Monday, November 13, 2017

Get Off My Fucking Lawn, Zuckerberg

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 6:42 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA JD LASICA / FLICKR
Mark Zuckerberg, a man who made billions of dollars by tricking you into providing his website with content for free while simultaneously spying on you and selling every single detail of your life he can get his smooth, wholly un-calloused hands on to advertisers and marketing groups, came to St. Louis last week and made a bunch of fart noises with his mouth, allegedly in support of small businesses in the area.

Zuckerberg, about whom the song "The Man Who Sold the World" was written, despite Bowie having released it some thirteen years before Zuck was born (don't question Bowie), beamed his organic particles into a room on the Cortex campus on Thursday to talk about how small businesses are great, and Facebook is great, and wouldn't it be really great if all you small businesses gave him your money?

Thursday's St. Louis stop was part of the final leg of what Zuckerberg calls his "Year of Travel," which sounds nice, and served to announce an effort the company calls "Facebook Community Boost," which also sounds nice. Apparently Facebook intends to launch a tour of 30 cities next year — St. Louis is first on the list, lucky us — with the stated goal of showing business owners how to make better use of the platform though digital and social media training.

Oh yeah, and also, as reported by the Post-Dispatch, the free seminars will "give business owners assistance on ways to grow outside their current markets by using Facebook advertising." In other words, Facebook is running a timeshare scam, promising perks and freebies with the real goal of trapping you in a room and selling you some worthless bullshit.

"One of the things I'm most proud of is that 70 million small businesses use Facebook to connect with customers," Zuckerberg wrote in a statement about the trip. "That's 70 million people who now have access to the same tools the big guys have."

Except they don't, and it's Zuckerberg's fault that they don't.

Since 2012, Facebook has been burying posts on its platform from companies and organizations — and, ahem, publications — by ever-increasing margins. When the platform was first launched in 2007, any user could sign up for a "fan page" and start posting content that it could reasonably assume its fans would see. But around 2012, the people running these pages noticed a precipitous drop in how many fans their posts reached. Basically, you might have 10,000 people "like" your business page, but any bit of content you posted via that page might only be shown to a small fraction of them. Back then that number was about 16 percent, on average — truly the halcyon days, compared to the brutality on display just a couple years later.

An Edgerank Checker study found that reach dropped from 16 percent to 6.5 percent between February 2012 and March 2014. And so even if a page has 10,000 people who "like" it and presumably wish to see its content, only 650 people would actually see that content on their news feeds.

And it's only gotten worse.

A recent Buzzsumo report finds that organic reach has declined by 20 percent in 2017 alone. As of August, reports suggest that posts are seen by less than 5 percent of all of the posting page's fans.

Luckily, Facebook has a fix for that: Buy some ads; boost your posts.

It's a classic scheme, akin to a drug dealer's business model: Get them hooked, then make them pay. Publications, in particular, have suffered — nowadays, it is not uncommon for news organizations to get the overwhelming majority of their traffic through Facebook. Those publications — and the journalism industry at large, maybe — came to rely too heavily on Facebook for that traffic, so when the returns rapidly diminished, it sent many into a tailspin.

Larger corporations can take the hit — they have bigger budgets for advertising. But those small businesses that Zuckerberg claims to want to help so badly? Not so much.

And Facebook has the death blow on deck already: The company is currently running a trial in six countries including Slovakia, Serbia and Sri Lanka in which non-paid posts are being removed out of people's news feeds altogether. In this pilot, they instead appear in an entirely separate tab, a secondary feed.
Overnight, publishers in those countries saw their already-basement-level reach drop by 60 to 80 percent, according to a report by the Guardian.

Matti Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis, tells the Guardian the move is “the classic Facebook playbook: first give lots of organic reach to one content type, then they have to pay for reach, then they can only get through to anyone by paying.”

In addition to knocking the legs out from underneath entire industries in what amounts to a mafia shakedown ("Nice content you got here — it would be a shame if nobody ever saw any of it"), Facebook's efforts have contributed to the erosion of democracy and civil discourse. Instead of letting us see the pages we've indicated we want to see, they're filling our feeds with ads from shady sources, allowing completely false information to spread and infect the minds of millions unchecked, forcing even ostensibly reputable organizations to resort to eye-catching headlines and hyperbole — and even vulgarity — in the hopes that they can fight an entirely uphill battle and catch a few eyeballs.

In other words, all your talk about championing small business in St. Louis sounds nice, Mr. Zuckerberg, but it rings hollow. Now get off my fucking lawn.


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