18 November 2020, 20:00
The Hmm ON the power of Facebook
Now that we are extremely online due to the Corona crisis, we are living in Mark Zuckerberg’s wet dream. In April 2020, when large parts of the world were in lockdown, Facebook was the most used social media platform worldwide. We were in contact with our family via WhatsApp. On Instagram we saw how our friends spent their days at home. And via Facebook we kept up to date with the latest corona news.
Last year, not only did the platform’s power increase, but so did criticism against it. At the beginning of the pandemic, when reliable information about the virus was literally a matter of life and death, Facebook was struggling with their content moderation and posts were increasingly reviewed by AI. With the platform’s past history with the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US elections via the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the platform is being more closely watched than ever before. Even within the company itself. When Trump’s inflammatory posts were not removed, since the platform doesn’t see itself as ‘arbiter of truth’, many of Facebook’s own employees conducted a “virtual walkout“. On top of that, Facebook was one of the Big Tech companies to be questioned about antitrust and privacy last summer.
What makes Facebook so powerful? It’s not only the way they bring information to us, but also how they extract information from us via their platforms— Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. The sophistication of location-based tracking, coupled with the personal data that the company has about users and their behaviour online, creates an environment where people are convinced that their phones are listening to them and serving up ads based on those conversations. Products like funny face filters, Stories and voice messages via WhatsApp are just hooks that lure us into the extractive economy of ‘surveillance capitalism’, a term introduced by philosopher and social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff.
During this The Hmm ON event we try to better understand the power of Facebook and we’ve invited three speakers to answer the following questions. How can we become more aware of how these systems operate when they are purposely made invisible to us? Can we continue to use the social media platforms Facebook is offering us in ways that don’t compromise our right to privacy? And to what extent are we our data?
Join us at 8pm CET. You’ll receive the streaming link after registering for the event.
The Hmm ON …
We’re using face filters to make ourselves prettier, track our daily steps on our iPhones, and rely on Google Maps to find our destination. But what exactly is the impact of these technologies? With The Hmm on …, in Corona-free times hosted by Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, we reflect on these playful, serious, and sometimes disturbing developments in internet culture.
How and when does Facebook follow us, as we move around online? Processes like this are deliberately made invisible to users—hidden behind distracting features and slick design. If we want to understand how our browsing behavior and actions in real life are influenced, it is extremely important that we become aware of this non-transparent infrastructure. The Markup can help us sort that out. This nonprofit newsroom investigates how powerful institutions are using technology to change our society and build tools that reveal all the trackers present on any site you visit. Tonight, The Markup‘s president Nabiha Syed will show us how they are watching Big Tech.
Facebook follows every post you like, every click you make, and every page you visit. This information—combined with data from your personal profile and increasingly sophisticated and ubiquitous location tracking—creates an environment where it feels like the platforms we visit know more about us than we know about ourselves. Does our data provide a better insight into our behaviour and the world around us? Theo Ploeg, editor-in-chief of Speculative Now, a platform for design sociology and speculative thinking, thinks it doesn’t. Tonight he’ll explain why and show the essential role designers can play in this.
How is an interface that foregrounds our friend count changing our conceptions of friendship? Who benefits when a software system can intuit how we feel? These are some of the questions that artist Ben Grosser examines in his work, which focuses on the cultural, social, and political effects of software. In works such as Order of Magnitude and Safebook, Ben reveals the underlying ideologies of Mark Zuckerberg through his language and questions whether a social media network can ever really be safe. He’ll be joining us tonight to talk about his Facebook-centred artworks and how his works make the familiar unfamiliar—revealing the ways that software prescribes our behavior and thus, how it changes who we are.