The Facebook Issue

Mark Zuckerberg is a controversial figure for libertarians. He is an entrepreneur who rocked the Silicon Valley high-tech culture with a social network that revolutionised online interactions in many aspects, very quickly. Before Facebook, social networks were available but didn’t quite strike the cord across generations. Now, you need to be careful not to let that religious old auntie see your naughty Saturday night activities on her feed.

Facebook does have many positive aspects, which I am sure have been fairly discussed, although it doesn’t seem too popular with Libertarians. Most people I meet in Libertarian events have their reservations with online sharing and privacy, some of them detest Facebook. With its countless users and insane activity, the company has become a giant, with many parties influencing and demanding steps to “improve” the experience. Users want more entertainment, more features, more ease of access and so on. Advertisers want good algorithms to target their audience, better placement and of course, an audience. The government wants: all of the above (?).

We all surely know that Facebook, just like Twitter, YouTube and Google, are private companies offering services. We are all exposed to T&Cs and have to agree with them before signing up to any of these platforms. Are they intrusive? Yes. Will the government make it any better? Definitely no.

The whole show of having Zuckerberg in front of a bunch of Bureaucrats, answering questions and being told off like a school boy in front of a principal made the spectacle specially cringe-worthy. There it was, father state, taking care of the people’s interests and privacy, telling off a very naughty boy who tried to make money off the ripped off “customers”. They even sat Mr Facebook on a seat booster for added dramatization. Or shall I say, humiliation?

The show seen last week, for anyone with one half of a wit, was nothing else but a display of State overreaching. It is quite logical to know that if you are not being paid or paying for a service, you are the product, this has always been true about social media. It is common knowledge too, that the US government is the one to spend the most spying on people. The chance that the government uses Facebook and WhatsApp to acquire intel on citizens is probably very close to 100%. So what does this mean?

Well, Facebook had information on its spying habits leaked, rendering the platform untrustworthy and planting seeds of paranoia on previously unaware or non-believing users. This also exposes that such tools and techniques of surveillance are easily embedded and used by… anyone? Questions start being asked about the government using these, or maybe even using them through social media to spy on us. Is the government angry because Zuckerberg got caught selling data collected from tools that were placed to track civilians for the NSA or another agency(s)?

For now, all we know is that Zuckerberg seems to have gone rapidly from the praised prodigy entrepreneur to an example to be made. His fame and success being turned on him with a seemingly grudge from all sides. Let’s keep in mind Zuckerberg owns services that are not mandatory, but that will be officially and heavily regulated, probably even more scrutinised than currently, by the state. The ever reaching fingers of the government, running a Prime Time drama, to play the good guy, while institutionalising your privacy, or the lack of it.



Featured Image cc-by-sa. With thanks to Ian Kennedy


  1. Mark Z. did not answer the questions of “bureaucrats” – he answered questions put by elected Congressional Representatives and elected Senators. And there were good reasons why, for example, Senator Ted Cruz asked him specific questions.

    Facebook presents itself, in law, as a “Neutral Public Forum” – if it is what it claims to be then it may not discriminate against conservatives and IT CLEARLY DOES DISCRIMINATE AGAINST CONSERVATIVES – now that is fine if Facebook wants to drop the legal claim that is it a “Neutral Public Forum”, but there are legal consequences for Facebook if it wants to drop that legal claim.

    “Facebook is a private company – it can favour any political stance it likes and discriminate against any political stance it does not like” – most certainly, AS LONG AS IT DROPS THE LEGAL CLAIM THAT IT IS A “NEUTRAL PUBLIC FORUM” and accepts the legal consequences of losing that legal status, for example exposure to Civil Liability for statements made on line.

    As for Mark Z – he is hoisted on his own petard. He believes in an ever bigger government, he believes that social and political considerations are more important than private property rights. So he has, by his own philosophy, no grounds for moral complaint – when the government turns its gaze upon him.

    “But the First Amendment” – actually Senator Cruz brought up a First Amendment defence (he was most helpful to Mark Z in this regard) – but a First Amendment defence would (of course) involve the dropping of the legal claim to be a Neutral Public Forum and accepting all legal (FINANCIAL) consequences of losing that status.



  2. A good post Tamaris, and an equally good response Paul.

    As someone who believes that there should be no limit to freedom of speech – none – instinctively I dislike media and social media actions to allow all opinions, unless they don’t like it. Once the principle of free expression is punctured, it is only a matter of time before there is none at all. So Paul is right in that Zuckerberg has, indeed been hoisted by his own petard. He obviously does believe in privacy, since he went so far as to demolish all the neighbouring properties around his California mansion to ensure it.

    However, the spectacle of government officials lecturing him on the subject of privacy sent my irony meter into overdrive. Many of these are the same officials and elected representatives that passed the Patriot Act and presided over the shredding of the Constitution and who stood by whilst the Fourth Amendment was obliterated by the NSA.

    It seems as if covert, illegal and unwarranted surveillance is an unacceptable abuse of power – unless you are government, of course.



    1. I am not interested in the privacy angle – if people voluntarily give Mr Z information of course he can sell it (that is how he became rich).

      What I care about is the systematic political bias of Facebook – and the fact that Facebook DISHONESTLY claims not to have a leftist bias.



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