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Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Facebook Backlash in 3…2…1…ding!

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Facebook logoIn elementary-school science class, we all learned about Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion. The one that stuck with me was the third law: “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.”

Watching the mostly-positive news coverage of Facebook’s announcement that it would be selling stock in May, I wondered when the negative stories about Facebook would begin to trickle in.

The New York Times answered that question today, not with a trickle, but a torrent of negative coverage.

Their three-part series leads with an opinion piece, “Facebook Is Using You,” by Lori Andrews. This article reminds us that Facebook uses its users in two ways: first, it depends on its members to generate, for free, the content for the website; and second, the company then turns around and sells the information gleaned from that content to the highest-bidding advertisers.

This is nothing we haven’t heard before, but it is an unpleasant reminder of how much “free” actually costs us.

The second article, “The Death of the Cyberflâneur,” by Evgeny Morozov, uses a somewhat obscure word in its title to describe how we all used to explore the Internet before Facebook, Twitter and news aggregator sites like The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report did our “Internet Exploring” for us. We were lone hunter-gatherers, prowling the savannah in search of information and entertainment. Now we are moving toward a world where Facebook (or something like it) is our one-stop shop: no learning any other URLs, no thinking required. Everything we want to know is served up to us in one place, and automatically shared with all of our “friends.”

The third article, “Europe Moves to Protect Online Privacy,” by Somini Sengupta, shines a light through the darkness by offering a possible way to increase the protection of our online data here in the U.S.: do as the Romans (and Londoners and Parisians) do. European privacy protection laws are much stronger than in the U.S., and it would not take much political clout to do the same thing here.

Can this happen? I think so. Will it happen? Only if people pay attention to Newton’s law and start pushing back.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

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Written by Charles Primm

February 5, 2012 at 1:57 pm

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