Good Bye Facebook, Hello Diaspora

Social networking is about community empowerment, and not so much about monolithic corporate control.? Myspace learnt it, Bebo learnt it, and sadly, Facebook is also learning it.? It is mighty hard for a faceless giant with no sense of privacy or sensitivity to be a great ‘social’ facilitator.

So, I finally deleted my Facebook account.? From designing social commerce systems that incorporate Facebook, I went to deleting my account.? Why? First came the news about the Farmville fiasco, and then the privacy settings debacle , the the documentary about its founder.? Then, my frustration at being tagged in group pictures that resulted in receiving messages from strangers over which I had no control.? The only good thing I can say at this point was their excellent translation support for many languages, and their Urdu interface was excellent.

Being a centrally-controlled monolithic giant, Facebook has had its share of free-speech issues.? I always read that Facebook would bring down a page in an instant — whether it was a criminal harassing his victim or denying access to holocaust denial pages in Austria where it is illegal.

The first bad taste was the Obama Death Prayer Page that did ‘not violate Facebook rules’.? OK, if you say so, although domain names and search warrants are routinely seized for much less.

The last straw was the ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ — which violates laws in many countries of the world and is border-line hate speech.? After all, the Jyllands-Posten promised to print the holocaust cartoons by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahr, but ultimately did not — printing only three after consulting a rabbi!? So much for free speech.? There will be kooks everywhere, and offensive items all the time — that is free speech.? However, giving them a platform and deliberately not applying rules/laws/precedent/policy is something hard to swallow.

So, let them draw their cartoons today.? All I know is that a platform that allows hate and incitement is not a viable social platform.? This is the thinking behind Diaspora, an up-and-coming distributed social platform, and I wish it well.

A word about free speech:? Facebook and other public-facing private enterprises are not meant to be judges or courts or enforcers of free speech rights.? They run by an ‘approved-use’ policy that is appropriate to the service they are providing.? Example: what is appropriate in a theater is not appropriate in a plane, and both may not be appropriate in a bank.? So the impression that Facebook gives that it is ‘protecting free speech’ is wrong.? It’s appropriate use policy is lop-sided and unevenly applied.

Who would want to visit a bank that had loud music blaring all the time?? Similarly, who would want to establish social networks on such an uncomfortable platform?? Not me.? If the purpose of social networks is to get to know people and link up with them, while feeling comfortable about oneself and one’s privacy, then something is very wrong with Facebook, or the direction it is going in.