Facebook's Transparency...Theater? [Content Made Simple]

Issue #235: Deepfakes, Myspace/Gen Z, and more.

Facebook’s Widely Viewed Content Report Is Really Strange



I am genuinely glad that Facebook is releasing more data about what’s popular on their platform. I am also genuinely astonished that this is what Facebook produced for their first effort. The data is accompanied by a thoughtful “companion guide” that helps explain how the newsfeed algorithm works. Did no one think to offer some marginal notes on why FB released only 20 top domains and URLs? Why obscure advertisers somehow emerge as the most popular URLs on the platform? The cynical side of me reads this report as transparency theatre – a chance for FB to tell critics that they’re moving in the direction of transparency without releasing any of the data a researcher would need to answer a question like “Is extreme right-wing content disproportionately popular on Facebook?”


(Note: the article above has some language.) Helpful reflection from Ethan Zuckerman on Facebook’s feeble attempts at transparency in the last week or so. If you’ve been around here for any measure of time, you know I trust Facebook about as much as a sumo wrestler ought to trust a canvas camping chair, which is to say: I don’t. I, like Ethan, applaud the attempt at transparency, but I do think it is more theater than a clear presentation of reality.


Link #1: Back to the Future: Myspace and Gen Z Digital Identity

I love Rex Chapman’s newsletter. It’s probably my favorite. And it’s free. So you should subscribe. This is a great observation and I have so many thoughts after reading it.

Myspace was a chaotic collision of colors and styles and fonts. You painstakingly crafted your profile, from the wallpaper to the music that would auto-play when you got a visitor. (My Myspace profile was set to Akon’s “Don’t Matter”). Before Facebook stripped away personalization, Myspace gave users a venue for creativity and self-expression.

Gen Zs today are embracing two new tenets of digital identity: customizability and consistency. Customizability reclaims the self-expression of Myspace. Digital natives gravitate toward products that let them stand out online, a rejection of Facebook’s white-and-blue uniforms.

Link #2: Options Bae, Put Gang, and the New Stock Communities Showing Amateur Traders How to Make Bank

The social internet is democratizing investing. I wish I had the guts to get into it, because investing has always interested me. But I’m not that risky. :-)

Groups like Options Bae and Put Gang offer a way in for newbies interested in learning the stock market. You can find them on Instagram or Facebook posting their daily results, and sharing free tips and tricks in weekly meetings on Clubhouse open to all. While there are plenty of ways to learn the tools of the trade online via Google and YouTube, those who want more help are encouraged to pay for online courses and join the community.

Link #3: Deepfakes and the Degradation of Truth

Helpful piece from Jason Thacker at TGC.

In many ways, deepfake technology is a succinct metaphor for contemporary Western society’s tenuous relationship with truth—which can be traced back to the Enlightenment’s untethering of truth and transcendence. As Neal Postman describes in his classic Technopoly, the Enlightenment’s drive toward empiricism ultimately led to the rejection of all authorities—religion, government, the press—that could not be empirically verified.


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