Recently we have seen a big increase in activist Facebook pages. Facebook seems to have become an essential propaganda tool. However we should question the use of it as an organising tool, and even as a propaganda tool.
Facebook is a sieve:
This is noting new, Facebook is a sieve. It’s actually the goal of a social network: collect data, sell it to advertisers, sell personalised adverts etc. Facebook might bristle sometimes at handing over data to the cops, but it is happy to link Facebook accounts with people’s identities. Posting on Facebook is therefore a guaranteed risk, it could even be seen as reckless. During the movement against the loi de travail we could see online surveys about where demonstrate. This kind of information only contributes to one thing, the dossiers of the secret service.
Not everyone is on Facebook:
With 22 million daily users, Facebook is the top social network in France by some distance. It is a large part of the population. However, while 84% of under-40s use facebook daily, only 56% of the population is actually on Facebook. This drastically reduces the accessibility that advocates claim is the result of intensive Facebook use by militants.
Facebook: no archives guaranteed
Another problem coming from the size of Facebook: your info is out of date in two days. Although posts are archived for the benefit of advertisers (and the cops) it is almost impossible to find a post, even a politically significant one, after three days. The information is swamped by the enormous volume of information that is circulated in real time. In keeping with the 24-hour news cycle, each news story is driven out by the next, so the extremely important information about police brutality or the video showing mistreatment of migrants in the metro quickly disappears under the weight of Hanouna’s latest homophobic outburst or the death of a famous singer.
Mark Zuckerberg can delete your page whenever he wants:
Recently the sinister Alain Soral, a notorious anti-feminist and anti-semite, was kicked off Facebook. Nothing too serious, perhaps even encouraging given the tide of hatred washing over the 120000 subscribers to his page. Nevertheless it is part of a much more dangerous system in which Facebook can simply delete pages which it doesn’t like. It doesn’t matter how important these pages might be: Negronews, liked by 500000 people and with relatively inoffensive content, was deleted for supposed “incitement to hatred” with no justification or further explanation given. Similarly “La République mais pas trop”(51000 subscribers) a satirical page was permanently deleted by Facebook’s automatic moderation, in spite of the particular attention they paid to removing racist/sexist/homophobic comments on their page.
There are several ways get kicked off Facebook:
- a moderator doesn’t like you and bans you for a petty and or subjective reason.
- the page being reported too many times. This is particularly important as it means that nationalists can shut down pages with harassment campaigns; after a certain number of reports Facebook automatically shuts down the page. This is undoubtedly what happened to Urgence Notre police assassine (Warning, our police kill, 61000 subscribers) which was attacked by hordes of unhappy police officers and has disappeared.
The illusion of accessibility: pay, or talk to yourselves
Here is the most problematic part of Facebook: the algorithms are designed to create social bubbles. A concrete example is in this article:
“As we like, share and comment on articles, Facebook’s algorithms create a model of our preferences. Then Facebook tries to show us content that we will want to see. So, if someone likes snowboarding, subscribes to snowboarding pages and shares snowboarding articles, they can expect to see more articles about snowboarding on our timelines than someone who hates the sport, which isn’t a surprise. The problem is that Facebook has become a trusted news source for net users, and political opinions get the same treatment as snowboarding.”
So, because of Facebook’s algorithms, when we publish subversive texts we are only likely to reach people who are already interested in them. We won’t reach the proletarian who is mostly interested by fishing, or the young lad who is into hairdressing, we will carry on talking amongst ourselves. The only way to get through these algorithms is to pay. Of course, nothing is free, even propaganda.
So unless you want to go broke (adverts are expensive) trying to fight Facebook’s algorithms you need to ask yourself the right questions. We need to look at our autonomy and that starts with getting your hands dirty; you need independent servers, to set up websites and learn from existing projects. For example there are MUTU sites in several cities, so we need to create our own social networks and online spaces which we control! Let’s demand more from ourselves and kick Facebook out of our struggles.
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