"I have been told the best things in life are free ~ I found them very expensive" - E.A. Bucchianeri

Democracy in all of its forms has been put at risk through the innocent use of Facebook. On the surface, it's a gift, it's powerful, it's wonderful its "a social layer for everything (Mark Zuckerberg)".

First of all, let's be clear.  Facebook is not bad, they are not evil, they don't intentionally try to do harm and there is so much good that comes from this wonderful platform.  BUT

Zeus gave Pandora a jar, warning her not to open it under any circumstances and sent her to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus. Prometheus had warned his brother not to accept any gifts from Zeus. However, Epimetheus accepted Pandora who, although tried hard to resist the temptation, opened the jar and released all evils upon the world. Hatred, war, death, hunger, sickness and all the disasters were immediately released. Pandora’s Box - Greek Mythology

The internet of today is like the 'Big Brother' described in 1984, George Orwell's book that could track and control the population for the benefit of a totalitarian regime.

Early on internet service developers discovered they could create a completely new way to monetize advertising revenues by collecting data on users and selling that data to companies for targeting ads.

The 'FREE' in the internet world is based on this business model.  They give you free services and you pay for them by being complicit in their objectives to sell you to advertisers.  You get a service and become the 'PRODUCT' in exchange.

All digital services collect and catalogue data regarding users based on their activity.  They need only an identity to the user e.g. the account, email or any other kind of information that is unique to that user.

Facebook is on course to double the size of the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) division in the next two years, according to the company's chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun.   (Forbes)

It all sounds quite innocent until you realize that over time they know everything about you.  Based on relationships they can create a matrix of 6 degrees of separation, connect you to everybody on the planet.  

Facebook is building its business at high speed by learning about its users and packaging their data for the benefit of advertisers. The company functions around the goal of connecting every person on the planet through facebook-owned tech products and services (such as Whatsapp, Instagram, Oculus and more) within 100 years. To crush that iceberg, AI is the way. How Facebook Uses Artificial Intelligence Kambria.io

From a psychological point of view, they know what your likes and dislikes are, what triggers you to action or inaction.  This can be used for good and bad.

As a co-operative you have subscribed to follow the 7 principles all of which encourage democratic and transparent engagement of the members.  However, by using Facebook exclusively bad actors can be working against these principles.

HOW IT ALL WORKS

What do you get in exchange for you and your member's daily influx of detailed actions and information.  Facebook is a very complex and comprehensive platform.  There is so much that can be done in one service that many co-operatives don't use anything else.

Facebook has 9 main areas containing 14 general applications with 25 different ways to collect information. (source wikipedia)

1.1 News Feed
1.2 Friends
1.3 Wall
1.4 Timeline
1.5 Likes and Reactions
1.6 Comments
1.7 Messages and inbox
1.8 Notifications
1.9 Groups

In today's world, ML (Machine learning) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is essential for Facebook to operate commercially.  The theory is quite simple.  Input -> Hidden Connections -> Output.  Everything you or anybody else does on Facebook are the Inputs, a large model processes these inputs creating connections and the outputs are predictions which are sold as targets, i.e. you and everybody else in the network.

Friends - Find friends and friend requests: You search for friends, accept or reject friend requests.  This information is valuable in order to establish a network of connections which will become network targets.

Posts - news and information: You can upload pictures videos, news and information.  Facebook will process all of this information including picture and videos and store it in a massive prediction model.  Faces, landscapes, location of images, time date.  A photograph has an embedded EXIF file that can expose a lot of information you have no idea is associated with that picture or video.  Every word in your post will give valuable clues about motive, intent, likes and dislikes.

Messaging - P2P and group: You can send direct messages to people and groups.  Unlike posts that are generic information, messaging creates one of the best forms of analytical data to determine vulnerability and susceptibility for targeted information. Whatever message you send is given extra attention to be used in the AI platform to target an individual or group.  There are trigger words that are very helpful to Facebook, such as objects and things you mention.  These will become triggers for targeting information.

Marketplace - posts:  Whatever you post for sale on Facebook and is liked for viewed by another Facebook user supplies Facebook with information on what that other user is looking for.  They will become a subsequent target for commercial or political operatives.

Other services - Groups, Calendar etc.:  There are hundreds Every action or activity on Facebook is an asset to be exploited.

ENTER THE BAD ACTORS

Propaganda is the primary tool of demagogues who use false and misleading statements to form public opinion to seize power or to manipulate and form a different reality of the facts.

The first political ads were put on New York Times' website banners in 1998 as a last ditch effort to gain votes for a trailing candidate.  Since then younger politicians had teams of campaign specialists that developed websites and political content.  In 2008 Obama's team was the first US presidential candidate to spend a substantial amount of Facebook ads.

Since then many political pundits realized that Facebook was the perfect platform to reach a specific target market with a fine tuned message thanks to the ability to target messages based on user profiles.

With it's billions of users, it wasn't long before Facebook became the preferred propaganda channel used by hate groups, political activists, corporate lobbyist and political.  Through 3rd party tech companies they were able to employ many different techniques to harvest data or outright pay for ads using Facebook's service.

Many tech companies sprang up (25 major firms) ready to collaborate with Facebook like middle men fronting for both good and bad actors.  The business prospects were formidable and these tech companies profited greatly from exploiting Facebook's massive audience.

Cambridge Analytica was in part responsible for President Trump's victory by using 87 million users by exploiting vulnerabilities in Facebook's platform.

Cambridge Analytica harvested information from over 87 million Facebook users through an external app in 2015.

The data came from a personality quiz, which around 270,000 people were paid to take.

Facebook understood how dangerous the Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica could be much earlier than it previously said. Here's everything that's happened up until now. (Business Insider)

The bad actors learned quickly that truth had nothing to do with messaging, in fact with the accurate data profiles of millions of users they were able to devise gaslighting campaigns of misinformation and outright lies which proved more effective than just telling the truth.

What does this have to do with co-operatives? Everything.  Your co-operative's and your members activities, their messages, posts and very presence related to your co-operative's whole being become part of the data that makes them a potential target for any bad actor.

By focusing exclusively on Facebook as your primary way of communicating with your members you are inadvertently creating an access channel to your members that the bad actors might exploit.

  • Political - Misinformation & lies for power grab
  • Hate Groups - Promoting fear & hate causing division
  • Corporate Lobbiest - Influence campaigns to propagate bad policy
  • Product & Service Fraud - Cheating and stealing
  • Corporations - Unethical manipulation for brand benefits

USER DATA PROTECTION

Facebook is the custodian of vast amounts of personal data regarding billions of its members. The value of this information makes them a target of many devious organizations that seek to exploit vulnerabilities they discover. Because Facebook by design is an open platform there are many ways this can be done. At other times bad actors just buy ads that are accepted because of how financially attractive they are to Facebook's bottom line.

RESEARCHERS AT THE cybersecurity firm UpGuard have discovered two troves of unprotected Facebook user data sitting on Amazon’s servers, exposing hundreds of millions of records about users, including their names, passwords, comments, interests, and likes. The data sets had been uploaded to Amazon’s cloud system by two different Facebook app developers. In Latest Facebook Data Exposure, History Repeats Itself (Wired)

Users just have to remember that their whole life is on display through their account, and that is only what they can see.  What they don't know is the data that is stored in a machine learning matrix will be billions of times larger than what a typical user will see on their computer screen.  Everything you have ever typed, uploaded, shared or clicked is recorded.

Considering how much interaction there is with Facebook and how many employees, developers both internal and external have access to this data, security a monumental job that is replete with potential security breaches.

FACEBOOK CAN'T CHANGE THEIR MODEL

As mentioned in the beginning Facebook itself is not bad, it is just vulnerable. As a business there is a conflict of interest about how your data will be used.

The main driving force of a business is to generate a profit.  Facebook has shareholders who invested to earn a profit.  Therefore, regardless of the platitudes of social care you have to keep in mind that you are dealing with a business. Unlike traditional businesses, as an internet enterprise in today's political climate there is no government oversight or public accountability.

In its latest filings to Congress, Facebook admitted it gave dozens of apps and firms extra time to wean off of users' data beyond the date it previously said such collection had ceased. (Business Insider)

They need to generate revenues and to do this they need to engage and leverage their assets, because that is what businesses do.  Their assets are the data you, your co-operative and your members generate on a daily basis.

Since they are not charging for their services they need to make money in other ways.  The best way is to create and sell 'Big Data'.  Not only that but to create a platform that makes it easy to capture a target audience and feed them advertisements according to their clients needs.

And, in spite of promises to root out bad actors, Facebook cannot move to protect users 100% because of the huge costs and loss of profits that would entail.  

The truth is billions are being spend by these good and bad actors and Facebook is earning massive revenues by selling access to its billions of users.

People have suggested paying for a Facebook account and removing advertising for which the use of AI/ML profiling would longer be needed.  Facebook has stated they will not do this because it is simply not feasible in comparison to their current business model.

Facebook has studied charging for their service but found that only 23% of the people facebook users would take that into consideration consider. If they charged all Facebook users $91.58 a year, that would equal what they are earning by just selling their data to advertisers.

What incentive would there be to go to a paid model that would just let users connect and be mutually social?  They would have to charge even more because they would then need to advertise elsewhere to gain users.  They would have to use tricks to add to their subscriber base.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR MEMBERS ON FACEBOOK

There are a number measures that you could take to turn off certain target criterion for ads.  It's not easy and most people don't both to do this.  

You can't opt out of seeing Facebook ads completely, but you can opt out of ads based on your browsing habits.

The fact is that because of the business model there is little you can do to insure that bad actors don't have access to your members.  You can report them to Facebook, but it will take time for the bad actors to be flagged and removed.

There are ad blocking software solutions out there, but Facebook is continually rendering them useless.

The social network injects dozens of lines of code in every page to make it harder for ad blockers to detect and hide sponsored posts.  - Facebook's hidden battle against ad-blockers (BBC News)

After the numerous scandals regarding fake news, hacked accounts and the impact Facebook is having on social norms, people's opinion regarding Facebook is shifting to be more concerning regarding the use or their personal data.  This may help to make Facebook more proactive in closing their platform to bad actors.

We Asked People How They Feel About Facebook. Here’s What They Said
Most people (76%) say they are very concerned about the safety of their personal information online. Yet few people (24%) reported making changes to their Facebook accounts following the recent news of privacy concerns around Facebook. The majority of people who responded to our survey (65%) see themselves — rather than companies or the government — as being most responsible for protecting their personal information online. And very few people (only 12%) said they would consider paying for Facebook, even a version of Facebook that doesn’t make money by collecting and selling personal data. Mozilla May 7, 2018  (Medium Article)

Measures you can take to minimize exposure

  1. Be responsible about how you use Facebook
  2. Don't use Facebook as your sole means of engagement
  3. Enourge your members not to put sensative information in their posts
  4. Don't post private information on your facebook's public page
  5. Let's your member's be aware their data can and will be used to target them

WHAT FACEBOOK CAN'T DO FOR CO-OPERATIVES

Most people can tell you what Facebook is good for.  They know basically how to use it and get satisfaction that they can makes posts, upload pictures and media, like and share content.

Here are important issues that relate to co-operatives that Facebook does not do.

Guarantee data and access protection

Your information belongs to Facebook.  They use this for targeting ads.  You have limited control over this information.  You accept their terms and conditions when you use their service which the state clearly they have the exclusive right to use your information in anyway they see fit.

Allow community ownership of the account

Facebook is designed for individuals and not organizations.  An individual is always at the owner of any page.  This means somebody has to own your co-operative page.  It is not collectively owned and cannot be transferred.  The possible reason behind this is to prevent people from creating, populating and selling accounts.

Easily connect and engage with other co-operatives

Facebook is a collection of identities covering the whole human spectrum. From the individual, family, group, company, government, enterprise, co-operative, NGOs etc.

Because the platform was not designed for co-operatives it makes sense that there is no way for co-operatives to own their own environment within Facebook.

Co-operative democratic performance based analytics

The orientation of the analytics provided is about visitors and followers and not necessarily about your members' satisfaction. The purpose of the Analytics is to promote activities that benefit Facebook and not the co-operative per se. There are no measures based on satisfaction and meeting objectives and goals set by KPIs other than those metrics that would suit a business or an advertiser.

Facebook is a great platform

There is a lot of power in Facebook, but beware of the consequences of letting it be the only way you communicate with your members.