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Self-censorship Not Allowed

by Miki Saxon


There is a major push by many news and media sites to bring back at least a modicum of civility by eliminating comment anonymity.

The general feeling is that the ability to remain anonymous encourages a general nastiness that is unlikely to happen if we had to take responsibility for our actions.

In other words, when your real identity is attached to our actions you are more likely to show some self-restraint.

While many prominent sites are encouraging (forcing?) people to take a second look before hitting enter and practice a bit of self-censorship, Facebook is taking the opposite tack.

Unfortunately, the code in your browser that powers Facebook still knows what you typed—even if you decide not to publish it.* It turns out that the things you explicitly choose not to share aren’t entirely private.

While people are freaking out over NSA collecting phone numbers and the FBI being able to turn on their computer’s webcam, most don’t seem to consider Facebook a threat.

People surveilled through their computers’ cameras aren’t choosing to share video of themselves, just as people who self-censor on Facebook aren’t choosing to share their thoughts. The difference is that the FBI needs a warrant but Facebook can proceed without permission from anyone.

Facebook much prefers you to do a continual, uncensored brain dump, whether civil or hate-filled, truth or lies, it doesn’t matter as long as you post it.

Das and Kramer [Facebook researchers] argue that self-censorship can be bad because it withholds valuable information. If someone chooses not to post, they claim, “[Facebook] loses value from the lack of content generation.”

And in case you are wondering how Facebook loses value remember that the ads you see are based on what you post.

In the age of Facebook, “let it all hang out” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Flickr image credit: Carolyn Tiry

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