One benefit of this newsletter is that I find it’s spurred me to be a bit more regular in my blogging, so there’s another new post
up this week. The topic is connecting different social networks to each other, and why I don’t think that’s a good idea.
My prompt to write this piece was an article in Wired
by Cory Doctorow, so I tagged him when I shared my response on Twitter. Cory replied by sharing an EFF white paper
which is specifically about interoperability between social networks, but I don’t feel that it addresses my main argument.
From the point of view of someone concerned about the power of social networks, and Facebook especially, the problem is not the data they have about any individual user, but the data about the connections between them. That graph of connections is what constitutes the data gravity that keeps people on Facebook, because if you move to a different social network but your friends aren’t there, who are you going to talk to?
The problem is that my social graph by definition contains data about other people, who may or may not consent to my importing it to new services. This is a big part of the problem people have with Signal or Clubhouse slurping up users’ address books and then spamming them. At best, this behaviour is annoying; worse, it’s actively endangering people and enabling abuse.
There is also the positive aspect of the much-decried “online bubble”: social networks are different from each other. I don’t want Facebook to become like LinkedIn which becomes like Twitter. I’m a different person on different networks, with some overlaps in my public presentation and relationship graph, but it’s never a 1:1 match.
I don’t feel Cory and the EFF, in their zeal to tear down Facebook’s competitive moat, have fully considered these aspects of the problem — either distributed privacy, or context collapse.