HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

Facebook: As bad as Wikipedia, or worse?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2012/03/03

“Talk of the Nation” on Public Radio International a few weeks ago was about photos posted on Facebook that the photographed people did not wish to have posted.
The Facebook engineer on the program explained that Facebook’s criteria for removing photos did not include that those photographed did not wish to have their photos displayed. Facebook would take down photos only if they were obscene, offensive in some manner. Apparently it is not regarded by Facebook as offensive if person A without permission posts a photo of person B and person B finds it offensive to have his or her photo posted without permission. Some of the photos in question were not taken by the people whose faces appear in the photo, nor provided by them to anyone else.
What recourse do people have, whose privacy has been invaded with posted photos?
The engineer suggested that the offended parties get in contact with those who posted the photos and ask that they be removed.
This is just as disingenuous — more precisely, stupid as well as evasive of responsibility — as Wikipedia’s policies and procedures for “negotiation”. They presume — stupidly — that everyone concerned is motivated by decency and collegiality and respect for others’ views and rights.
When person A wishes to inflict harm on person B by posting something derogatory on Wiki or Face, does anyone imagine (other than idiot-savant Wiki or Face computer geeks) that A will then bow to B’s wishes to have the material un-posted?

Facebook and Wikipedia offer free Internet access to anyone who wishes to malign other people, and then they take no responsibility for removing such offense. At some time, surely, enterprising trial lawyers will have another profitable windfall by organizing class action suits by people who have been maligned in this way. I can’t imagine that Facebook and Wikipedia are any more immune from such suits than were the websites that offered file-sharing capabilities so that individuals can share pirated material.

I left Facebook recently for a quite separate reason.
I had joined Facebook because friends suggested it, and in particular because a Rethinking AIDS page was being set up. Over a few years, I accepted as new “friends” anyone recommended by RA people whom I knew, and soon had several hundred.
I never found Facebook useful, though, and in fact didn’t initiate anything on it, I only logged in when I got a notification and almost never entered the given discussions. Facebook for me was just wasted time — an added load into my in-box, another password to remember, more clutter on my computer. Direct e-mail seems to me to make more sense. Still, I stayed because I thought it was a collegial RA thing to do.

Then one day, as I responded to a Facebook notification by signing in — or rather, attempting to sign in — I got a message that new security arrangements made it necessary for me to do one of two things: match photos of 5 or 6 friends with their names, or call a certain phone number.
But I now had hundreds of “friends”, most of whose faces  were not familiar to me, let alone the clever avatars some of them had used. So, flunking several tries, I called the phone number.
Over several days, it was always busy.

So I went to the main Facebook page and sent an e-mail to Facebook. I explained the situation and asked for a manageable security arrangement. Here’s the response I got:

Date: Sun, 09 Oct 2011 08:08:51 -0400
You were asked to confirm who you are because our security systems thought you may not be using your real identity with this account or that you may have multiple accounts. If you’ve already tried to log in at and followed the instructions to confirm your identity, but weren’t able to complete the process, we’ll need to see other proof of your identity.
Since you did not fill out the correct contact form, here’s how to proceed:
1. Use a scanner or take a digital photo of a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport), which shows  your full first and last name and date of birth.
2. Reply directly to this email and attach the image of your ID to the message.
3. We will confirm that your ID and account information match. As soon as we verify your identity we’ll delete the image of your ID.
Please send an image showing proper identification right away so we can help you get back into your Facebook account. Please note that we will not be able to process your request unless you have submitted the proper identification. Additionally, not submitting proper identification will result in your request being denied.
e apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
If you have any further questions about this process, please visit our Help Center at the following address:
Thank you for your patience,
The Facebook Team

Before I could respond, I received a duplicate such request, this time signed by what purported to be an individual instead of a Team:

Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 14:02:39 -0400
At this time, we can’t verify the ownership of this account. Please reply to this email and attach a digital image of your government-issued identification. We will permanently delete our record of this digital image from our servers once we use it to confirm your identity.
The ID you attach:
– Must be government-issued (ex: passport, driver’s license)
– Must be in color
– Must clearly show your full name, date of birth, and photo
If possible, save this file as a JPEG and cover up any personal information that we don’t need to verify your identity (ex: address, license number). We also recommend sending your attachments over a secure connection. Find out more here:
Note that we need you to send an appropriate ID before we can take any action on your account. Sorry for the inconvenience.
User Operations

My initial reaction was simply not to have anything more to do with Facebook. But after cooling down for a few hours I replied:

Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2011 19:10:41 -0400
You must be kidding.
When I opened my account, all I provided you was my userID and chosen password. No photo ID or additional personal information from me can prove to you that I’m the person who opened that account.
Your request is more like phishing, to get more personal details from me, than any security procedure to safeguard ME.
If you won’t let me sign in in the manner that was set when the account was opened, forget it. Just close my account, or let it die through disuse.

No response was forthcoming. But a week later I heard from Facebook again:

Date: Mon, 17 Oct 2011 13:22:38 -0400
Hi Henry,
It looks like your account was suspended by mistake. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. You should now be able to log in. If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know.
User Operations

I continue to believe that Facebook had been trying to extract from me additional personal information, which they could use for commercial purposes. Possibly it was an exploratory trial with just a few people like me, because no one I have spoken to about this has had a similar experience. At any rate, I decided to sign in and personally, myself, resign, deactivate my account.

If you’ve tried to do that, you know that Facebook doesn’t make it easy. Several links, several procedures, but finally I seemed able to do it. Then I got this confirming message:

Your account has been deactivated
To reactivate your account, log in using your old login email and password. You will be able to use the site like you used to.
We hope you come back soon.

In other words, all activity in my account remains stored by Facebook, and no doubt they continue to count me among the numbers of users that they boast about when trying to attract investors and advertisers.

A month later, I received this curious e-mail:

Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 18:42:15 -0500
Mr. Bauer,
While perusing the internet, I fell upon your name and some of the articles you have published. I found it extremely interesting that “your” interests, are strangely similar to “my” interests.
If you look at my info and interests in my facebook site you will see. Very odd indeed. You may find me on facebook as “Dxxxxx Sxxxxxxxxx”.
[Name blanked out because I, Henry Bauer, respect other people’ right to privacy]
Dxxxxxx Bauer Sxxxxxxxxx

Of course I was intrigued enough to go to DBS’s Facebook  page — except I couldn’t without signing in or joining Facebook….

So I sent D—BauerS— a personal e-mail:

Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2011 10:11:21 -0500
I’m really intrigued.
But when I try to access your Facebook site, I’m told I have to join Facebook to look at it. Perhaps you could attach to an e-mail to me a snapshot of your page? Or copy the info in some other way?
Best regards

Since several months have passed without my hearing again from DBS, who had been so “extremely interested” in the similarities of our interests, I bow even further to my paranoid  tendencies and conclude that this is simply yet another tactic Facebook geniuses have designed to keep on their books people who once had an account, to boost the numbers that they can claim as active members.

15 Responses to “Facebook: As bad as Wikipedia, or worse?”

  1. mo79uk said

    Excellent point – if I had a profile in a friend’s name and access to their documents, that doesn’t prove I’m them, it just proves I have access.
    I refuse to join FB on the basis of this phishing and having little interest in the lives of people I fell out of touch with. I still get periodic reminders, though, that I’ve been invited to the service by various friends.

    Social networking can be fun, but I find FB extremely pernicious.

    • Judy C. Graham said

      I truly believe you are right and they are the best liars in town I have two accounts and they have no idea and they play one against the other

      • Henry Bauer said

        Judy Graham:
        and we can look forward to the Facebook stock nosediving now that they’ve cashed out

  2. HAART proved to be an essential vitamin said

    Did you establish that the DBS in question really existed, or really didn’t? You seem to be suggesting that DBS is a fiction invented by facebook.
    Ironically your mugshot is all over your site here, and just about every academic chooses to put a smiling visage on their personal page, whereas I have made a point of keeping all pics of myself offweb (and the rest of the world is nowadays studiously ignoring me as per Mendel, Boltzmann, Wegener, etc).

    • Henry Bauer said

      I didn’t get a reply from the e-mail address DBS had given me, so I don’t know whether it’s a real person or not.
      I’m not one of the people who has objected to having their photos posted on the Internet.

  3. Dave Smith said

    Two down, one to go Henry. Twitter. In 140 characters or less, please enter the most useless information you can, avoiding anything of any importance. “Just took a dump, it was a bit ripe.” Of course, if you’ve got some juicy gossip about some poor celebrity who committed the sin of acting like a normal human being, like farting in a public place, make sure you tweet about that before your friend does. It doesn’t have to be substantiated, but can be embellished to the ‘enth degree, like “… and I think she followed-through LOL!”

    The really sad bit is, here in Oz even the nightly news has a facebook account for us to “like”, and of course you can “follow” them on twitter. And any business who wants to do business is now being encouraged via flock mentality to do the same, or be left behind. If only people realized the ONLY reason for the existence of these social nitwitting sites is to sell advertising and harvest personal info, they’d fall over in a week. An eternal optimist, I live in hope.

    Cheers, Dave.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Dave Smith:
      Yes, FB, Twitter etc. are spreading like a fast virus. Even our non-commercial Public Television invites us to friend, visit, and follow them.

      • HAART proved to be an essential vitamin said

        In respect of FB I too have never found much use for it, probably best for teen girls to entertain on. But twitter you greatly underestimate. It is used by some of the topmost people. The idea that it is confined to superficial soundbites is absolute nonsense. The main use is that you can advertise a useful blogpost or other website in a twitter and it then may go viral. Main problem is getting people to follow you in the first place. Like most things in life including “professorships”, there’s a hugely heavy sheep factor, in that the “successful” (in reality fashionable/popular/acceptable) become ever more succesful, while the truly brilliant become ever more ignored simply due to being already unknown (and thus ignored).

      • Henry Bauer said

        That Twitter is used “by some of the topmost people” is a big part of what’s wrong. Too many things nowadays discourage thinking in any depth, and 140-character sound-bites only add further to that tendency. I doubt that Tweets typically result in people going to more detailed sources.

      • HAART proved to be an essential vitamin said

        “and 140-character sound-bites only add further to that tendency. I doubt that Tweets typically result in people going to more detailed sources.”

        But you provide no evidence for your doubt underpinning the assumption of soundbiteness. The way it works is that your followers get to be immediately informed you have produced a new article at whereever location. The tweet has no significance whatsoever except as that notification. It is exactly equivalent to a message I get that you have posted something here, or a poster advertising a conference or concert, or a newspaper headline. Or a journal abstract…..
        The one downside is that it is just one more thing reinforcing the sort of sheepmindedness in which theories are ignored if they don’t come from famous profs in which case they are mindlessly followed and assumed to be the state of the art.
        Look, if you don’t hurry up and agree with me, I’ll send out some tweets that a statement that “HAART proved to be an essential vitamin” can be found on HB’s site with no challenge thereof.

      • Henry Bauer said

        The lack of evidence cuts both ways.
        That modern life has brought increasing sources of continual distraction, and that attention spans have shortened, has been remarked by many people. TV ads are much shorter than they sued to be. The time for “program” between ads is much shorter. People can’t stop using their cell phones even while driving. I recently purchased a pair of gloves and was startled to see that they had little metal buttons on thumbs and forefingers, explained in the accompanying leaflet as being there to make it possible to text with gloves on. Doing one thing at a time and thinking about it is in my view a good thing, and Twitter is just another modern invention that lessens the time that people spend in thought rather than in distracted actions.

      • HAART proved to be an essential vitamin said

        I’m afraid I have to disagree with you again Henry. You haven’t answered my point but merely reiterated your notion that twitter is –in essence– about reduced attention span. As I said, its best function is as a notification media, saving people from having to constantly check around for info, and thereby increasing available thinking time. Of course some flitterers use it to tell everyone they’re brushing their teeth etc but so what that’s just some fool’s usage not the medium itself.

      • Henry Bauer said

        I cheerfully agree to disagree 😉
        We seem to differ as to the likelihood of “best function” being what happens in practice.
        I trust you’ll forgive me for not posting your other comment as too politically incorrect…

  4. Gorky said

    Dave Smith beat me to it. I was going to say twitter is the nadir (and an uncannily appropriate name, not so?). I got off facebook and regret ever being on it. And yes when I tried to get off it, it proved a nightmare (as facebook don’t tell you how to leave, I had to google the info) and this only convinced me how sinister and odious facebook actually is. There is an old South Park episode making fun of the utter brain-dead idiocy and waste-of-time that is facebook that is a classic and I recommend it highly (there’s a culture reference to the original Tron movie in at as well).

    At least when the Roman Empire collapsed they did so without facebook and twitter.

  5. KC Blair said

    It appears we have sold our souls to tracking companies and they have sold their souls to their largest clients, — government trackers.

    Belong and believe. Stay in line and no talking.

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