I joined Facebook in 2014 at the urging of a friend of mine in Moab, Utah – of all places, Moab, an outpost in the desert – who had worked in marketing, political advertising, messaging and the like. He said, “You need to get on there, man! Network. Get your message out. Your articles.”
Of course I should never have trusted someone trained in the degrading art of getting the message out. Marketing has since ruined sweet little Moab with mass recreation, floods of tourists, and second homeowners looking to invest.
But I joined the rest of the fools out of an experimental belief that it would widen the audience for my journalism – that is, for selfish money-grubbing reasons, the reasons of the true marketeer.
Maybe it did expand my audience. I have no idea. About the only proven use I found was being able to get on Tinder to get laid, as you cannot have a Tinder account without a Facebook account. Thereafter I called it Fuckbook.
Now the experiment is over. Last week I deleted the account. There are many reasons to have never created one. Facebook by the very nature of the platform is a mire of navel-gazing and narcissism, its content a general embarrassment to the human race, its “friendships” defined by algorithms, the idolatry of images, the robotism of shared “likes.” A mockery of real sharing of feeling, understanding, amity, mutuality.
Users with at least half a brain have long known that Facebook exploits their privacy and was probably from the start a vehicle for full-blown surveillance by our spy agencies. I certainly suspected the latter. In 2009, I wrote up a pitch for an investigative piece about Google, Facebook and their connections to the CIA. I published a piece in Counterpunch about the Google angle, but was never able to report out fully what I suspected about Facebook. In the pitch, I wrote:
If personal data could be collected in more concentrated, focused form, with the additional advantage of efficiently collating social networks, complete with personal photos, habits, activities and itineraries freely provided in a centralized system by the users themselves…well, that would be Facebook. The intelligence services’ hand in Facebook is not direct, but publicly available records suggest that venture capital was pumped into Facebook from investment firms whose board members cross-pollinate with a company called In-Q-Tel.
Founded in 1999 to research and invest in new digital technologies focused on intelligence gathering, In-Q-Tel was part of the push for the privatization of national security operations that would become endemic under the Bush Administration. Some $25 million in seed money during Google’s start-up in 1999 arrived in part from the equity firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which works with In-Q-Tel to develop spy technology. In-Q-Tel-funded companies produced the eye-in-the-sky image database that would become Google Earth. In mid-2005, In-Q-Tel’s former director of technology assessment, Rob Painter, joined Google as “senior federal manager,” further cementing Google’s bond with the intelligence community.
Like Google, Facebook is ambiguous in its privacy policies as to how it will share information with third parties. A former CIA officer, speaking anonymously, confirmed the CIA’s interest in Facebook as an intelligence and communications tool, noting that the agency’s use of Facebook for operations is “classified.” The former CIA officer only went so far as to suggest the CIA may be using the site for communications. “It’s a perfect place to hide communications,” says the former CIA officer. “You don’t need secret, expensive satellite systems anymore when you can hide in plain sight with millions of idiots sending photos and inane messages to each other.” When pressed on the subject, the source reiterated: “How it’s employed by [the CIA] is classified, and you shouldn’t write about it.” The Facebook angle for the proposed piece will require further reporting. What’s widely known is that the CIA has been using Facebook since 2006 as a recruiting tool for the clandestine services, which marks the first time the CIA has employed online social networking for the hiring of personnel.
Ah, but denial is a powerful drug, one that produces amnesia, and I soon forgot my own reporting and marched as a guinea pig into the Facebook surveillance system. We now know exactly how Facebook shares information with third parties.
Deleting my account, I join an exodus that requires no explanation given the Cambridge Analytica disclosures. Hopefully this is the start of a movement that will drive the company’s stock price down where we’ll find greasy Mark Zuckerberg begging for a quarter on the corner. Perhaps sooner, someone skilled with demolitions and with access inside the company can blow up the Facebook servers, and we can be done with this menace altogether.