Zeynep Tufekci, writing in Wired:
Facebook’s 2 billion users are not Facebook’s “community.” They are its user base, and they have been repeatedly carried along by the decisions of the one person who controls the platform. These users have invested time and money in building their social networks on Facebook, yet they have no means to port the connectivity elsewhere. Whenever a serious competitor to Facebook has arisen, the company has quickly copied it (Snapchat) or purchased it (WhatsApp, Instagram), often at a mind-boggling price that only a behemoth with massive cash reserves could afford. Nor do people have any means to completely stop being tracked by Facebook. The surveillance follows them not just on the platform, but elsewhere on the internet — some of them apparently can’t even text their friends without Facebook trying to snoop in on the conversation. Facebook doesn’t just collect data itself; it has purchased external data from data brokers; it creates “shadow profiles” of nonusers and is now attempting to match offline data to its online profiles.
Again, this isn’t a community; this is a regime of one-sided, highly profitable surveillance, carried out on a scale that has made Facebook one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization.
As is often the case with one of Tufekci’s pieces, this is a must-read in full. I pulled the above quote because I think it illustrates the depth and breadth of Facebook’s business model and its intrusiveness in the public sphere, even among those who are not registered users. I don’t think it’s possible to grasp the scale of their power and influence, but Tufekci comes close.