Monday, May 24, 2010

Reading Response – Of Facebook, Advertising, and Lies

Almost every day, I read the following: “Thanks for your feedback. Over time, this information helps us deliver more relevant ads to you.” If you have been on Facebook any length of time, you have read it too. But I have come to the conclusion this statement is a lie.
I do not make this accusation lightly or in jest. I think Facebook is lying, telling an untruth, being deceitful, speaking falsely. I have become convinced that like the political groups who are paying to promote their ideas there, Facebook has no intention to fulfill their promise to “deliver more relevant ads” to me or anyone.
Okay, here’s what happens. Near any Facebook the ads, you will see a little X. You can click on the X to get rid of the ad. But before the ad goes away, you are given a little menu of choices for why you don’t want to see this again, now or ever. The choices are: Uninteresting, Misleading, Offensive, Repetitive, and Other. If you choose “Other,” then you get a small box to type in a specific reason for disliking the ad. After you are done, you are given the message above.
Now what am I to think when I tell Facebook that I find a certain ad offensive? I think most, given the statement above, would assume Facebook, in the interest of not pissing off potential customers, would keep that ad from ever showing up on that person’s page. What would you expect to happen if many similar items, perhaps generated by the same group of people, are “reported” to Facebook? Would you not expect Facebook, who can learn about the preferences of his members, to figure out, “Hey this guy isn’t going to pay attention to stuff from this group. Let’s give him something else”?
But they don’t. I see the same ads over and over though Facebook keeps telling me that “over time” they will bring “relevant” promotions to my page. THE SAME ADVERTISEMENTS SHOW UP NEARLY EVERY DAY. Does “over time” mean to these guys, “some day in the future you will be so darn old you will have forgotten what you do and do not like”?
I understand why there are advertisements, and I don’t have a problem with them doing it. Facebook is the biggest social networking site in the world, and I believe they have a right to earn revenue selling promotion space. I believe the people who purchase that space, even those I don’t like or agree with (even those who I know are using that space to mislead) have a right to try to sell their ideas in this forum.
However, I know the technology exists for them to “learn” from my preferences, and I know that Facebook is using that technology. Otherwise, why would I be getting little messages for jazz groups and books on spiritual matters? I didn’t fill out a survey that said, “Please tell me more about this such and such topics.” Facebook figured it out based on what I post, the groups I join, and other activities I participate in.
I am not well versed in the subtleties of technology. But I do know Facebook can learn what I don’t like as easily as it can learn what I enjoy. They can figure out what bothers me, and yet they choose to cram the same political advertisements onto nearly every page I access, despite the fact that I almost never write about politics (except the occasional comment to someone’s post). How can they, after MONTHS AND MONTHS, not see that I mean it when I say that certain ads are offensive to me?
How can they? Because like most politicians, they have no interest in the truth. They know most people will ignore what they dislike or finally get so curious they find themselves clicking on the ad no matter what they think. It is a law of advertising, if you cannot find target consumers, make them by sheer weight of repetition. After all, anyone who doesn’t like it, can just “change the channel,” right?

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