I have been wading through the many online complaints about Facebook’s aggressive policy, begun in earnest back in 2012, of reducing the number of “friends” a Facebook user’s posts reach (by about 85%) and then charging the Facebook user a fee to reach more of them. Frankly, as a less-than-intense Facebook user who necessarily spends most of his web-content time running a blog, I didn’t even pay attention to the “promote” button, and wasn’t even aware of the change. The Facebook revenue-generating move is described here and here, but what happened is pretty simple and easy to understand. Having sucked a lot of people, groups and businesses into using their free service to reach family, friends, like-minded souls and potential customers, Facebook then changed the rules and is now charging for them to get the same reach that was free for quite a while. Is this unethical?
Some, indeed many, think so. Here is the New York Observor:
“This is a clear conflict of interest. The worse the platform performs, the more advertisers need to use Sponsored Stories. In a way, it means that Facebook is broken, on purpose, in order to extract more money from users. In the case of Sponsored Stories, it has meant raking in nearly $1M a day.”
This is Dangerous Minds, in a widely circulated attack on Facebook called “I want my friends back”:
“It’s perhaps the most understated stick-up line in history, worthy of a James Bond villain calmly demanding that a $365 million dollar ransom gets collected from all the Mom & Pop businesses who use Facebook. How many focus groups do you reckon it took until Facebook’s highly paid marketing and PR consultants finally arrived at such an innocuous phrase for describing information superhighway robbery?”
Robbery? Conflict of interest? A hold-up? Bait and switch? This is the kind of tantrum that shows how easy it is for unscrupulous politicians to use the profit motive, free enterprise and capitalism as cheap scapegoats for every problem under the sun, all the better to build support for a massive, all-powerful government that will make everything right, and ensure that we all have lollipops and rainbows regardless of talent, effort, hard work or the cruel turns of fate.* Facebook created this service millions use for free—how dare the bastards try to make money out of their ingenuity and enterprise? Don’t we all, in a real sense, own Facebook? Shouldn’t we? Continue reading