I was a Facebook investor long before it became a public company. I believed in the concept. And it was a good investment for me; I made some money. But as the years rolled on, I began to have my doubts about Facebook regarding its effect on society. What I didn’t like was that Facebook could be used for evil just as much as it could for good. And I was learning about a lot of evil spreading on Facebook.
Yes, Facebook has been so good about friends and relatives contacting and communicating with each other. But my main objection was that people increasingly were getting their news and information about the world more from Facebook than from newspapers, magazines, and even television.
I have been a newspaper guy all my life. Being a professional golfer on the PGA Tour full time for thirty years, I’ve traveled all over this country so much, and while doing so I’ve read newspapers produced in so many American cities. Newspapers have to establish their trustworthiness or they could not be in business. At least in the big cities, when their newspapers make a mistake concerning historical facts, they correct them the next day. They usually have a section on page 2 where they do this, and it is often entitled Corrections.
Folks, newspapers don’t promote conspiracy theories. Yet Facebook has so many people who do that. It’s because on Facebook, anybody can post and get an audience, which is totally unlike newspapers. The people who write in newspapers are pretty much vetted and proved as to their honesty and psychological sanity. Not true with Facebook. It’s got so many quacks out there who are deceiving people that it is getting to be a great big joke with some people.
For example, almost all of these anti-and non-vaxxers I keep–chirping–about are getting their disinformation from social media. And guess what was the most visited Facebook page the first quarter of this year in the U.S.–an article that got 53.8 million views that said a doctor died as “possibly the nation’s first death linked to the vaccine.” Yet it was never proved that the doctor died due to taking a COVID vaccine. There are many cases of people having taken one of the COVID vaccines and afterwards dying, yet they died for some other reason than it being caused by the vaccine. U.S. General Surgeon Vivek Murthy’s office has repeatedly said that misinformation about COVID-19 is a serious threat to the nation’s health, and it has cited social media companies as a main culprit.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, the world’s largest company (except Saudi-owned secret Aramco) said in an Australian newspaper interview two days ago, “technology will only work if it has people’s trust.” Everyone believes he had in mind mostly Facebook. He mentioned the problem if social media having so many “conspiracy theories or hate speech.”
Or take Elon Musk, CEO and big owner of Tesla. In case you don’t know, he has emerged lately as either the world’s richest man or at least in the top three. It mostly has do with with his auto disruptor company Tesla Inc, that is, meaning how its stock price is doing. Tesla is the leader in electric vehicles that are changing the world to reduce global emissions that are the main cause of climate warming. Musk also owns SpaceX that is the leader in going to Mars. Musk also has a huge following on Twitter, it being more than 50 million people.
One of Musk’s many scientific interests is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Thursday, Tesla Inc. had its first AI Day. Musk and his brilliant scientists streamed a 2-hour presentation of Tesla Inc.’s progress in autonomous driving. We learned it includes a lot of AI. But last year, a supposed expert in AI, Jerome Pesenti, who was working for Facebook, criticized Musk by tweeting, “I believe a lot of people in the AI community would be ok saying it publicly. @elon musk has no idea what he is talking about when he talks about AI.” Musk responded briefly the next day on his Twitter account, saying, “Facebook sucks.”
That is getting to be a more common opinion. Much of it is do to founder Mark Zuckerberg’s intense protection of free speech at the risk of deceiving and deluding so many millions of people around the world with a bunch of lies and conspiracy theories. Facebook has a cleanup crew, but it doesn’t seem very thorough. When Zuckerberg was accused back in 2016 for Russian operatives using Facebook to deceive American voters into voting for Donald Trump as president, Zuckerberg repeatedly denied the charges. Sometime after the election, he got on TV and made a surprising admission, with half-heated apology, by saying Facebook did in fact enable some of that.
After all that happened, I sold my stock in Facebook and vowed to never invest in that company again unless it seriously changed its ways. Not so with newspapers. I’m still a huge advocate of them. And I sometimes get specific about it on my blog, saying The New York Times and The Washington Post, both of which I read every day, are without a doubt the two best newspapers in the land.
But alas, electronics and the phenomenal growth of the Internet have run a lot of American newspapers right out of business or on the edge of failing. IMO, that is an utter shame for our country, and it is contributing to growing problems in the U.S. So, I question if social media and especially Facebook are really worth it. If there was some way to clean up their act better, I’d think otherwise. But until that happens, I’m with Musk in sentiment (though I don’t use his second word), “Facebook sucks.”
[However, I still have my Facebook account and put these blog posts on it. Is that hypocrisy?]