Thursday, January 03, 2019

Facebook is trying to force speakers to put "skin in the game" and this is now a problem (compelled speech)

I have to express dismay at Facebook’s continuing to prod me to do things on my site – ranging from reviewing relatively trivial locations I have “checked in” at, to changing my profile picture, to responding to “friends”, to boosting a post on my Page, and finally to running fundraisers for non-profits on my account.  The profile settings don’t seem to allow these reminders to be turned off.  (Note: this post continues a discussion started on Dec. 27, 2018.)

I don’t’ like to be treated like a child (like Baby Trump).  But it’s becoming increasingly apparent since last Spring with all the privacy scandals and Russian bot matters, that Facebook does not want to just be a blogging platform for your own daily newspaper.  It really is for “relationships”.  It is for transactions, and business in a sense.  It isn’t for professionalism (that’s Linked-In). It isn’t for amateurs who claim to be citizen journalists rising above the needs of others with their objectivity.

First, I can’t boost my Facebook Page posts because they deal with a “public issue” without selling anything. I’d have to set up an ongoing retail operation for my books, of which the most recent is five years old now. I will be in a better position to set this up in about six months (if I can stay on schedule) when the novel approaches publication, or when some of my music might be ready for professional performance.  (A brief trip to New York next week will take up that issue.)

The other possibility is, since I took up the issue of power grid stability (see Aug. 30, 2018) is to invite someone to sell products like Faraday bags and cages.  Doing so might make me look like a huckster or pimp, but that may be Facebook’s point: I have no moral right to act better than everyone else;  I have to play ball with everyone.  The deeper point is really doing the journalistic work to find out if consumers really could use these little devices, which can be expensive. Some of them are sold on Amazon.

But I’m still caught in a loop.  Facebook can’t verify my “commercial identity” until I start selling something with regular transactions and have a track record of relationships with advertisers who could proxy access to my pages.  (And misuse of that mechanism led to the Facebook Purge 3.0 for many independent journalists last October.)

The other issue that worries me is being prodded all the time to “Add a Donate Button” which often appears after an issue-oriented post, especially one without links. 

I’ve said that when I write about a non-profit, I’ll give the link to their donation page and let the visitor donate from their page.  I don’t want to play “favorites” that publicly by putting the icon on my own and participating in some of drive publicly.

But I can see how this could be problematic.  I mentioned this issue on a comment on a YouTube post regarding the Patreon-Sargon controversy, and an angry far-Left activist rebuked me as being the only person in history to insist on such heartlessness. So already I’ve met a protest.

I have not fit very well into working within the non-profit, especially activist world, because it has its own quasi-authoritarian internal politics.  But I understand that the entire non-profit world is tied into social media companies and needs to have these platforms maintain a world that plays ball with them.  So I can see how my stance could get me into trouble later, even with payment processors later when I get ready to “sell” (this time) my book and music.

What I find is that, when you express your views, especially individually tailored views, in public on social media or even hosted platforms without gatekeepers, others are more likely to become upfront in asking you to assist them personally with their needs and causes.  And ignoring them repeatedly, after having the floor, is seen as rude, even as an indirect kind of “hate speech”. 

There is a certain problem, perhaps, with many pundits on the Internet, who can act “better than you” and yet attract patrons and support.  But this may come with an expectation of eventually taking responsibility for people you might not have chosen to engage personally before. 

Over time, this could add to the problems that some speakers could attract from hostile activists. 
This whole situation could be seen as an example of “skin in the game” (Nicholas Taleb), or “no spectators” (“Burning Man” – which attracted Logan Paul, or even Netflix movie “Rebirth”).

For the time being, then, I won’t continue to add “issue news” posts to my Facebook account or page, at least until I am closer to being prepared to sell again.  I would only run a fundraiser for an effort with which I had direct involvement and which was tied to my own life.  It is still a fairly high bar for me personally to take up a cause, outside of content creation. My own charitable giving still happens privately, largely automated, through a bank, as I have explained on Wordpress in my “Notes” blog, for trust beneficiaries.

I will add check-ins or photos to events or places that I have visited personally. These don’t seem to invited the Add-button requests.

But I really need to be able to reach a human being at Facebook to talk about their tendency to pester account holders.

The payment processor activism in recent months has drawn a lot of attention, especially very recently with Patreon.  But as time goes on, it seems that processors may look at patterns of conduct of speakers with a much broader brush, for behavior seen as potentially hostile to some previously disadvantaged identity-based groups. Not playing ball with requests like FB’s repeated invitations for charity fundraising (which might be interpreted as quasi-compelled speech as a kind of unwritten TOS requirement) could be seen (at least by some more SJW activists) as actual hostility.
I can remember United Way drives at work thirty years ago.  They were practically mandatory, a kind of compelled speech.  We didn’t think about it this way then.  Now we have to watch it.

Update: Jan 4

I realize it is possible to change my Facebook privacy settings so that only Friends see the organizations supported by on-platform donation processing.  I generally don't use social sites this way.   Postings are public, and private communications are by email, or by FB message, Twitter message or normal iPhone text (or call). 

Again, I need to get a human being at FB in chat or by phone to discuss these problems.  I will attempt to do so by the end of this month.

I also understand that by doing donations through a trust and bank mechanism, that non-profits miss out on matching donations, and so this could be a sensitive matter for them if it were a widespread practice (from estates).  But we don't want platforms to put the integrity of political speech at risk by implied demands for support for their causes, however compelling.

Update Jan 5. 

They even put this on my Page, too, after a post on declaring a national emergency. 

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