Disclaimer: Opinions expressed below belong solely to the author.
It’s always fortunate for the rest of us mere mortals when a public figure runs into problems with Big Tech, as it helps to show just how incompetent some of these companies are and how we are are on their mercy with no avenue to complain about the problems they cause us.
In this case, it also shows just how irrelevant and hollow Facebook’s “Community Standards” are.
So, the Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore was blocked from commenting by another Facebook bot for merely thanking commenters wishing him well on his birthday.
He was also informed that his activity “didn’t follow Community Standards on spam”. Really?
I think every such company should be held legally accountable to whatever it claims its Community Standards are — and if they are automatically applied in a way that is unfairly penalising users, it should be fined and forced to either refine the feature or stop using it altogether.
It boggles the mind that, de facto, any of these businesses can write whatever they want in their terms of service and then not follow them, with no avenue to complain about the unfair treatment for any regular user of their platform.
Consumer-protection bodies should be on it all over the world. These platforms aren’t free after all. They provide the service in exchange for your data, which they use to monetise their business.
That’s a fair business model, but it should not give them absolute power to do whatever they want with you or your account whenever you’re using the service in line with their conditions — as it was clearly the case this time.
They make billions of each and everyone of us and then proceed to screw us over as users, giving us practically zero rights even if we did not breach any of their rules. Are these companies or criminal syndicates?
Now, I’m sure that most Facebook’s users have run into similar issues.
Sometimes, you get banned for a meme you shared X years ago. Another time, you shared a link or GIF found on the platform.
Or you called someone fat (even yourself!) for example — yes, that could also get you banned in the past (not sure about now, and I’m not willing to try and find out again).
I once got banned for seven days after Facebook’s own page editor crashed. No appeal possible.
I know some people will dismiss this as “oh, it’s just a social media platform, grow up, you can live without it” — but some of us can’t, and it’s not due to some debilitating digital addiction.
People run businesses on Facebook, promote their products and services, produce content to share with their audiences, or manage advertising campaigns for their clients.
Getting locked out of your account or being unable to perform some actions is not only an inconvenience — it can be a very costly, sometimes even ruinous, problem. But a pet store owner who got locked out of his page is not going to sue Zuckerberg, is he?
Fortunately, we all know what they say about karma and it seems that Mark Zuckerberg is about to learn its full force himself, as Facebook’s parent Meta is pouring billions into his brainchild — the metaverse — which is bound to fail given the incompetence of the company’s software engineering teams, that thus far affected only users like us.
Lonely at the top
Frankly speaking, I think Mark Zuckerberg is an example of one of those billionaires gradually becoming detached from reality, given his vast wealth and celebrity status.
As a result, he’s probably not even aware of still countless bugs and glitches that his flagship service keeps failing to remedy. He doesn’t use Facebook like the rest of us do. He may even believe that those thousands of people he employed are surely the best and brightest in the business.
Well, they’re not — and he is about to learn just the extent of their incompetence.
They can’t even build proper algorithms distinguishing real spam from someone thanking his friends and followers for birthday wishes — heck, not even if one is a public, verified figure, and one of the top leaders of the country?
He’s blocked from saying “thank you” and yet I still receive spam from fake accounts in my messages and comments every single day. How is this not fixed in 2023?
If your team can’t do something this small, this mundane, how in the world can you hope to have them build entire virtual reality worlds with complex interactions with a variety of third party apps?
I’m not saying, of course, that these are necessarily the same people in both cases, but those who are calling the shots at the top are — and, as they say, fish rots from the head down.
If your top brass and HR are so useless they can’t hire and organise — after 20 years in business — proper developer teams fixing rather basic bugs on a flat website that people use to comment on posts, images and videos, how could they possibly build you teams to produce something inordinately more complex, that has never been done before?
It’s, therefore, no surprise that the end result of spending US$10 billion in two years was a widely ridiculed demo like the one below:
As a result, Horizon Worlds, Meta’s fundamental VR app, is not gaining but bleeding users. It reportedly lost 100,000 within six months, by October last year — or more than a third of the 300,000 it boasted about in February.
A bird in the hand…
…is worth two in the bush. I’m not sure Zuckerberg has realised this yet, but his metaverse pipe dream is putting his entire business at risk. Facebook has been neglected for years now, with many features still waiting for fixes.
Occasional improvements to the UI cannot hide the fact that underneath, not much has changed — other than it has become less welcoming, more oppressive and more buggy, spoiling the experience.
Nobody seems to care about the users, so it’s no surprise that it’s been losing them to alternative platforms like TikTok.
Even Instagram, acquired by Facebook 10 years ago, has barely evolved beyond what it started with, merely adding some features (like video, Stories etc) only when competitors deployed them, spooking Zuckerberg and his clueless henchmen into action.
After all, the only thing that Facebook ever really developed was the timeline that sorts and feeds you updates from your friends and pages you follow.
For nearly 20 years, it has failed to provide us with anything novel and given just how poorly managed it is today, the only thing we can expect from its ventures into the metaverse is a beautiful catastrophe.
And I’m sure many frustrated users of Facebook are looking forward to celebrating it.
Featured Image Credit: Tan Chuan-Jin Facebook