Or, hot take here, Facebook really doesn't care too much what the petitions are about, but is mostly interested in gathering more data on its users' political beliefs so they can allow domestic and foreign campaign spending groups to better target advertisements meant to change or reinforce those beliefs (or suppress civic participation of those with such beliefs) and increase FB's total share of campaign-related ad spend.
The immediate solution to this (assuming the feature stays) seems to be a stricter sign-up / verification process that ties your account closer to your real-world identity before you can use political features like this, to make bots and fake accounts more difficult to create and/or influence politics through these direct lines.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), that's also a step closer towards (but not at, yet) the verification necessary to start, I don't know, actually voting through Facebook. I wonder if giving bots a direct line to local politics would actually result in people/lawmakers _begging_ more verifiability to Facebook accounts, instead of Facebook trying to implement such a process/feature without the inevitable backlash they'd no doubt get if they said "you can now link your social security number to Facebook!". Being verified as a real human on Facebook ultimately helps Facebook get closer to a potential goal of giving petitions (or votes) on Facebook more weight.
In case this isn't already obvious, I don't think it's a coincidence that we are in the midst of a global crisis of populist uprisings, most of which leave their countries worse off than they were before.
This is not only going to have the direct effect of intensifying the above, it's going to be mined for data used to crank up political ad targeting to partisans on Facebook. It should be fought, violently. It is poison enacting the slow death of democracy.
A good form of effective action would be to create and popularize to the top of the list a petition like 'Dismantle Facebook' or 'Fire Mark Zuckerberg'.
It's more nefarious than that. Social media lets you curate not only your message, but who sees and gets to react to your message. Anger is–by far–the most viral emotion. (Second place, if I remember correctly, is awe.) Previously, deploying anger in politics was constrained by the opposition objecting. But if they see your message long after your base has reacted, that's no longer a problem.
In a world with Facebook, if you want to get people to show up to a rally, you piss them off. How? Take exaggerated pot shots at a totem of your enemy.
The irony is all sides are hiring–and friendly with–similar people at similar lobbying and activist engagement shops. But on the ground level, hyper-targeted AE is (a) an effective way to re-position policy priorities (particularly at the state and local levels) and (b) more cost and time effective than traditional door-to-door knocking.
The effort is minimal as is the understanding required of the topic or the petition itself.
If anyone starts accepting these petitions as valid expressions of the electorate you can look forward to more Boaty McBoatface-type results.
Plus, myself and a growing number of others are not on Facebook and therefore will not be represented.
It's not the right platform or medium for real political dialogue.
I'd argue that Hacker News and Stack Exchange are two clear examples of relevant social networks with overwhelmingly positive effects (neither is without flaws of course). Github might very reasonably make the list as well.
I think the line is functional networks vs general networks. Not all functional networks are net positive, LinkedIn for example went negative in my opinion after initially being a positive. However I think functional networks tend to rapidly fail (competition) or erode if they go negative (eg Experts Exchange), rather than persist (with LinkedIn being one of the few exceptions).
HN does very little to ensure max engagement or retention. To the extent HN self promotes Y Combinator, it's quite modest compared to the number of stories passing through the front page. The type of content that might drive a huge spike in engagement via comments (overt senationalism, anger-baiting articles, political flaming), is frequently kept off the site because it's fundamentally anti what HN is about. And of course you can use HN mostly anonymously.
What makes a social network a social network?
I think in my mind a social network is a site where the information you can see is a feed either created or curated by a group of people you know. twitter and other asymmetrical networks fit in because you know famous people even if they don't know you. that would leave sites like reddit or HN in the outer edge of the definition, since you're seeing content curated by like minded strangers (spotify or pornhub would also qualify there), and sites like stackexchange out since the feed is either non existent or of low importance.
I'd boil it down to something that offers 2 way communication instead of read-only (I'm not including clicking on a link [GET request] to get to a different page as part of 2 way communication, although technically it is). If it has a commenting system, voting system, or any other way for a user to be able to change/alter the information that is displayed on the site/platform to other users, I'd call that a social network.
News sites used to be more like news papers. You could only read the article. Then they just about all added Disqus/commenting systems, which turned them into more social networks.
A typical weather type app is not a social network. It only shows the weather.
There is a name for it, it's called virtue signaling
Thanks to the FB algorithm, this kind of 'troll' petition wouldn't appear on anyone's feed. And ultimately, the type of person motivated to use this for its actual use cases (building supporters for causes, or just looking for people to scam), their opinon of Zuckerberg wouldn't change one iota.
Even more alarming for Facebook, what if their polls come to be seen as having legitimate democratic force - what Government is going to be comfortable with that?
I suspect a dogmatic belief in the goodness of Facebook triumphed over reasoned reflection on the likely uses of this feature.
Some of those ideas will be perceived as toxic by some while some others will be perceived as toxic by others.
I think that it's a strange idea to argue against collaboration with the argument that everyone can do it. As if there were something immoral in providing unmoderated collaboration.
I'm sharing your second criticism though. The feature is probably designed to gain legitimacy by being the petition platform people actually use. Would be very unwise for a bueraucracy to allow anything like that provided by a private company.
One problem is that it will be impossible to know if a Facebook poll is representative; most likely it will not be, and will instead be taken mostly by people who already have similar views to the author of the poll.
However, the polls may help convince users their views are actually mainstream (even if the "mainstream media" is ignoring them). Such users may feel free to take an even more extreme position if they believe their current views are actually about average. This is one mechanism Cass Sunstein has identified for driving extremism is groups.
Voting isn't intrinsically democratic or empowering for voters - North Korea has elections. Presenting informed people with meaningful choices is what matters.
From Facebook's perspective, the solution to every problem is more Facebook.
This is the ONLY one that impels the UK government to debate, and ultimately vote on each petition (providing the petition has garnered enough signatures).
However a LOT people in the UK use the change.org system, which has absolutely NO legal standing, and they get upset when the government ignores them. I can see this Facebook system being exactly the same. If Facebook REALLY cared about fair democracy, they'd just highlight and link to each countries existing online petition systems (if one exists) instead of building their own system. Of course they can't data mine the official petition systems can they...
The petition system actually just made me think how futile and dysfunctional this [bourgeois, if I may use the word] democracy is.
The interesting question is what happens when Turkey asks for the members of a "justice for unfairly sacked teachers" petition, or Saudi Arabia asking for the supporters of the local "End discrimination of Shia" petition.
I'm more concerned about political operatives right here at home who are likely rubbing their hands with glee, as FB gives them the tools to make it easier than ever to drum up online lynch mobs to further poison political discourse.
I'm not even going to mention how much easier this makes it for scammers to find their marks. The guy who collected $20m on Gofundme for 'the wall' comes to mind.
Can you explain how this guy is a scammer? It looks like everyone who donated before the Gofundme plan switched from "donate it to the government" to "pay to build it ourselves" is having their money automatically refunded to them unless they explicitly opt in to the new approach, and donations still keep rolling in from people opting in to this new we'll-just-build-it-ourselves approach. Where's the scam?
The Russians proved how easy that is. Putin has been doing this internally for a very long time before messing with the 2016 election. Create a pro-gay group, create an anti-gay group. Foster hate between them. Others join the respective "causes" that they align with. You now know a lot of the pro/con supporters because you're running the group(s).
Here's an 11 minute clip from Adam Curtis' HyperNormalization, which illustrates this tactic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwglZTNhMNE
It's alive and well in the USA too, and things make more sense after watching it. I'd find the whole video and watch it. It's quite fascinating.
So you can’t use this feature to ask FB to fix problems with its own platform? My first thought about this feature was: well, most organizations can ignore these petitions, but at least we can use them to get FB to quit doing bad/annoying stuff. Apparently not!
You'd motivate this months-dormant user to engage with the platform for a few minutes.
They are trying to be everything to everyone. And in the process alienating the people who make social media interesting...
The influencers and sponsored content was the beginning of the end. This is the next step, along with manipulation of media and democracy.
Facebook is the epitome of dystopian dysfunction.
If that were the case, reddit should be suffering the same mass exodus plight but - it seems to me - that people (predominantly in the states) revel in that sort of behaviour.
So anonymous discussions are largely free of the restrictions imposed by the notions of common decency, so any civil discourse in unregulated media is a minor miracle.
Its nice that they make it easier to get involved in local issues, for example adding bins to a park. However, if you do not like this, you cannot voice your concerns in the comment section of that petition, that is restricted to supporters of the petition. So you have to create your own "Please dont put bins into the XY park"
They can't be used to gauge public opinion on anything remotely controversial, both because they're heavily influenced by selection bias and because it's much harder to express opposition to a petition than it is to express support.
Also I'm not on fecebook and don't want to create a user account, please don't force me to create one.
But again, most facebook users don't even think about that kund of issues, so it might work.
Decidim: Free Open-Source participatory democracy for cities and organizations
Another option for Facebook would be to have something similar to Google X, where projects can eventually spin out to separate companies and own their brand.
Given what I've seen on and from Facebook, I would be absolutely shocked if that happened
>Bringing people together and connecting them to other likeminded individuals who would otherwise be strangers
Yet another avenue for bigots and the uninformed to receive support in their social media echo chamber
"Connecting them to other likeminded individuals"... you mean an even larger echo chamber where people can easily ignore beliefs and ideas that they don't agree with.
How many time Facebook has been found to use its platform for activities that are illegal and nefarious in all but name?