6 Underreported Reasons Why Facebook Is Just The Worst

Local outlets (newspapers, gazettes, even blogs) are extremely useful to epidemiologists, not only for identifying when an outbreak emerges, but also for tracking how the outbreak spreads. When the H1N1 virus (i.e. “swine flu”) was first identified in California in 2009, scientists had no idea of its extent, so they scoured local news reports in nearby regions and found reports that a similar virus was afflicting people in Mexico, which was an upper for science and a downer for Mexicans.

By reading local news, epidemiologists — who often work with a national focus — can also gleam contextual information that they might otherwise miss or overlook. In the case of the mumps outbreak that occurred in Northwest Arkansas between 2016 and 2017, scientists were at a loss as to why the virus was so badly affecting this one area — that is, until they found a local news story which reported that the area had one of the lowest mumps vaccinations rates in the state.

This is exactly the sort of valuable information that epidemiologists are going to be missing out on, particularly with the advent of the “news desert” — large areas of the country with no local outlets, only statewide conglomerates. On the plus side, it’s not like Facebook is also spreading the kind of conspiracy theories and bunk science that’ll make these outbreaks more and more likely as time goes on …


They’re Helping Facilitate A Genocide In Myanmar

If you want to see a demonstration of how badly Facebook can ruin people’s lives, you don’t need to reopen your account. All you need to do is look to Myanmar, where Facebook is abetting an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya, an ethnic group numbering over a million people.

Despite inhabiting Myanmar since the 12th century, the Rohingya are routinely persecuted by the government. They don’t have citizenship, they’re regularly harassed, and they’re forced to live in areas that are more ghetto than home. In recent years, however, Myanmar has gotten more direct (read: genocidal) in their approach, giving rise to a situation in which rape, murder, torture, and mass graves are now commonplace. And the country’s other residents seem fine with it, because the government has a slick propaganda campaign that places the blame for all of the country’s ills at the feet of the Rohingya.

Guess who helps with that?

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesHint: You haven’t been reading an article about Snapchat.

Facebook allows every radical preacher, every hatemonger, and every government official to spew hatred directly into people’s brains. For instance, there’s Ashin Wirathu, an ultra-nationalist monk who (among other things) posts pictures of decaying, rotting, dismembered corpses … and blames the Rohingya for these acts. Zaw Htay, a government spokesperson, enjoys a large following for his “fake genocide news” posts — he insists it’s really the Rohingya burning down their own homes and killing their own people. For fun, we guess? Not to mention the more average, run-of-the-mill government accounts that regularly remind the citizenry that the Rohingya aren’t real people and no one would care if you wanted to do something bad to them.

Just like Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines did for the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, Facebook enabled all of this. In 2016, they partnered with the state-run telecoms company to provide its subscribers (then, most of the country) with free, unlimited access to a suite of internet services, chief among them their own. The way that this suite was built, however, means that you can’t access outside sources, such as Google, which might allow people to debunk the propaganda — at least, not without paying. How many angry people do you think bother paying for more information before acting on what they see?

To make matters worse, Facebook keeps deleting photographs and footage shot by anti-genocide activists for violating the platform’s content policy, something which they also do with footage shot by citizens in Syria documenting the war crimes. That’s irreplaceable material that could one day serve as evidence in trials. But it doesn’t keep Zuckerberg in sweatbands and presidential campaign exploratory committees, so away it goes.

Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook! He also has a newsletter about depressing history, but that’s only for the coolest kids.

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