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article imageOp-Ed: Like something on Facebook, and you’re on an ad

By Paul Wallis     Jun 1, 2012 in Internet
Sydney - Yes, it has actually happened. Someone liked something ridiculous on Facebook, posted it with a comment and a few days later saw himself on an ad for Amazon, plugging one of Amazon’s little-known bulk lubricant products.
Leaving the invasion of privacy and billion-dollar class actions out of it for a minute, is this or is it not tacky?
The New York Times explains what happened to a Mr. Bergus:
Within days, friends of Mr. Bergus started seeing his post among the ads on Facebook pages, with his name and smiling mug shot. Facebook — or rather, one of its algorithms — had seen his post as an endorsement and transformed it into an advertisement, paid for by Amazon.
In Facebook parlance, it was a sponsored story, a potentially lucrative tool that turns a Facebook user’s affinity for something into an ad delivered to his friends.
Yes, the ridiculous thing was a sponsored ad. The algorithm, no doubt naïve after its years in a monastery, didn’t realize that Bergus was laughing at the thing, not endorsing it. “Like” can mean a lot of things for a lot of reasons.
You may like something not because you like the subject, but you like how it’s treated. You may like something for a private reason of your own. You may like something simply because it’s so awful. That, apparently, is a blanket case for a “Like” turning into an endorsement.
A few points:
Enamoured as we all are of making a few more billion for those wonderful corporate people who give the world so much, free ads?
What if we want our friends to ever speak to us again? An ad for lubricants can be interpreted as meaning a lot of different things.
What if a friend of a friend of a friend of a total stranger sees the ad, decides that you’re a lubricant addict and starts stalking you?
What if people don’t like “endorsing” ads?
What if people get held liable for their “endorsements”? It has happened to celebrities flogging dodgy products.
The New York Times bravely continues:
Facebook users agree to participate in the ads halfway through the site’s 4,000-word terms of service, which they consent to when they sign up.
So in self defence, the entire Facebook population stops liking anything, to avoid winding up on an ad? “Participate in the ads” is a somewhat mixed statement. It could mean anything.
Section 10 of Facebook’s terms says:
1. About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or Enhanced by Facebook
Our goal is to deliver ads that are not only valuable to advertisers, but also valuable to you. In order to do that, you agree to the following:
1. You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place.
2. We do not give your content or information to advertisers without your consent.
3. You understand that we may not always identify paid services and communications as such.
Which is fair enough. If you read the terms, that is. You can “limit” your participation.
Section 2 says:
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.
So at what point is the advertisement using material to which you own the copyright, and are you owed money for use of that material? Section 1 says Facebook is allowed to use what you post, until you delete it or cease being a member, but there is the little matter of third parties, who are not covered by that, as far as I can see, or are they? The implication is that they are, but if so, they're getting free commercial content for nothing, and using materials they don't own. It's not clear, and that's where the problems begin.
I’m a professional writer. I don’t like anything. However, my materials are in fact my business. They’re literally hard cash. So if my materials are used for an ad, I charge for it.
Point 3 is debatable. I don’t understand that they may not always identify paid services and communications, particularly “as such”? What, we get to guess what pays and what doesn’t, or whether they’re paid services or communications? Do they mean sign language, Ouija boards, what?
I suggest unto ye, O benevolent bouncing members of the rat race, that yon schematic hereunder doth more sweetly describe the possibilities of expressing an endorsement on Facebook or anywhere else:
A button for everything....
A button for everything....
Thus may we dispense with terms, and start getting unto the nitty and might hap the gritty of yon unseemly pig sty of interpretations visited upon us by the vexed and most calamitous of micro-conscious interpreters of meanings. Cast thy algorithms hence, O Facebook, lest into the inevitable diversions of the Great Cosmic Septic Tank of Law thou doth heedlessly stray.
Also relevant- Sabotaging the “Likes”, (Zuckerberg’s own personal coup de click) is very likely to be an own goal of major seismic proportions.
Let us see, merry felons, how this panneth out. Methinks the pan and the bed are in too close a relationship in too many ways? Let also flights of lawyers sing thee unto thy rest, O advertisers, if infringing copyright becometh an issue-eth.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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