Why and How to Leave Facebook
This Guy Hates Clickbaity Headlines. Here’s Why
Anyone who has ever scrolled through a Facebook newsfeed knows what “clickbait” is—the internet is awash in headlines promising a photo cuter than all other cute photos, an outrage-inducing news item more outrageous than all other news items, a piece of celebrity gossip juicier than all the previous undeniably juicy gossip bits. The key is that these headlines always withhold that critical piece of information: who the best guitarist in the world is, what the bad Republican man actually said, which nutritional supplement will cause spiders to grow in your stomach and eat you from the inside out.
Jake Beckman has achieved a modest amount of internet fame by ruining these headlines and saving people clicks in the process with his aptly named Twitter account @SavedYouAClick. Inoften hilarious fashion Beckman retweets links to stories from websites and publications like theNew York Times, Salon, the Atlantic, Slate, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Upworthy, and Buzzfeed, among others, with a pithy summary of the article’s interesting bits. His tweets save everyone time by boiling down stories into single words (“The World Cup is days away but is Brazil Ready?”“Nope”), but they also should shame people who write misleading or insulting headlines and tweets in the service of drawing traffic to uninteresting stories. @SavedYouAClick has apparently struck a chord, amassing 90,000 followers in just over 400 tweets, and last week, Beckman even got the opportunity to save his followers a click to a story about himself. How charitable of him:
VICE: You told Jack Shafer of Reuters that you don’t have a problem with headlines that ask questions, which leaves only teasing, “curiousity gap”–exploiting tweets in your crosshairs. But you don’t appear to be going after some of the worst clickbait offenders—sites like Upworthy and the God-awful Facebook mom feed, Elite Daily. Are those sites just too easy to target?
Jake Beckman: It’s not that headlines with questions are always OK—sometimes they’re legitimate, and sometimes they’re not. What I’m targeting, though, are the tweets: how these articles are positioned on social media in an attempt to score easy traffic. I definitely include Upworthy, and just recently followed Elite Daily—I’m always looking for more publishers to follow. Usually it’s just a matter of timing—when I’m looking for tweets and how recently the offending tweets were published.
Running a Twitter feed doesn’t pay, as much as we all wish that was the case. What do you do for a living?
I run @SavedYouAClick as a personal side project. I work for RebelMouse, a publishing platform with a focus on social content. I used to work in breaking news and editorial at ABC News and Bloomberg TV, so I’m very familiar with how newsrooms work.
Facebook Won’t Let Faggots Say “Faggot”
In the last two months, Facebook has blocked me from posting at least three times. I wasn’t banned for using racial epithets or putting up graphic porn—anonymous administrators kicked me off the world’s most popular social media site because I said “faggot.”
I don’t remember how many times I’ve been blocked—I am a well-documented faggot, and I occasionally jokingly refer to myself or my gay friends as faggots, the same way some blacks use the N-word and gay activists used queer in the early 90s. At the end of April, I called my friend Gabriel a fag in the comments section of a link I had posted and he liked my comment. We do that sort of thing all the time, but within a few hours, Facebook blocked me from posting for seven days.
I can understand why Facebook would block a heterosexual who said faggot—at Catholic school, straight boys used the word to make fun of me on the playground nearly every day—but Gabriel and I always use the homophobic slur in a joking or prideful way, robbing it of its harmful meaning. The first time I got banned for using the term, I assumed some sort of hate speech–detecting algorithm had mistaken me for a hetero, but then I remembered Facebook regularly shows me HIV ads targeted at gay men. Zuckerberg and company know my sexual preference—I even say I like boys on my profile.
After I got banned that time, I decided to find out how Facebook decides who gets blocked for saying faggot. The social network’s terms page is vague about this topic: You can’t “bully, intimidate, or harass” anyone or post “hate speech.”
I Tried to Get a ‘Simpsons’ Writer to Admit That the US and Fox Orchestrated the Arab Spring
Conspiracy theories about politics and the US are as big of a cultural staple in the Middle East as hummus and pita.
In Egypt, the news broadcasters served as Mubarak’s puppets until 2011 when independent news sources popped up after the uprising. State-run news still exists in Egypt, and censorship is far from gone. Journalists face imprisonment on charges for anything from defamation to terrorism if the network they’re associated with “disturbs the peace”—basically talks smack about the government. It’s not just journalists; a puppet was accused back in January for “sending coded messages of terrorism” in a Vodafone commercial.
Since Egyptians don’t know who to trust, their imaginations often run wild, conjuring their own ideas and stories about “what’s really happening” to make sense of the chaos that surrounds them. Stories usually involve Zionism, the US, and the Muslim Brotherhood in some diabolical and fantastical plan on the basis of zero logic.
A quick plot refresher: In this episode, Bart, Milhouse, Nelson, and Ralph form a boy band the Party Posse, make a hit song called “Drop Da Bomb,” and in the music video, they drop a bomb on what appears to be an unknown Arab country but the Syrian opposition flag is prominently displayed on the jeep. Since the flag didn’t exist and the Syrian opposition wasn’t a thing in 2001, the conspiracy theorists took to Facebook and claimed that the US has been behind the Arab Spring the whole time. The revolutionaries are either foreign-backed, no-good scum trying to destabilize the region OR they had responded to subliminal messages sent through American pop culture that would only be in syndication in the Arab world years later therefore the collapse of the region couldn’t be traced back to the US government. Pretty fucking clever.
Well, these devious US antics couldn’t possibly get past the people who gave the world beer and algebra. The theory quickly migrated from social media to the actual news on May 5, when Tahrir TV anchor, Rania Badwy, aired the music video segment of the episode. In her analysis she points out that the conspiracy started on Facebook but she ends with, “The episode was created in 2001 before the Syrian opposition even existed… This raises many question marks about the Arab Spring and about when this global conspiracy began.”
Who knows! Maybe the US actually mapped out the Syria uprising 13 years ago, and the hard evidence is this Simpsons episode. Did the US send subliminal messages to the Arab youth so they’d revolt against their leaders? My Egyptian blood might’ve been jonesing for a good conspiracy, but I needed validation. There was only one way to find out, so I called up Tim Long, the writer of the “New Kids on the Blecch” episode, and tried to get him to admit to me that the US actually orchestrated the Arab Spring.
VICE: I just want you to know that this is a safe space, and you can be honest with me. Did you know that the Free Syrian Army would exist 13 years ago when you wrote the episode?
Tim Long: I’ve been making a lot of jokes about how I totally knew and that was the secret reason I wrote it. I don’t want to make that joke in print, because people take these things very seriously. I will say to you that I did not know that.
So it wasn’t a subliminal message sent to the Arab youth to revolt against their leaders?
It so wasn’t and the whole thing is so headachey, because the thing about being a comedy writer is that you’re a coward and you’re not willing to take stand on anything, much less a conflict that I don’t even begin to understand. It’s hilarious. The ironic thing about this [episode] is that it’s about subliminal messages. The idea is the Bart and his friends are recruited to join a boy band, but it turns out that the guy who recruited them is using it as a recruitment tool for the US Navy. There are all sorts of backward sentences in the song; it’s not a small episode in terms of its scope. Crazy things happened, but we did not take into account that it would somehow fuel the Syrian uprising.
Facebook’s Photo Community Manager Is a War Photographer
Four months ago, Teru Kuwayama was appointed photo community manager at Facebook—not a job you’d normally associate with a war photographer.
Kuwayama has not only risked his life to document what goes on in war zones; he’s a senior TED fellow and a firm believer in using social media for journalistic purposes. In 2004 he co-founded Lightstalkers, the online forum for reporters, photographers, and filmmakers, and in 2010 he launched Basetrack, a project that documented the deployment of a Marine battalion and used Facebook to share photos and stories with the soldiers’ families.
I caught up with Kuwayama to talk about all that and Instagram in space.
VICE: I guess I should start by congratulating you on your new job.
Teru Kuwayama: Thanks! I made it through 20 years as a photographer without actually having a job, so I’m still not quite sure if being honestly employed is something to be congratulated on. But it’s definitely an adventure. I’m not a domesticated animal, so this is a totally new experience for me. It was definitely an experiment on both sides.
What’s it like working at Facebook?
It’s a fast-moving company, and things change rapidly. I’m really a point of contact, somebody that can speak to the photography community and explain to them what the company is trying to do, and vice versa. I sometimes feel a little bit like what the US military once called a “terp,” or an interpreter—translating between Americans and Afghans.
A lot of photographers don’t trust Facebook. Most of the agitation seems to be focused on loss of image rights, downloadable images, and the automatic deletion of metadata as soon as it’s uploaded to the site. What would you say to them?
There’s sometimes an assumption that the platforms are out to get you, but that’s just not the case. Sometimes people [who work at platforms] aren’t aware of the concerns, and the complexity of dealing with those concerns is bigger than people realize. When you have a platform that’s being used by over a billion people—having it be 100 percent satisfactory for everyone is a tall order.
The ‘Women Eating On the Tube Protest’ Was Weird
There’s recently been some media coverage and a lot of hoo-ha surrounding a Facebook page set up to gather pictures of women eating on the London Underground. Before it was removed from Facebook, the group—titled “Women Eating On the Tube”—provided an outlet for camera-wielding voyeurs to take a break from sneaking up-skirts and instead indulge in a far more manageable, less arrest-able form of creepiness.
The page’s founder is “filmmaker and artist” Tony Burke. He claims that taking candid iPhone shots of women mid-chew is “an observational study” and “reportage photography,” as opposed to a bunch of assholes embarrassing busy people for indulging their basic human need to feed themselves.
The page was taken down last Friday. On the day of its demise, Burke visited the Radio 4 studios to sit down with pissed-off student Lucy Brisbane McKay, who had announced a protest on the Circle line against the page, “Women Eating Wherever the Fuck They Want.” McKay was correct in what she said: The policing of women’s behavior in this way is unacceptable, weird, degrading, and pretty embarrassing for Burke. But McKay said she wanted it to be a “celebration of women eating.”
Social Media Dipshits: Stop Treating Us Like Fuckwits
Attention social media managers: Stop calling yourselves “social media snipers,” “digital Sinatras,” “digital inventionists,” “technology whisperers,” “content kings,” “brand activators,” “brand pollinators,” and “change agents” (all terms pulled from actual Twitter bios of social media “pros”).
What you are: admen and adwomen. Every update you create is a little ad for your brand; a free (FREE!) golden opportunity to be smart, funny, emotional, informative… something,anything other than moronic.
And yet, here we are again. According to my lazy research on social media “content” makers—via personal experience and my Twitter followers—almost all of these social media dipshits appear to be in their 20s. Are older, tech-averse brand and marketing managers really handing the social media keys to recent college grads just because they know some code and Photoshop? That’s just plain dumb, for reasons I have outlined below.
Anthropomorphizing your product is a popular ad concept, but creatively speaking, it’s lazy as hell. Still, it’s been very effective for many brands—M&M’s, the Scrubbing Bubbles, creepy naked Mr. Peanut, etc.
Strongbow is the world’s biggest-selling cider and, according to Wikipedia, “named after the knight Richard de Clare, later Earl of Pembroke, nicknamed ‘Strongbow’ for relying heavily on Welsh archers during campaigns in Ireland where at the time the Irish had few bows and relied on javelins.”
“Maguire” (as in “Jerry Maguire”) is an Irish surname. If only one of those Irish javelin throwers (possibly named Maguire) had had better aim, maybe there wouldn’t have been a Strongbow cider, and then I wouldn’t have been subjected to this abjectly stupid Facebook post.
Is Facebook Censoring the Syrian Opposition?
Last December, a woman from the Syrian community in Toronto reached out to me for help after a Syrian opposition Facebook page, for which she was an administrator, was expunged from the internet. She told me that Facebook had deleted the page, called Likes for Syria, in mid December, by which time it had garnered more than 80,000 “likes.” Several Syrian Canadians had organized the page shortly after the revolution in Syria began, back in 2011, and used it as a tool for posting news stories about the crisis, spreading messages of hope, and creating awareness in the Western world—something that many feel is desperately needed.
“We feel like our freedom of speech has been totally taken away,” said Faris Alshawaf, another administrator for Likes for Syria. “We have a right to talk about what is happening.” Facebook had removed the page once before but quickly republished it after administrators made an appeal. Just days later, Facebook deleted the page a second time.