Facebook : The abomination we could do without.

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Introduction

The ongoing issues with Facebook (FB) continue. It all started with the replacement of one of my mobile’s on Wednesday the 11th of September. I was abruptly logged out of Facebook for having clicked on an email sent from them to check the stats on a recent client campaign. Instead of opening the link in the FB app, it opened within Chrome, my default browser.

FB seemed not have liked that and immediately flagged my account as, Temporarily Locked. I attempted to reinstate my FB account but to this day have not been able to use FB, FB Messenger, FB Page app or FB Ads app. The latter is used frequently as the main purpose of the platform is for business reasons.

Screen capture dated 9 July 2019 from my
cousin’s FB account after he had shared some
fake news on his timeline. 

Unable to access FB, I started looking online for help on different forums and websites. To my surprise, I found that some users had been ‘temporarily locked’ out of their accounts for months. Ironically enough, I cannot post a complaint on the FB help forum’s either because I need to be ‘Logged In (FB) to continue’:.

Even attempted to phone Cuppertino on the Wednesday the 18th of September 10.22am UTC time, 21.44 Mauritian time and left a voicemail which evidently was never answered either on their line +1 650-543-4800.

While this is all very annoying, for business reasons, on a personal level not having access has been somewhat a blessing in disguise. I am no more captive of FB’s ‘rabbit hole’ of it’s News Feed. Ironic really it’s still called ‘News Feed’ with the healthy amount of fake news and political ads running amuck on the social media platforms these days. 

On the eve of a general election in Mauritius and following the successful strategy of the MSM Party using ‘vire mam’ propaganda video to ascend to the proverbial throne, FB in developing countries has long lost it’s benevolent mission statement “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Quite the opposite, an article published by Quartz on March 28th 2018 listed Mauritius as one of the clients of SCL Elections the parent company of Cambridge Analytica

FB has become a valuable asset in any propaganda strategy. This culminated in the 2016 American elections where Russia had successfully targeted voters

Work life with Facebook

I work for a media group who runs one of the biggest Facebook pages in the region which engages with over 1m users per week. On Sunday morning 1st of September 2019, at 2am, FB triggered a live video through our page which lasted 2 hours and 14 mins. The event was document and appeared to showcase a Redbull Monster Truck tournament taking place in Crandon Off-Road Raceway in Wisconsin, USA. As any Facebook Administrator can tell you that the triggering of a live video through your FB page will send a notification to all the users that like your page, in our case, some 620,328 users unless they have purposely switched off being notified for live videos. I imagine they are quite a few users who have.

Horrified, we emailed FB in hope they provide an explanation as to how this sort of problem is possible. To this day we have not received a reply and also started to make us reflect:

“If FB is able to trigger a live video on a page that we cannot control then what else are they able to do ?” 

Thankfully it was only a banal monster truck derby rather than some insidious pornographic video or worse, a live video from a political party.

FB replied to us on promptly that Sunday :

“On 1 Sep 2019, at 14:40, Facebook <[email protected]> wrote:

Hi Loic
Thanks, for contacting Facebook.
Thank you for your message. 
We will pass this on. 
Do you have another request? 
Have a nice day 
best regards 
Arif”

Since then, the social media giant has gone silent after soliciting an official response twice via email.

On Friday the 4th of October via Twitter, the Guardian posted on an article detailing:

Facebook has quietly rescinded a policy banning false claims in advertising, creating a specific exemption that leaves political adverts unconstrained regarding how they could mislead or deceive, as a potential general election looms in the UK.”

A propaganda loving hell hole? You better believe it.

As the Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth in what would appear to be a state of emergency declared the general elections dates on Sunday the 6th of October. A series of anti-governmental Facebook pages were affected. On Monday the 7th, a long time critic of the local government(s) Hassenjee Ruhomally was rather perplexed as the reason why access to his Facebook page had been revoked. He tweeted.

While such bans are happening globally on a daily basis, the recklessness of FB for not providing support and/or clarification on their platform remains a legal quagmire both in Mauritius and abroad.

Propaganda weapon

We may also note an advertising campaign triggered the night before by the current Prime Minister screen capped by my colleague via Instagram. The ad campaign strategically launched a couple of days before announcing dates of the general elections locally:

This highlights that FB NEEDS political ad finances globally to operate and is quite happy to ignore the plights of its users. Users which I am happy to remind the social media buffoons that provide the company it’s assets willfully and blindly.This economical model of the bumbling giant as it consumes our data, photos, videos to target it’s users for advertising income.

A closer look at it’s advertising policies can be read here : https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/

While investigating these policies in May of 2019, for the Labour Day rallies which are customary on an annual basis, I wrote to Facebook on the 4th of May 2019. While their ad policies for elections are updated, today we may notice that it only include two countries being USA and UK, 26 less than in May which you can browse here : https://www.facebook.com/business/help/534095800360404?helpref=page_content

The most interesting point from the exchange which we still are awaiting an answer for some six months later :

“The countries that have been listed are : Australia, Brazil, European Union (28 countries), India, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States. That is exactly 28% of the total countries in the world!
Does Facebook therefore believe that proper vetting and/or checking of political ad money less important in the remaining 72% countries of the world? Does ad money count more for you then understanding and/or supporting democracy globally? Does Facebook promote autocratic regimes that leverage your tech by providing vast budgets to spread their propaganda ?”

Attached to that email was a list of the local political parties:
https://www.facebook.com/msmparty/
https://www.facebook.com/LabourPartyMauritius/
https://www.facebook.com/LePMSD.mu/
https://www.facebook.com/reziste/
https://www.facebook.com/MMMWebTv/

All of the above have been documented to supply advertising funds while traditional advertising MUST respect certain laws that have been implemented since the general elections of 2014 : 

Facebook, Instagram and all it’s subsidiaries do not adhere to those laws and will probably continue to do so unless, us, it’s clients, it’s users do not pronounce ourselves again, and again, and again!

Conclusion

I am frankly utterly fed up of Mark Zuckerburg’s and Sheryl Sandberg’s flowery verbal diarrhea. So these are the steps I advised my management that I hope they will heed :

  1. Close your personal account (See: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/delete-facebook)
  2. We will no longer support Facebook and/or it’s subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp in providing advertising funds and/or campaigns. La Sentinelle is estimated to spend around $1500-2000 on a monthly basis for advertising on the platforms. 
  3. Being of dual nationality (Mauritian/British) I will also be filling a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office in the UK against FB which you can access here: https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/
  4. Enjoy a life away from the now toxic monster which it is.

It is without a doubt that the editorial, video, communications, marketing departments et al are going to kick up a massive fuss over such suggestions however I would like to remind you dear reader, our employees, our management that we stand for values. Without such values we may end up just like the social media behemoth spreading palab and hate globally while laughing all the way to the bank.

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