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Facebook Follies

With over 50 UK-based activist groups deleted by facebook prior to the Royal Wedding last Friday, we have a great opportunity to reassess our relationship to this social media monolith.

Let's be clear. As activists, we would be pretty dumb and self-defeating not to use facebook, which holds accounts for 1 in 12 of the world's population.

It makes absolutely no sense to be using an unconnected parallel network with a small fraction of the members.

But facebook has a basic structure very unsuitable for campaigns and activism. Let's define it politically and ideologically. It is designed to be a network of individuals who connect to their "friends". The full set of features, for instance the crucial facility to direct-message people, is only given to individuals. The suggestion that activist groups should set up "pages" rather than "profiles" is impractical for this reason. At base, facebook is designed to allow people to group themselves, but only within the walls of fb itself. Pre-existing groups, or groups with a life of their own, violate the terms and conditions and can be closed at any time. This fundamental facebook structure feeds the server / client relationship beloved of corporations (they serve us content, which we consume), rather than the horizontal peer-to-peer network on which the internet is based (we can all be content producers sharing with each other - this latter is the corporate nightmare). To adapt Monty Python's "Life of Brian", facebook's insistence that "you're all individuals" should cause us all to shout "we're not!"

So what we need to be doing when we post to facebook is constantly linking to networks and resources outside of it, to net the fb user fish and take them out to safer, clearer, more sustaining waters.

And more broadly, to quote Aaron Peters, "this requires us to start using and building viable alternatives that are in every sense of the word ‘ours’, meaning that they are commons-based in production, distribution and ownership."

visionOntv is currently working on tools that will enable our site to live within facebook as itself, a plan which knocks holes in the infamous fb walled garden. Watch this space!

There is an open meeting on Thursday May 5 for people to stand up to the latest attacks on our civil liberties, organized on, er, facebook.

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