As the #DeleteFacebook campaign continues to dominate social media, a Penn professor and a Ph.D. student argue that social media users should reconsider deleting their accounts in a recently published column.
Annenberg School for Communication Assistant professor Sandra González-Bailón and Ph.D. candidate Ashley E. Gorham criticized the social media revolt in a column published in Quartz on April 4. The pair instead advocate for social media platforms and outline ways users can use them to their advantage in light of the recent #DeleteFacebook campaign, which calls for users to deactivate their social media accounts.
In the column, González-Bailón and Gorham claim that the #DeleteFacebook movement is a "form of online activism that is ultimately self-defeating."
"Instead of using social media to facilitate solipsistic solutions like opting out of the service, people who care about privacy should use the tremendous coordinating power of Facebook to facilitate real change," they wrote.
González-Bailón and Gorham argue that social media is "inescapable," so people should use these platforms to promote online movements and calls to action. They also claim that individual decisions to delete accounts are unlikely to create a significant impact.
The #DeleteFacebook movement surfaced late March after the uncovering of political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s controversial use of Facebook data. The firm, which was also hired by President Donald Trump's campaign in 2016, accessed private information from over 50 million Facebook users. The scandal has raised concerns surrounding the use of private social media data for exploitative means.
"The best way to change Facebook is not to delete accounts, but to push for greater democratic control over the platform," González-Bailón and Gorham wrote.
González-Bailón has been an Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication since 2013 and focuses her research on “the intersection of network science, data mining, computational tools, and political communication.” Gorham is a Political Theory Ph.D. candidate completing her dissertation entitled, “Information and Democracy: A Critical Reappraisal for the Internet Age.”
Despite the popularity of the #DeleteFacebook movement, it is unlikely social media users will leave in masses, according to USA Today.
"It is part of the global Internet infrastructure now," Safiya Noble, a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication, told USA Today. "Many people no longer use the phone book to find people or Consumer Reports to evaluate products and services. They rely upon their social networks through Facebook."
According to a post by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg following the scandal, Facebook will combat privacy breaches by investigating apps that had access to a large amount of data before their policy changes in 2014. They will also reduce developers' access to user information to include only public names, profile photos, and email addresses.
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