Friday, 23 March 2018

#ReformNotDeleteFacebook - That's my stand

Note that the post contents below are from my recent Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2114619228754643

The past few days we have seen world mainstream media doing a great service to society by exposing the horrific abuse of Facebook user data of around 50 million Facebook users/profiles by Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan and Cambridge Analytica (CA) company which was enabled by poor user data protection policies of Facebook (in 2013, if I recall correctly), and subsequent poor follow-up of complaints by Facebook on CA and Kogan misusing Facebook user data.

The key whistle-blower in this matter, Christopher (Chris) Wylie, a former data scientist and key tech. leader employee of Cambridge Analytica, has also done a great service to society by him coming forward with these revelations. Wylie has also acknowledged and expressed regret for his role in contributing to this horrific abuse of around 50 million Facebook users/profiles data to launch micro-targeted psychological operations (PSYOPS) to influence many of these users to vote in a particular way in key elections in their democratic country (USA). Wylie also alleges that PSYOPS were used to create division in USA communities on various sensitive matters. Note that the 2016 USA presidential election campaign was a very bitter and divided campaign which seems to have created or exacerbated a lot of hatred and division among USA communities on very sensitive topics like race & ethnicity, immigration and assault-rifle type gun ownership by civilians.

In the wake of these exposures, some have argued that is time to #DeleteFacebook. The argument is that it has become too rotten and cannot be salvaged.

One argument is that the basic economic model of Facebook is such that it has to keep expanding its audience size WITHOUT caring about exposing fake users and fake news put out on Facebook. That approach allows bad actors to easily use Facebook to spread disinformation and create division in communities through targeting Facebook users of those communities.

Note that Facebook provides free service to users and has a business model that is ad-supported. Further, it seems that Facebook advertisers and App developers are provided a way to target users & potential customers based on their Facebook data.

I have personally been targeted for vicious attacks with false allegations on Facebook by Facebook fake ID persons some of whom seem to be based in Melbourne, Australia. One particular fake news attack on me in early 2017 created problems for me in my real life in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India as it aimed at, and succeeded to some extent in, sowing division between me and one or two other persons. Complaining to Facebook with all details, and requesting them to at least delete the fake news against me and perhaps warn the fake Id Facebook user who first used the name Parthi Resident, and then changed it to Venkatesh Babu, got me nowhere. So I have personal bad experience of this weak and dark side of Facebook which impacted my real life in Puttaparthi. Readers who want to know more about the early 2017 fake news attack on me may read it here: http://ravisiyer.blogspot.in/2017/02/my-facebook-posts-related-to.html.

I also think a policy to allow apps to have access to public data (status updates/posts, Like-click behaviour, other public profile data) of ***friends*** of Facebook users of those apps, whose consent was ***not*** taken (only Facebook users of the apps provided consent NOT their friends), was very bad policy of Facebook from a user data protection point of view. This was what was exploited by Aleksandr Kogan and Cambridge Analytica. But I read that Zuckerberg said that that policy was changed in 2014 or so, and is not the current policy anymore.

Now I have benefited a lot from Facebook, in particular from the Sathya Sai devotee community on Facebook, but also from others including top political leaders of India and USA on Facebook. So I very much would like to continue to be on Facebook, but with better protection of my data which is what Mark Zuckerberg is promising. I am encouraged by Zuckerberg's Facebook post and interviews on this matter.

So my stand is #ReformNotDeleteFacebook. My view is that Facebook should be given full opportunities and support for reform. I also support government regulation of Facebook in the area of (prevention of) Fake News and Fake IDs sowing division and disinformation among the citizenry.

I would also like to re-iterate my gratitude to Facebook company and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. Given below is my comment on Zuckerberg's Aug. 2015 Facebook post, https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10102329188394581, on Facebook achieving the milestone of one billion people using Facebook in a single day:

Awesome, bro, awesome! I would like to say a big THANK YOU to FACEBOOK for being a FANTASTIC platform for Sathya Sai Baba devotees worldwide to share their thoughts, experiences and work related to Sathya Sai Baba and his mission of reinforcing Truth (Sathya), Ethical living (Dharma), Peace (Shanti) and Love (Prema) in the world. And some of our slightly heated arguments as well :-) . But then democratic dissent is part of modern life and thank God for that, I say.

BTW I am a former software techie who started his career in the 80s. What an awesome journey computers (software & hardware) have been on! Unbelievable! I was doing a Videotex project in Belgium in the mid-80s. [From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videotex, "Videotex (or "interactive videotex") was one of the earliest implementations of an end-user information system. From the late 1970s to mid-1980s, it was used to deliver information (usually pages of text) to a user in computer-like format, typically to be displayed on a television."]

Where was Videotex and where is social media, especially Facebook, today! What awesome progress and what a huge enabler of democratization of knowledge and information, the Internet and its apps (like Facebook) have been!

I pray to Almighty God to shower His Grace and Blessings on Facebook company staff for the wonderful service to worldwide society they are providing. Thanks a ton, folks.
--- end my comment text ---

I continue to largely have the above view today in March 2018 too, but now with some serious concerns about abuse of Facebook platform by bad actors to spread disinformation and hatred without any accountability and consequences for their bad actions.

Overall I still have a very positive view of my Facebook experience and am encouraged by Facebook boss, Mark Zuckerberg's promises to address these serious flaws in Facebook. I would like to give time and space to Mark Zuckerberg and others in Facebook to fix these serious flaws.

Therefore my stand is #ReformNotDeleteFacebook.
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An update: Perhaps a better tag than #ReformNotDeleteFacebook though slightly longer, would have been #NotDeleteButReformFacebook.

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