THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
A Message to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg (And YOU)
Facebook is a bird-feeder we frequent at our own peril. I love taking close, detailed pictures of birds. I saw an opportunity in the big yew-bush in my backyard and took it. I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg had a similar epiphany. He could get people's pictures and more if only he could find the right “seed.” In the end, that turned out to be the ubiquitous social media site, Facebook. But - What are the responsibilities of those that put out the seed?
You see, I thought I could get good shots of the sparrows that frequent the backyard-yew if I could just get them to stop being so “private” and come out near the surface more often. What would it take?
For my sparrows and I, it was a plastic dish that my wife wouldn’t miss, a bungee cord and some seed. My intentions were good: get a few pictures, feed some birds and keep my camera dry.
I'm willing (for now) to take Zuckerberg at his word: his intention is a more open world wherein Facebook "brings people together." The fact that he has gotten rich doing this isn't necessarily more nefarious than any other capitalist endeavor, even selling pictures of sparrows.
The ominous warnings were there, though. One day I was in the yard and saw a small hawk zip between the house and the bush - something I’d never encountered. I rushed over, but it must have been a reconnaissance-swoop. Also, there was suddenly a stray-cat that seemed to be hanging around a lot.
Still, I ignored the signs assuming the little fellas would look after themselves as they did everywhere else in nature.
Then, one morning, I was confronted with my unintended consequences. Laying in the grass about 10 feet from the feeder was the small, lifeless, body of a sparrow.
Birds die all the time and the sparrow is far from endangered. Still, I was taken with guilt that I had provided the setting for this little one's demise. "Upsetting the balance," so-to-speak.
People have been and will be giving up their privacy in differing levels for as long as the human race exists. Is Zuckerberg culpable for the unintended consequences of Facebook? If social media allows predators to find innocents, lets data-miners identify those who are politically un-formed or if this allows misinformation to cause Americans to vote a certain way that may or may not match their own interests, is that his problem?
I don't know if it IS his problem (congress may decide that), but he ought to treat it as his out of a sense of responsibility and something we once called "civic-duty."
If that phrase seems old-fashioned, it probably is. But, Mark, you can't wrap yourself in idealism and talk about "openness" and "community" and then show no interest in making that open community safe.
In the end, if you're a pure capitalist, I think capitalism may spit you and your platform back out. "We the People" do expect better from those that profit on us. Look around.
I moved the DIY feeder higher and deeper into the bush. No more dead birds, I still got some very nice pictures and just this morning I watched a group feeding happily away.
What are you doing, Mark?
Is your platform a bird-feeder or a hawk's snare?
In the end, I believe you are responsible for your consequences, intended or not. Get to work.