Dan Milmo Global technology editor
October 24, 2021
WN: Now this is wonderfully gracious theology from Frances Haugen:
Because the point of moral bankruptcy is … saying you deserve a chance to start over, that we as a society do better when people get a chance to wipe the slate.
I can only add: Amen!
There are a million recommendations on how to mitigate the damage of the unrelenting barrage of idealized images of strangers and friends. These commonsense strategies include curating your Instagram feed and practicing gratitude for your body by writing down the things it can do, regardless of how it looks. Some people try to use the good (body-positive images showing diverse shapes, sizes, and colors) to drive out the bad (images of idealized bodies). When all else fails, there are apps to help you reduce the time you spend on other apps.
But none of these tactics get to the root of the problem, which the stock phrase “body-image issues” barely even begins to describe. How we look—at ourselves and others—and its often-negative consequences remain more a matter of hair-trigger emotions than of rational thought. Once you’ve learned to see your body as an object, “you can’t turn that off,” says Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University and the founder of its Body & Media Lab. “You can only walk away.”
The best tactic, then, is a little more extreme than anything formally proposed before: Stop creating and consuming images of bodies. Cancel corporeality. Find ways to perceive, and be perceived, less.
At least one of these outcomes seem positive, but Instagram doesn’t work like a controlled psychology experiment. Even people who selectively follow pets, plants, and body-positive content will still find their feed pumped full of targeted advertisements and Explore page recommendations for weight loss ads, pro-anorexia content, and retouched celebrity images. “When you want more users, more time, more content—when that’s your goal—the mental health of your users cannot be your number-one priority, because those things are mutually exclusive,” Engeln says. The power, it’s clear, is in the hands of Facebook executives.
Zuckerberg’s role in the Vietnam decision, which has not been previously reported, exemplifies his relentless determination to ensure Facebook’s dominance, sometimes at the expense of his stated values, according to interviews with more than a dozen former employees. That ethos has come under fire in a series of whistleblower complaints filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen.
While it’s unclear whether the SEC will take the case or pursue action against the CEO personally, the allegations made by the whistleblower represent arguably the most profound challenge to Zuckerberg’s leadership of the most powerful social media company on Earth. Experts said the SEC — which has the power to seek depositions, fine him and even remove him as chairman — is likely to dig more deeply into what he knew and when. Though his direct perspective is rarely reflected in the documents, the people who worked with him say his fingerprints are everywhere in them.
Why it is unlikely that the SEC will act is, in the end, Zuckerberg represents the quintessence of American capitalism.
As George Keenan said, America’s vast wealth, built for generations on the backs of slaves1, is precisely what it aims to keep the rest of the world from ever catching up to:
In 1948, George Keennan, State Department Director of policy planning, noted that the United States then possessed “about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population.” The challenge facing U.S. policy makers, he believed, was “to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.” [1. PPS 23, “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy” (February 24, 1948).] The overarching aim of American statecraft in other words, was to sustain the uniquely favorable situation to which the United States had ascended by the end of World War II. It’s hard to imagine a statement of purpose more succinct, cogent, and to the point.
Judged by this standard, the stewards of U.S. foreign policy down to the present day have done more than passably well… (America’s War For the Greater Middle East: A Military History, New York, Random House, 2016, p. 358)
And, as sociologists Charles Derber and Yale Magrass point out in Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society, the United States is the ultimate bully nation whose system of what they call “militarized capitalism”, derivative from the horror of slavery, voraciously still seeks to suck the wealth from all other peoples and nations, in the end no differently from what it did to slaves in a bygone era:
Every society has a particular economic order, political structure, and culture that become part of what we mean by a “system.” In America, the system is militarized capitalism, and it extends its dominion throughout the United States, across the globe, and into the planetary environment. It is a system primed to create pervasive bullying that affects adults, children, and all species [35. Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), and Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (New York: Holt, 2004). It is also a system perfected throughout the American reign of terror perpetrated against slaves.]. Militarized capitalism is most fully developed in the United States, which is one of the reasons why we focus on our own society. By looking both at America’s history and its current function, we see how a bully nation can flourish, gaining enormous power and wealth as well as moral legitimacy.
…Militarized capitalism is just one system of unequal power that can create a bully nation, but since America is the most powerful country in the world and promotes its system as a model for the world, it deserves our attention. Yet as we see when we discuss the military and militarism, we cannot think of bullying at a purely national level, for bullying operates as a foundation of the American global order [36. See Noam Chomsky and Robert McChesney, Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011). See also Charles Derber, People before Profit (New York: Picador, 2003), and Derber and Magrass, Morality Wars [: How Empires, the Born Again, and the Politically Correct Do Evil in the Name of Good] (New York: Routledge, 2010), esp. chap. 3 on the US exercise of global imperial power.] (Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2016, pp. 24 & 25.)
And its own researchers privately concluded that despite concerted efforts, the company was removing less than 5 percent of hate speech on the site, my colleagues report.–The Five-Minute Fix
There is also this:
Facebook is a cesspool of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and violent and polarizing content. And its own researchers privately concluded that despite concerted efforts, the company was removing less than 5 percent of hate speech on the site, my colleagues report.
Let’s back up for a second. Facebook is under no legal obligation to moderate what’s on its site, because federal law says social media companies aren’t liable for content people post on the sites. And anytime these companies try to moderate speech, it raises a host of tricky questions around what language should be considered acceptable and where to draw lines on misinformation.
But the public pressure on Facebook to moderate itself has been immense — particularly among liberals — and is expected to grow with these revelations.
Now Facebook is under fire for — well, everything, it seems.
Its dirty laundry is being aired as lawmakers start to seriously grapple with how to regulate Facebook and other social media companies.
For better or worse, these Facebook revelations are coming to light at arguably a dangerous time for American society. One political party is denying the results of a legitimate presidential election, and one of the American leaders of misinformation, Trump, is making moves to run for president again.
This was not Frances Haugen’s plan A. The Facebook whistleblower says she does not like being the centre of attention, but what she saw while working at Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire compelled her into action – and made her famous.
“When I look at what I did, this was not my plan A. It wasn’t my plan B, it wasn’t my plan C. It was like my plan J or something,” she laughs. “No one sat me down and said ‘what I want you to do is whistleblow’.”
But that is what Haugen did. In May this year she left her position as a product manager at the social media giant and took tens of thousands of internal documents with her. The documents have triggered a maelstrom of allegations, including that Facebook knew its products were damaging teenagers’ mental health, were fomenting ethnic violence in countries such as Ethiopia and were failing to curb misinformation before the 6 January Washington riots. On Monday, Haugen will take her damning views of the company to Westminster when she testifies before MPs and peers. Meanwhile, Facebook spirals deeper into crisis.
Haugen, 37, says the turning point came when she moved in with her mother, who had given up an academic career to become a priest. “I am really lucky that my mother is an episcopal priest,” says Haugen, who was born and raised in Iowa. “I lived with her for six months last year and I had such profound distress because I was seeing these things inside of Facebook and I was certain it was not going to be fixed inside of Facebook.”
Her concerns over an apparent lack of safety controls in non-English language markets, such as Africa and the Middle East, where the Facebook platform was being used by human traffickers and armed groups in Ethiopia, were a key factor in her decision to act.
“I did what I thought was necessary to save the lives of people, especially in the global south, who I think are being endangered by Facebook’s prioritisation of profits over people. If I hadn’t brought those documents forward that was never going to come to light.”
Facebook, and the huge amounts of data it amasses internally, must face regular and ad hoc scrutiny by regulators, says Haugen. “There needs to be an avenue where we can escalate a concern and they actually have to give us a response.”
In the future, Haugen wants to start a non-profit organisation that supports this kind of social media reform. “These are the solutions that will protect people in the most fragile places in the world.”
Please click on: Frances Haugen: Whistleblower
- Please see: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist, who connects the dots meticulously between the rise to world dominance of American Capitalism, and slavery as single most driving engine, that, in Trump’s ridiculous notion “made America great”. The review (an excerpt below with a link) makes us aware of the overwhelming horror (America’s “greatness ” alright!) committed against Blacks over generations. White America cashed in on that horror, slavery being the single most contributing phenomenon to White America’s obscenely ill-gotten wealth. This is why it is almost impossible for the vast majority of Blacks to rise above the trauma effects of that horror to this day, let alone catch up economically. In response, one could shout from the housetops: BLACK LIVES MATTER!