back to article Facebook Comments kill web freedom

It turns out that the web's Wild West days may be over. Fueled in part by the early promise of unfettered freedom, the web has lately succumbed to middle age and a newfound sobriety that will simultaneously make the web less appealing to the tech elites and hugely useful for Main Street. Those looking for a scapegoat can blame …


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  1. David Hicks

    All the cool kids still use linux

    A scoff at the implication that all the cool kids use Mac. Now give me a moment to wipe the crumbs from my cheetos stained mouth with my cheetos stained fingers...

    On a more serious note, do you really think that many people use Mac that would have used linux otherwise? I know of some I suppose, but the majority would seem to be windows defectors.

    And facebook, much as I dislike the privacy abuses, provides a useful service and a troll-free oasis. Trolls can be entertaining, but a place without them makes for a nice change of pace.

  2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    honestly, wtf was that article all about? Can someone explain it to me the point of it all?

    I'm still struggling to figure out what the main message of the article is.

    Facebook comments kill freedom? WTF?

    Freedom? What the hell does facebook and Apple have to do with it? You don't have to use either to get on the internet and frankly, I know tons of people who don't. There are tons of websites where anonymity is allowed (and encouraged if you tread the murkier paths) and if one is still concerned, there are further ways... But sure if you were 'tech elite' you'd know.

    I choose not to be on Facebook. I have some Apples, but that's really beside the point. So have I several other boxes of differing ages, architectures and hence OS's too.

    Now if you're *REALLY* talking freedom...

    The big issue in my opinion is how much control corporations and governments have over the internet and hence its capacity to be used as a tool for ... say propaganda. Remember those leaked documents from HBGary about online managed multiple personas?

    Remember, the old argument "It was in the papers, it must be true", substitute if you will, the internet. The other adage apparently attributed to confucius (maybe) "If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it will eventually stick..."

    The other is how the judicial system (which probably does not have a a good enough understanding of underlying principles and/or ramifications) can be bent to do despicable things (like the Sony/Geohot subpoenas etc).

    We can do something about this: speak out and be on the look out. Be discerning on which camp you support.

    Caveat emptor, ultimately.

    1. The BigYin

      I think the point was...

      ...if Facebook "becomes" the Internet then you are verifiably tied to everything you say /and/ you have no control over that content.

      I really like the look of the Freedom Box idea, if I can get the time/skills it is something I will deffo be looking into.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    too late for April 1st

    You mean you only have login for Farcebook?

    And in your real name?

  4. The Alpha Klutz

    "private browsing mode in nearly every browser allows for untracked activity across the web."

    When did it ever claim to do that? It allows for untracked activity on your local machine, nothing more.

    "Facebook is arguably one of the greatest inventions ever"

    I wouldn't want to be the one arguing that...

    I'd rather suffer the trolls than live in a padded room with half a billion people all channelling Ned Flanders.

    This is what happens when people elevate their feelings to cult status. Everyone thinks that it's illegal for you to upset them. Boring. People used to want freedom.

  5. SuccessCase

    A politically motivated post

    From a politically motivated journalist. "Upper crust" and "proletariat" are two phrases from the politics of the last century that are outmoded and don't reflect shifting world dynamics. World wages are increasing so now workers in Botswana have greater earning power, in real terms (e.g. Accounting for inflation), as the workers in Finland in 1955. Food production is more efficient and higher than it has ever been. Now averaging 2,700 calories per day for every person on the planet. You are using class language that rather paints Apple first and Facebook second as class based oppressors of the proletariat. The problem is when the phrases were coined, only the "upper-crust" had aspirations of spending money on luxury goods (because only they had the money to spend) but now the majority of what you refer to as the proletariat share those aspirations. New luxuries (including Starbuck's coffee, trainers from Nike and cars like the New Mini) are now within the reach of "the masses" in the West (e.g. on the shopping lists of most of what used to be defined as the proletariate). It's even debatable if Apple are fully within the new luxury category, offering as they do high build and materials quality to match the price (and highly competitively priced tablets).

    You are right the Internet is becoming less the wild west and sherrifs are coming into town though and no doubt there will be mist-steps along the way. And as in the real wild west, the sheriffs are supported and funded by vast private concerns and entire towns are owned by private wealth. So we need to be vigilant against the corruption of private interest. Just lay off the Marxist / 1960's class envy "Socialist Worker" language and recognise aspiration and quality as a good thing. Apple, though less immediately affordable, aren't any more beyond the aspirations of the masses than Android (or should I have said "the proletariate"?). If Matt, you are someone who sees class divisions more than a unified continuum of aspiration, perhaps that is what bothers you most?

    1. Keeees

      Untracked, hidden, unclear on the concept.

      Yes, that.

      And do-not-track-me hides your online behaviour in much the same way that you hide your toys from your kid sister by putting them in the middle of the room and telling said sister that she's not allowed to touch them.

    2. Paul RND*1000
      Thumb Down

      The trouble with quoting averages to make your point... that they don't show the extremes which break your point.

      "Now averaging 2,700 calories per day for every person on the planet."

      And yet certain nations have extraordinary percentages of overweight, obese and even morbidly hyper-obese people, while other nations still suffer high rates of starvation and malnutrition. Hell, you can find both extremes without ever leaving any developed nation, if you care to put down the shiny toys and look closely enough.

      Not to mention that calories != nutrition. How much is that average pushed up by crap processed food loaded with empty calories?

      As for the class struggle, it's still very much alive and has merely changed to reflect that shifting world dynamic you mention. Replace "upper crust" with "Wall Street Bankers" or "Big Corporations" and switch out "proletariat" for "Main Street", or "the middle class" and you'll be right on the money these days.

  6. Neil Greatorex

    "and everyone's already on Facebook"

    Not everyone.

  7. Dick Emery
    Big Brother


    I amm not on Myface or Spacebook. Nor Twitter. I refuse to participate in the great see of attention whoring. I do not wish to have my life laid out online for all to see. It's bad enough that companies use the internet to trawl your past activities to see if you are a suitable employee.

    Of course you may end up not being employed simply because they don't trust you when they can't find ANYTHING online about you.

    Paranoid? Moi?

  8. Leona A

    Sorry what's the problem?

    If you make a comment, you should be 'man' enough to stand by it, people who want to comment anonymously are cowards (I guess hence the AC's) and are unable to stand by the words they spout.

    There is still plenty of freedom on the web, sadly things have to be tightened up because people abuse freedoms, look at the pain and hurt caused by people's comments on Facebook that lead people to harm or kill themselves, its tragic, freedom comes at a price.

    If people want freedom, then people need to be responsible, and be held responsible, but people can not behave sensibly or respect others, so the web is dumbed down.

    Its the rotten apples that spoil the whole barrel.

  9. Neil Charles

    Er... what?

    "The cool kids of yesteryear ran Linux"

    "Facebook is arguably one of the greatest inventions ever"

    I'll have some of whatever you've been smoking please.

  10. The BigYin


    Bow wow, yip yip grrr. Arf!

  11. copsewood

    Facebook is probably just a passing fad

    Geocities was sold for $3.57 billion in January 1999 and was switched off in October 2009 ( ).

    The idea that a single corp can be morally trusted or considered technically competent to provide for the entire planet's social networking requirements will probably seem very silly one viewed with the benefit of hindsight.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you opened a Terminal on a Mac lately?

    There is plenty of "complexity" and "ugliness" in there should you wish to see it.

    Biggest danger I see on the web is the media driven trend to polarise things into camps, with all the

    overlooking and preconceptions that entails. But I guess that makes people easier to target.

    There' space and eyeballs on the web for everything from the tech "elites" to Facebook comments, even Google's privacy to CPU cycles converter machine. If you don't like something just go somewhere else, or do it yourself.


  13. GrumpyJoe


    the internet is still open enough that those of us that don't have a Friendface account will still be able to communicate.

  14. Tom 38 Silver badge

    I'm not on Facebook

    And I don't plan on changing that any time soon.

    1. The BigYin

      Situational dependency

      People may not wish their personal views to be known outside certain circles.

      For example

      One may hold a political view that they do not wish their employer to know about for fear of discrimination (or dismissal). e.g. What if you are a member of Greenpeace, but your employer is bidding for a contract with a big oil company? If the employer knows your views, it could be detrimental.

      One may have a sexual preference that one does not wish to become known outside that community. e.g. I have attended clubs that my friends have refused to attended for fear that they will be dismissed by their employers for doing so.

      The list goes on and thus there are many cases where some form of anonymity is essential to freedom and free speech. The fact that Facebook et al tie you directly to comments, memberships and associations can have life-changing impacts; even if you are not doing anything "dodgy".

    2. mmiied

      I belave

      there is a case of a primary school teacher who used to be a erotic dancer and she was fired for letting here pupils find her facebook profile with thouse pics on it

      it is perfuctuley justifiable to want to keep parts of your life seprate

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward


        If you are ever unlucky enough to suffer depression, this comment will come back to haunt you. And the odds are very high that someone you care about will suffer from depression at least once (even if it's not yourself).

        It's not big and it is not clever to belittle people who suffer(ed) from it and it is much more common that you know. Mostly because people feel they must suffer in silence due to total ass-hats like yourself.

        If you are reading this and suffer (or think you suffer) from depression, here's three points:

        1) It will get better (really, it will)

        2) The doctor can help and won't judge (your employer does not need to know)

        3) Drink is not an answer (friends are, speak to them)

        1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


          Further caution:

          Whether you suffer from true depression or just think you feel low and 'depressed' and have the misfortune of owning facebook account, I would advise caution on actually stating it blatantly or by allusion.

          Some insurance companies will load your premiums on that if there was any hint of 'depression'.

          If you're not sure if you're 'clinically depressed' or just low, go talk to someone you can trust firstly, ideally your family physician - hope you've got a good one they are hard to find. Also see good advice from AC above.

          By allegory, there are probably other things you should not mention publicly but since I do not have a facebook account I have not thought of it all thru'.

  15. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Facebook comments

    Yeah. Used to read articles in the technical press as much for the comments from people that work in the same industry. Now very few of them post; some don't use Facebook (like me), or cannot access any Facebook sites from work (like me), or just got fed up with the inane comments (also like me).

    So instead of state of the art discussions about the state of space technology and particle physics research, there are hundreds of posts about "coooowl photo" and "Why don't we put all the nuclear reactors on the moon so that they don't hurt anyone?"

    Please Reg don't go that way too.

  16. Lionel Baden

    not quite true

    I troll no matter where i go :)

    *Troll For obvious reasons

  17. Dave 142


    "The cool kids of yesteryear ran Linux."

    On which planet was that?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soon it will be against the law not to have a Facebook account

  19. Pete 2

    Anonymity also brings freedom

    Imagine if every post, comment, tweet, blog, email or download got tagged with your name, address, phone number, mugshot and personal details. Who would ever send anything?

    Everybody would be "on the record" all the time. Whether they were writing a literary masterpiece or a drunken rant at an ex-partner. We rightly guard against "big brother" in the form of the state from surveilling us - but what if we had to do it to ourselves. And not just for the information to appear in a closed and secret database, but to be displayed in public for everyone: parents, children, employers, prospective dates, to see, search and form opinions from.

    We need a degree of anonymity (said "Pete 2", yes that is my real name - just ask Mr and Mrs. 2; my parents) on the internet just as we have in real life - where maybe one person in a thousand - who we encounter daily: on the train, in the traffic jam, in the shops - knows even the slightest thing about us.

    So we should be able to live our digital lives with the same degree of anonymity that we enjoy in the real world. Anonymity is not the problem, however. The problem is the inhabitants of the internet who feel they have impunity when they do the electronic equivalent of running up to us, shouting obscenities in our face, and running away again - as happens daily, on almost every web-space, to a significant proportion of its users.

    What the internet needs is not an end to anonymity, but a more widespread system of assessing the "people" we meet on it. Just like IRL, we should be able to recognise the psychos, idiots, bs-ers, wise people, comedians and our friends. Not just on each individual forum or platform, but across the system as a whole. The trick is to be able to do that without sacrificing too much in the way of personal information. Maybe that's where the true value of FB and its ilk lies: as a universal registration/recognition system to validate online identities, while still stopping people you annoy from coming round your house with a large stick.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And you point is ??????

    Sites with facebook linkage get the facebook linkage blocked by noscript and similar.

    I do not want my entire life online being linked together.

    I may even create another facebook profile just for posting on stupid sites

  21. Shades

    Does what now?

    The so-called "Do Not Track" header won't make the slightest bit of difference to 99.9 of websites/advertisers because they can choose to support it or not, which they probably won't.

    "private browsing mode in nearly every browser allows for untracked activity across the web"

    yeah, right!

    1. CD001



      What the internet needs is not an end to anonymity, but a more widespread system of assessing the "people" we meet on it. Just like IRL, we should be able to recognise the psychos, idiots, bs-ers, wise people, comedians and our friends. Not just on each individual forum or platform, but across the system as a whole.


      That's where I disagree - there is nothing wrong with per-platform identity; on Facebook I do actually use my real name (technically it was against the Ts & Cs not to back in the day - now you can add an alias I think) - but that's the only place on the web that I do.

      You know what - I "manage" my Facebook identity; it's like the sanitised version - my mum is on Facebook for crying out loud (so is my partner's mum - which is worse). I've probably got different usernames for almost every service I use from the comments here to my Steam account to my PSN username (and WAY more besides). So yeah - you could build up a profile of me from my Reg comments - but they'd bear precious little relevance to what's on my Facebook page.

      The only people that get to cross reference my identities are those I know anyway - since I tell them who I am on other services (if I want them to know) and since they know me they probably know more than is revealed by any of my online personas.

  22. beanburger

    Internet safety?

    There's a problem with this position: "Most people don't want to make a statement: they just want to connect with friends, family, and work associates through email, Facebook, and other means."

    That's would be fine except for the fact that it's not how "most people" use Facebook. Have you seen how many people are on the friends list of your average teenager? Tens or hundreds of people they barely know or have never met. Isn't it a basic rule of internet safety that we don't give out our names to strangers?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    I'm starting to wonder why this masterclass in crummy black-and-white afternoon-daily column-writing is even allowed to persist on El Reg. Every week, twice a week, it's x vs y, with one side representing the forces of 'openness' and the other side the forces of 'closedness', with the conclusion generally being some sort of vague and unproven suggestion that we'll miss openness once it's gone, as though it's going away any time soon. I don't like the 'Facebook borg' but I will not miss trolls, who are themselves a restricting and censoring force. Freedom may be an unproblematic thing to quantify from Mr Asay's point of view - and here I find his column title instructive as well as awful - but for most right-thinking people the world isn't as simple a place.

    Paris, because she's not one for anonymity.

  24. Andy E

    Not everyone uses Facebook

    While I agree that Facebook is hugely popular not everyone uses it for a number of reasons. Many people I know won't go near it.

    The problem with Facebook last time I looked at it was that it assumed you just have one big group of happy friends. I don't and I expect other people don't either. I have groups of friends, work colleagues, family, and social acquaintances. These are not exclusive groups and someone might be in two or more groups. There are reasons why you might not want to mix your family with your work colleagues for example. I know of several instances were young family relatives have spammed a persons Facebook friends with questionnaires of the level "Whos yr best m8?", or left inappropriate comments on someones wall. It's hardly going to impress your boss. Facebook does not give you that granularity of control.

    Facebook has lasted longer than I expected but the next big thing is probably just around the corner. Something that allows you to limit a 'friends' view of your contacts and personal information. When it happens Facebook will probably go the way of MySpace and Bebo.


  25. Marky W

    "The cool kids of yesteryear ran Linux"

    No. No,no,no,no,no. They were not cool.

    Being alpha-geek is not cool. And it never will be (sadly).

    1. The Alpha Klutz

      "Facebook does not give you that granularity of control."

      And the important point is: it never will.

      Why? Because that would be too complicated, even for us geeks. When you have to make a list of everyone you've ever met and assign them different sets of access permissions to your account relevant to everyone else - that's too much work. It's just not worth the effort.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly about having several groups of friends and colleagues that are not mutually exclusive, (or in some cases, are mutually exclusive), and for that reason I find Facebook fundamentally distasteful.

      I could only add my friends as "friends" (it would make a lot more sense), but those are the people who are actually considerate enough to bother contacting me outside of Facebook. I don't need Facebook to contact them and I certainly wouldn't use it if I had the choice.

      The trouble with Facebook, is that they want you to have only one account, when in reality you need 2 or 3. You need that barrier between groups. You could give people an email address that relates to the account you want them to see, and everyone would be happy. But no, Mark Zuckerberg is too much of an idiot to embrace an idea as forward thinking as that.

      I can image Facebook would be the shit if I was 12, because I could just add everyone at my school as a "friend". As it stands though, forced social interaction between random groups of people is not my cup of tea. But hey, I never was a fascist.

  26. Ed Deckard

    "The cool kids of yesteryear ran Linux. Today, they boot Macs."

    Two very different definitions of "cool kids."

    I think you'll find the Linux users of yesteryear (and their spiritual descendants today) continue to use Linux. Same for Apple products. The change has been from MS users to the other two groups.

  27. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    So the sheeple who buy into Facebook, MySpace or whatever the latest fad is, decide to abide by whatever their imposed rules are means the said sites are killing web freedom? How exactly does that work?

    Web freedom is the freedom not to be one of the sheeple, to not buy into such fads, and there are many options beyond them. It's not like Facebook or MySpace is "The Web", membership is compulsory, or there's no alternative, though some authors perhaps think it is.

    Providing services, options and alternatives, never restricts freedoms, but closing services such as usenet servers and forums do. What goes on inside any walled-garden isn't anywhere near as important nor worrying as having options outside them. Freedom is choosing whether to be inside or out.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No thanks

    A sad day indeed. I don't want my real name appearing on comments. I like to post on the Daily Mail website, writing controversial things like "Actually, paedophiles do deserve a fair trial." It's bad enough having my comment rise to the top of the "worst rated" list. I'd rather not be deluged by hate mail too.

    Anonymous, for obvious reasons....

  29. jm83

    More interesting friends...

    ...get some and you may find it less boring.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Facebook is arguably one of the greatest inventions ever"

    It's not really an invention, or at least not a new one.

    The whole walled garden concept has been around since at least MSN/AOL, (maybe people can enlighten me if there was something similar before those) and i'm sure i was using something very similar to facebook around 1998. Circle something, but i can't remember exactly.

    1. launcap Silver badge

      Walled gardens..

      >The whole walled garden concept has been around since at least MSN/AOL,

      And before that there was Compuserve (I still have my old compuserve number recorded somewhere.

      And before that was dial-up BBS (good old Almac - where are you now eh? Dial up on a 1200/75 baud non-autodial modem - my parents phone bill never recovered...)

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Facebook comments kill trolling?

    Are you for real?

    That's why only this morning I logged on to see some basic trolling on a famous person's page, with someone thinking it hilarious to tell people who just commented to f*** off, or calling people c**ts.

    Looked like it could be a real name attached, too.

    So no, it doesn't stop trolling. Just as Blizzard realised it wouldn't stop the crap happening in WoW etc when they were looking at forcing people to use their real names in the forums...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doomsayers have been around for as long as the Internet

    Been there before, seen that before. In the 90s it was the evil Microsoft that would take over the net thanks to the accepted 'standard' of IE.

    Then it was Microsoft with its Live ID that would destroy anonymity and the web as we know it.

    And so on and so on. What happened each time?

    The _free_, as in open, market responds both actively by not participating in anything that it finds unacceptable or building alternatives to things that have none.

    So forgive me if I don't buy all this doomsaying. Don't like facebook comments? Don't comment.

    Websites only use facebook comments and don't let you comment otherwise? Boo-hoo, their choice. You have one too.

  33. Jonathan White

    Adding to the crowd

    'Facebook is arguably one of the greatest inventions ever'. Arguably? Only if you're a blithering idiot. What the fuck? I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

  34. Mark .

    Apple were never top in smartphones

    "The cool kids of yesteryear ran Linux. Today, they boot Macs. And tomorrow their children will use the even simpler-to-use iPads and iPhones."

    Well *they* may think they're cool. The rest of us don't care. Though yes, it is a depressing point to see people who once advocated the merits and openness of Linux, now waving their locked down Ipads around.

    (And as others have said, since when was Linux deemed cool? Don't get me wrong, I like Linux, but I can't say being a Linux geek was ever the sort of thing you'd ever think of as fashionable or trendy.)

    "Even Google's Android, which has displaced Apple at the top of the smart phone heap "

    Er what? Apple were never top. It was Nokia - who are still the number one company, by the way (since Android is made up of many manufacturers). In many quarters, RIM have outsold Apple too. Even if you're just looking at the US market, RIM were the leader before Android, not Apple.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Idiotic article

    As the web becomes more consumer orientated, consumers will go to consumer sites. No shit, Sherlock.

    The geeks ("The cool kids use Linux" - wtf") are alive and well and still operating on the "frontier". Older technologies have been ignored by big business and are still rife with dodgy opportunities. Modern technologies aren't much different on the whole.

    The article is solely about the those modern technology organisations that try to commercialise illegal activity with advertising, excessive growth, mainstream familiarity, etc, etc and inevitably get slapped down.

    It's an easy mistake to make as these things are by their nature the most visible. Especially when they're being slapped down.

    You enjoy your closed communities and your middle age. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing that's changed is that there's so much more to play with.

  36. Inachu

    Regarding Trolling.

    I could lets say for example create a reply to tech forum and have urls and copy pasta quips and sound bites and loads of data showing that Nasa backs up my research and such but then comes in a 12 year old boy or girl who is a techie hobbyist and then calls me a troll.

    Because of that one person calling me a troll my thread gets locked and or deleted because someone did not like that I was backup my subgect with scientific fact and says I was trolling just to get her angry and thus labaled as a trolling dog and banned for 72 hour cooldown unable to post again.

    So if anything the complainers are just as bad as the REAL trolls unlike me backing up any story I may have just to be shot down by a emotionally insecure brat.

  37. Old Handle

    Facebook ≠ The Web

    Sadly, it does seem like some people don't know the difference, it's like AOL all over again.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On Facebook, nobody knows if you're a cat either.

    I know because two of my sock puppets are.

    1. mike panero

      hello krisna


  39. Daedalus Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sounds like a lot of

    Nathan Barley to me.

  40. zen1


    web 2.0, facebook, apple, windows, linux, twitter & google. All annoying and yesterday's news. I'm over it and they all suck for their own respective reasons.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one

    welcome our Facebook overlords

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