Facebook’s Flawed Logic: We’re Safe, The Rest Of The Web Is Dangerous
Anil Dash has an unmissable post titled: Facebook is gaslighting the web. We can fix it. Indeed, if this description of Facebook’s latest actions is accurate, it should be cause for concern among all web content producers.
After all, Gaslighting, according to Wikipedia (emphasis mine):
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim
The term “gaslighting” comes from the playGas Light and its film adaptations. In those works a character uses a variety of tricks, including turning the gas lamps lower than normal, to convince his spouse that she is crazy. Since then it became a colloquial expression which has now also been used in clinical and research literature.
…gaslighting can be ‘a very complex, highly structured configuration which encompasses contributions from many elements of the psychic apparatus’.
The trends Anil presents about Facebook are clear. I invite you to read the whole post linked in the first paragraph, but the one which irks me the most has to be when you’re in Facebook, click an external link and are presented with a dialog box like similar to the following:
To quote Anil’s comment about this:
What’s remarkable about this warning message is not merely that an ordinary, simple web content page is being presented as a danger to a user. No, it’s far worse:
- Facebook is warning its users about the safety of a page which incorporates Facebook’s own commenting features, meaning even web sites that embrace Facebook’s technologies can be marginalized
- Facebook is displaying this warning despite the fact that Facebook’s own systems have indexed the page and found that it incorporates their own Open Graph information.
With this action, Facebook is basically saying: Facebook = safe, the rest of the web = dangerous.
Can you imagine if every web service, content producer or email client presented you with such warnings before clicking links? You wouldn’t stand for it. But in Facebook you do, because to leave Facebook is for many to remove themselves from all their social connections.
Content producers need to stand up for themselves. Facebook’s actions communicate very clearly how they view its users: as clueless and defenseless. Although, as users are Facebook’s product, not its customer, this may not be far from the truth.
It’s not so much Facebook treating its users as cattle that bothers me. It’s more the fact that Facebook is conditioning the average user to view their network as a safe-haven and the rest of the web as a “dangerous” and “scary” place. It’s not only false, it’s harmful (and hostile) to the rest of the digital ecosystem, made up of many who openly market Facebook and their products.
My request to Facebook: work with the open web, don’t demonize it. We already have let you underneath the fabric of our sites, why make us your enemy?