Facebook, Authoritarianisms and the Thumbs Down

When the protests began in Cuba on July 11, Facebook accounts and their ability to broadcast the demonstrations live were the fundamental elements for a gagged population to find its voice. (Marcos Evora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchéz, Generation Y, Havana, 31 October 2021 — The giant is wounded and there are many reasons to gloat over his misfortune. The social network Facebook is once again involved in scandal that calls into question its working methods, the use it makes of its users’ personal information and even the immense power it has achieved over governments, local laws and ethical standards. Nothing new in its more than three decades of existence.

However, among its critics there are not only people concerned about the addiction generated by the tool or the traps of its algorithm, but also several authoritarian regimes that do not support the civic plaza that Mark Zuckerberg’s creature has become. They rub their hands, watching the insults rain down on the US conglomerate that has recently been accused of prioritizing profits over network security.

Undoubtedly, public scrutiny is positive given the voracity of this technological behemoth that can influence the electoral course, sink reputations and bury transcendental issues in benefits of banalities. But those are not the reasons why dictatorships abhor Facebook. It is not the challenges about security flaws or dependencies generated by the “like” network that are behind the onslaught of the oppressors against the company.

When the protests began in Cuba on July 11, Facebook accounts and their ability to broadcast the demonstrations live were the fundamental elements for a population, muzzled for more than half a century, to find its voice. The confluence that had been created in cyberspace, in a country where the right of association is severely limited, broke the barrier of mistrust and fear that had paralyzed citizens until that moment.

Despite the cuts in internet access that occurred in the following days, social networks and instant messaging services have continued to be the fundamental scene of the rebellion. The Archipiélago platform, the main organizer of the civic march called for November 15, has used the potential of the digital group to unite more than 30,000 members. For them, Facebook has been the only possibility to meet and debate.

In the same country where school textbooks include enormous doses of political indoctrination and the Orwellian television screen is an innocent caricature of the political police, the official media rejoice in the questioning of Zuckerberg in congresses and in the press of democratic countries. They applaud the setting of limits on the tool, but not because they are concerned for the privacy of its users, or want to protect them from the excesses of advertising. They do it because it is in their interest that the network fails, thus closing the gap that has been opened in their strict internal controls.

When the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana rejoices in the media beating against Facebook , it is not thinking of protecting us but of gagging us.


This article was originally published in DW Español.


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