Stop using Facebook

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.. at least for organising bi stuff. Please.

I am biased: I have never liked Facebook

I did not like it when Facebook started encouraging other sites to have their 'like' buttons, so they could spy on users even when they weren't – gasp – using Facebook, or even logged into it.

I did not like it when Facebook removed everyone's email addresses from their profiles and substituted an @facebook.com one. (I can't remember if they even pretended it wasn't to spy on users.) About two years later, that was removed so if you had used it, you couldn't any more.

I did not like it when Facebook bought a proxy service, marketed it to users as a 'VPN' to ensure their privacy and then spied on them.

And I did not like it when Facebook deliberately stopped users on tablets, phones, and similar devices from being able to access messages unless they installed the resource-hungry Messenger app with its dodgy permissions so it can sling more ads at you.* It also conceals the existence of the slimmer, much less resource intensive 'Facebook Lite' app from users in places like Europe and the US, in favour of getting you to use the bloated Facebook + Messenger apps combination.**

Having said that…

Can people who actually like Facebook and use it for their personal lives see there are big problems with it being used for organising bi stuff?

For example, here is the start of what the Code of Conduct for BiCon 2017 says about privacy:

Please respect people’s privacy, and be aware that not everyone at BiCon may be ‘out’ about their sexuality or other aspects of their lifestyle such as BDSM or non-monogamy. Ask permission before identifying anyone publicly. ‘Public’ includes write-ups on personal websites or on social networking sites such as Facebook.

That's all completely reasonable and it's what I'd expect.

Sometimes, the privacy was perhaps taken a bit too far. When room allocations were done, the email to everyone staying said:

Your room allocation is
Flat (number)
Room (number)
it is on the (number) floor.

Please do not give this out on the internet,

If you had previously arranged a flat share group please email them directly to coordinate.

.. so even saying which room you personally were in was seen as not OK. I'm not sure why it's not, but I respected that – I hadn't arranged to flat share – and so I didn't tell where I was or ask anyone where they were… and it was only when we were leaving that a dear friend and I realised that we'd been in the same flat! (Fortunately, we'd spent some time together elsewhere during the event.)

But, and it's a big but..

.. there's an official BiCon 2017 Attendees group on Facebook.

Because of Facebook's 'real names' policy and the way that a large majority of people abide by that, this means that I know the names of (checks) 207 out of 375 attendees. Some of the latter will be too young to have an account, so say at least 60%.

It's a similar proportion for BiCon 2016 and its Facebook attendees group. It's less for BiCon 2015, but there are still over 135 people's details there.

Anyone added to those groups can see the names and faces plus as much personal info – including who they are 'Facebook friends' with – as the user allows for everyone else. Given that what's shared by default can be and has been changed by Facebook, that can be more than individual users expect. Even just 'firstname lastname' is more than some people give out at BiCon, but here they are… and with their faces to check it really is them.

Hello?!?

I get – I really get – that lots of people do not feel like I do about Facebook and they use it more willingly than I will ever do. I know that most of them get good things out of using it, like keeping in touch with family and friends. I understand that Facebook makes it really easy to post pictures of your cat or repost those 'if you don't repost this, you are evil' memes, usually in the form of an image (because that makes it so much more meaningful) or as a link to another ad-slinging site with an even worse privacy policy.

But being able to use Facebook in this way is a privilege that many attendees – past, current and potential future ones – simply do not have.

And that's not all…

Never mind the confidentiality issue between ourselves, look at what Facebook has done in terms of selling data to anyone who's interested. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with one project merely visiting a site that paid Facebook was enough: "As soon as you visit the sites [that signed up for it, they] can access your name, your picture, your gender, your current location, your list of friends, all the Pages you have Liked — everything Facebook classifies as public information".

The moderating tools on Facebook are so poor compared to other software I suspect they're deliberately bad. (Deleted stuff makes it harder to sling ads at you for one thing.) At least one BiCon team found it very difficult when things kicked off in 'their' attendees group, which could have been prevented had tools that have been around elsewhere since at least the 1980s been available.

Facebook is also so concerned with 'now' – that ever flowing feed that you must read or feel that you're missing out on something like another cat pic – that its search tools are really (deliberately?) bad. I would have pointed to one of the problematic posts mentioned above.. but after five minutes trying I can't find it. Our history as a community is important: let's not bury it. (This criticism applies to other sites too. Twitter actively stops third party programs from searching for anything more than one week back, for example)

Speaking of keeping our history, while it's slow to remove hate speech, Facebook's been a little too keen to remove things like breastfeeding. Are we certain that Facebook will never decide that BiCon and what happens there falls outside its (US-based) policies and deletes our content?

Alternatives to Facebook

There's Dreamwidth, with its BiCon community and vastly better privacy than Facebook will ever offer.

Recent BiCon sites have used WordPress – you can have discussions on that. They can be moderated so that posts only appear when someone approves them. By default, you only need an email address to participate, and have whatever name you like appear when you do. (Try it below!)

Other ones exist, including using email lists, having a continuing 'BiCon' forum on bicon.org.uk and more.

TL;DR:

Posting important BiCon info on Facebook rather than that year's website excludes people. Often those are the most vulnerable people.

I could not stop people using Facebook even if I wanted to, but please, let's not do bi organising stuff on it.

If you do, provide exactly the same information elsewhere.

* On Android at least several apps exist that pretend to be a desktop PC accessing Facebook's site and present you with the slimmed down results. Metal and Simple Pro are two examples – the latter is free from time to time and also allows you to block 'sponsored content', i.e. some ads.

** Try searching for 'Facebook Lite' on Google Play, then go here – it's there, just deliberately hidden from you.

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