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18 November, 20:00 CET

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.

The series is kindly supported by the Creative Industries fund and Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.


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