The Facebook Backlash: The “10 Year Challenge”

What would have seemed totally harmless and fun relatively recently now has plenty of people speculating that ulterior motives may be afoot. Take Facebook’s “10 Year Challenge” for example, where people are encouraged to post pictures of themselves from 2009 next to a more recent one from 2019. Super fun, right? Well, maybe. But it’s also possible, it’s argued, that Facebook will use the data to beef up its facial recognition software.

To be fair, I caught this meme on Twitter and didn’t think much about it at first. But the Wired piece brings up some interesting points.

Pull quotes:

  • In other words, thanks to this meme, there’s now a very large dataset of carefully curated photos of people from roughly 10 years ago and now.
  • We should demand that businesses treat our data with due respect, by all means. But we also need to treat our own data with respect.

This story about an anonymous former Facebook executive dishing on how “publishers were always a second priority” for Facebook’s video product is probably a little insder-y if you’re not in the biz. But I’m pointing it out as the below pull quote interests me. It’s an example of how setting a goal (with digital products, but you can apply it more broadly) can have repercussions in ways that you may not anticipate and may not want. Certainly that tracks with performance bonus-related metrics, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. In any event, I give you…

Pull quote:

  • A lot of things go back to the fact that people set goals internally, that come down to performance bonuses. I need to show that the time watched on the Watch product has increased? Oh, I know; I’ll just open it to everyone.

In an attempt to beat back the backlash (that has to have been a song that Pauly D from Jersey Shore busted out at Karma at some point, right?), Facebook is doing things like investing $300 million “to help local news survive.”  Sure, that’s lots of money that they’re throwing around to help support engagement of Facebook users with local news providers… but the tricky thing is the backdrop of Facebook’s mercurial history with news publishers.

In other words, Facebook owns and operates the algorithm of the feed that displays news stories and friend’s updates and picture posts, and so on. They can and have and will change the way this feed works based on their own interests, which includes not announcing why they’re making these changes.

Anna Hensel at Venture Beat offers 4 ways Facebook should improve in 2019. I’m so way on board with “Give the option of reporting irrelevant notifications.” There’s a line between “sticky” and “annoying,” and I think Facebook has crossed that line for many people. It definitely has for me.

This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.


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