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Technologist accuses Facebook of psychologically abusing its users

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Psychological abuse from Facebook?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where one person tricks another into thinking their memory is flawed or they are crazy. The abuser may deny previous abuse incidents or disorient his/her victim by staging bizarre events. The term comes from the 1930s film “Gas Light” wherein among other tricks, the lead character convinces his spouse that she is crazy as he turns the gas lamps lower than usual and claims they are normal and she alone cannot see them properly.

Well regarded technologist Anil Dash says Facebook is gaslighting its users. “Facebook has moved from merely being a walled garden into openly attacking its users’ ability and willingness to navigate the rest of the web. The evidence that this is true even for sites which embrace Facebook technologies is overwhelming, and the net result is that Facebook is gaslighting users into believing that visiting the web is dangerous or threatening.”

How exactly is this happening?

In depth, he outlines the process of how he believes this phenomena is occurring. First, Facebook notifies users that they are shutting down RSS-to-notes and encourages users to manually enter notes or share a link to content on their wall but when content providers aren’t huge like CNN or Yahoo, they are pushed to the bottom of a user’s feed, losing control of their content (not exactly “frictionless” as pitched). Dash notes that sites using Facebook as their commenting systems and are indexed and deemed acceptable to Facebook’s Open Graph, Facebook instructs users to fear the site.

In other words, use our tool as your commenting system, and share your links manually on our site, but we’re going to tell people your site is questionable and could be dangerous. One commenter to Dash’s opinion summarized it humorously, “Dear Facebook, Be careful using Facebook! Sincerely, Facebook.

Dash says, “What’s remarkable about this warning message is not merely that an ordinary, simple web content page is being presented as a danger to a user. No, it’s far worse: (1) Facebook is warning its users about the safety of a page which incorporates Facebook’s own commenting features, meaning even web sites that embrace Facebook’s technologies can be marginalized. (2) Facebook is displaying this warning despite the fact that Facebook’s own systems have indexed the page and found that it incorporates their own Open Graph information.”

The flip side

One Facebook coder opined, “I work on the team that generated the warning that seems to be the crux of this post. I am pretty convinced that it is a bug.”

A comment Dash received on his blog criticized his stance. “Not another “oh no! Facebook is scary!” post. If you went back to 1950 and explained the internet to someone, I imagine their reaction would be much like yours is to these changes., but don’t fear the future. The idea of sharing as you go rather than clicking to share is the next step in social media. Embrace it.”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Social Media

Tag photos, connect with friends, order food?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook seems to be sprawling into every nook and cranny of life and now, they’re infiltrating food delivery.

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Facebook is now bringing you food! Although, no one was really asking them to.

In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook is attempting to transform into more than just a social media platform. They have partnered up with food delivery services to help users order food directly from their site.

They hope to streamline the process by giving users a chance to research, get recommendations and order food without ever leaving the site.

Facebook has partnered with their existing delivery services including EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow and Olo in addition to restaurants to fast track the process.

The scenario they imagine is that while scrolling through the newsfeed, users would feel an urge to eat and look to Facebook for their options.

After chatting up friends via Facebook Messenger to ask for the best place to go, users would visit the restaurant’s page directly, explore their menu and decide to order. When ordering, you will have the option to use one of the partnered delivery services either with an existing account or by creating a new one.

The benefit is you stay on one site the entire time. With the time you save, the food can get to you faster, which is a plus for everyone.

Assuming that people already live on Facebook 24/7, this seems like a great update. If you like getting recommendations from your favorite social media resources, it’s even better.

The problem is that in recent years their younger audiences have dropped off in favor of other sites. Regardless of what they think, not everyone is flocking to Facebook for their every need.

My guess is that this service will benefit those already using Facebook, but is less likely to draw new audiences in.

Adding more services may not be the key to success if Facebook can’t refine their other features. They have already been criticized for their ad reporting practices, though they seem to fix everything with a new algorithm.

Facebook has continued to stray away from their original intent, and food delivery won’t be their last update.

Facebook wants to be everything, but not everyone may want the same.

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Social Media

Hate Facebook’s mid-roll ads? So does everyone else

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Those pesky ads that pop up in the middle of that Facebook video, aka mid-roll, seem to be grinding everyone’s gears.

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In an ongoing effort to monetize content, Facebook recently introduced “mid-roll” ads into videos by certain publishers, and it has now been testing that format for six months. If you aren’t a big fan of those ads interrupting your content consumption experience, you aren’t alone; publishers aren’t crazy about them either.

In a report on the program, five publishers working with Facebook’s new mid-roll ad program were sourced and all five publishers found that the program wasn’t generating the expected revenue.

One program partner made as little as $500 dollars with mid-roll ads while generating tens of millions of views on their content.

Two other partners wouldn’t specify exact revenue number, but they did acknowledge that the ad performance is below expectations. As far as cost goes, certain publishers mentioned CPMs between 15 cents and 75 cents.

That range is large because a lot of the data isn’t clear enough to evaluate their return on investment. According to the Digiday report, publishers receive data on total revenue, along with raw data on things like the number of videos that served an ad to viewers.

The lack of certain data points, along with the confusing structure of the data, makes it difficult to assess the number of monetized views and the revenue by video. For context, YouTube, as arguably the biggest player in video monetization, provides all these metrics.

Another issue is that licensing deals are cutting into margins. Facebook pays publishers, via a licensing fee, to produce and publish a certain number of videos each month. In exchange, Facebook keeps all money until it recoups the fee, after which revenue is split 55/45 between the publisher and Facebook.

While these challenges doesn’t change the fact that revenue is low, it does make it difficult to dissect costs in a meaningful way.

Why is revenue so low to begin with?

For starters, a newsfeed with enough content to feed an infinite scroll probably isn’t the best format for these kinds of ads. As a user, when I’m watching the videos and the ad interrupts the experience, I’ve always scrolled right on through to the next item on my feed. It’s a sentiment echoed by one of the publishers in the Digiday story.

Because of that, Facebook’s new Watch program, which creates a content exclusivity not found on the news feed, might produce better results in the future. Either way, Facebook will need to solve this revenue challenge for publishers, or they might pull out of the programs altogether.

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Social Media

Will Facebook’s Bonfire be a hit or go up in flames?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook secretly launched a group chat app that they secretly copied from a super small company. Lots of secrets.

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As we well know, big social media and social messaging companies have a tendency to rip each other off. We’ve seen Instagram rip off Snapchat, another big player in the space.

However, what happens when a big player copies a young upstart?

Facebook appears to be doing just that. The social media giant announced a standalone group video chat app called Bonfire in July of this year. After testing, that app is now available in the Denmark App Store.

“Bonfire bears a striking resemblance to Houseparty.”

Both apps enable multi-party video chatting, complete with video effect filters (much like Snapchat). Facebook has their app synced with the Messenger feature to let potential participants know when they’ve been added to a chat. Bonfire also lets you capture snapshots of the video chat.

So, why does Facebook want to copy this startup so badly? Because the concept is a hit.

Back in 2016, Houseparty was the 7th highest ranking free app in Apple’s App store. Additionally, the app has been shown averaging a million downloads in the last 6 months. Facebook is in the business of building community, per their mission statement, and this concept is a growing epicenter of social community and interaction.

That also makes Houseparty and Bonfire a great tool for reaching a younger consumer audience more directly.

While a live event on Facebook or Instagram makes for a great general broadcast, these apps could be a great way to offer exclusive experiences to certain customers.

Imagine, if you will, the thrill of 6 fans winning a content to have a private show streamed to them by their favorite artist, followed by a Q+A session? Or, imagine a pop culture brand like The AV Club hosting an interactive discussion with fans dissecting the latest episode of Game of Thrones?

If those examples feel a little too big for you, then imagine a group of restaurant employees hosting a live discussion in several different chat rooms soliciting feedback on all parts of the experience?

The bigger point is, that level of intimacy and exclusivity works well on this platform.

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