prevent fraud or other
illegal activity perpetrated through the Facebook service or using the
Facebook name, or to prevent imminent bodily harm. This may include
sharing information with other companies, lawyers, agents or
government agencies." -- (c) Guardian News & Media Ltd 2008

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
Web Address: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-02-29-with-friends-like-these

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