By Jan Oberg
• Message sent to Facebook in response to its blocking attempt and change of algorithm, both serious restricting my freedom of communication.
Blocking personal messages to friends
Yesterday it was my birthday and roughly 500 people sent me thoughts, pictures and good wishes – also for the international peace issues I work for every day.
Today I send a thank-you message to everyone of them (as replies to their messages on my profile, not through Messenger of on their profiles) – with a link to the new platform outside Facebook that we have felt was necessary to build – for the reasons I explain below.
Here is the text of that standard message:
“Thank you so much for remembering me ! 🙂
May I urge you to visit TFF’s new peace portal and magazine:
https://transnational.live – look around and use Get the News on top right.
We take parts of the debate out of Facebook because it collects too much about us and censors.
And you can use the Donate button on top too 🙂
My best to you!
After about 120 response messages or so, your system refuses to post my message and threatens me with being blocked from posting if I continue.
In summary, Facebook prevents me from thanking my friends for their kind words on my own profile. And it is not a security issue as you state in your message to me across the page.
I do not appreciate your giving me trouble when I try to thank my Facebook friends.
Your system should be able – given everything else it can do – to distinguish between spam and messages of gratitude exclusively to people who are my friends here.
If you used humans to just check things when you get suspicious – instead of relying blindly on technologies – you would not risk doing such an unkind thing that is also a clear limitation to my freedom to interact with my friends.
Mind you, I am not selling – and never have – any product. I am a peace and future researcher working for a less violent world.
It doesn’t feel good to do so at Facebook which, when doing what you do to me today, indisputably and deliberately violates my freedom of communication.
Change of algorithm
While I am at it, permit to raise a larger issue:
I am working with global issues and have thousands of friends and likers plus an organsational page and a public figure page. Sine 2007 I’ve always interacted with people all around the globe.
Some months ago you changed the algorithm in a way that markedly and seriously limits my global reach.
Presumably because I had reported from the war zone in Syria, presented some non-mainstream views and perspectives – and got thousands of new friends who appreciated exactly that.
Over 90% of the feeds I reach now – and the likes, comments and interaction I experience today – are from Sweden and Denmark (I live in Sweden and I am a Danish citizen). Only.
My foundation and I have therefore set up a platform outside to enhance the free debate without limitations – some appropriately call it censorship – that you now practise (because, as it seems, of direct pressure by certain countries/governments on Facebook).
What the foundation and I stand for has nothing to do with fake news. It’s known to be truth-seeking during its existence since 1986. A source relied upon by millions every year.
Facebook’s development is very unpleasant to witness, given your enormous power.
Undoubtedly, there are millions who are dismayed by your policies which are political.
Deliberately limiting a researcher with 40 years of experience (as you can see on Facebook) and a research foundation that is committed to the UN Charter goal of making peace by peaceful means – which is a Gandhian principle – is, without a doubt, a political act and political acts are in the service of some interests that you know best yourself and about which I can only guess.
But it does raise the issue of whether we come to a point where Facebook as a politicised media ought to be boycotted.
Now, I would appreciate to a) be informed about algorithm changes in advance so I can shape my foundations’ and my own communication strategy in relation to it – and b) I’d appreciate a personal response to what I write here.
It is certainly possible technically and financially for Facebook to show that much respect for those of us who use Facebook and also pay, from time to time at least, for promotion of our work (now the earlier organic growth options have also, for all practical purposes, been destroyed).
If your system can check my messages to my friends and block me/them, you certainly also have the capacity to answer me personally rather than hiding behind the shield that you are “not able to review individual reports”.
Finally, being a future researcher with a global academic perspective, my prediction is rather straightforward:
Either Facebook will, sooner rather than later, stop this politicisation and moral decay or more and more people will reduce their use of or leave Facebook entirely over years to come, migrate to other platforms and build new free(er) networks.
Your sense of ethics and responsibility for your editorial policies must be made to match the importance you have as the world’s and history’s largest communication network/platform.
Jan Oberg, dr.hc., research director
The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, Lund Sweden – firstname.lastname@example.org
January 14, 2018.