Live Thread: U.S. Senate Commerce Hearing with Facebook Whistleblower [UPDATE-5]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

The Senate Commerce Committee is conducting a hearing right now; Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is currently testifying before the committee.

You can watch the hearing at C-SPAN at:

You can also catch up with the backstory leading into this hearing by catching CBS’s 60 Minutes feature from this past weekend at:

Haugen is the former Facebook insider who leaked corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal several months ago, culminating in reports published a couple weeks ago. Sadly, the work is paywalled.

These are the key points WSJ reported on based on the documents:

– Facebook internal documents outline an exempt elite who can operate without prohibitions.

– Facebook’s Instagram platform knowingly relies on toxicity dangerous to teen girls.

– Facebook’s 2018 tweaks to algorithms heightened polarization between users.

– Facebook’s response to known use by organized crime from trafficking to drugs is grossly ineffectual.

– Facebook’s own algorithms undermined Zuckerberg’s efforts to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations.

All this in addition to its complicity inciting genocide of more than 25,000 Rohingya minority members in Myanmar means that Facebook is beyond toxic. It’s deadly.

I’ll update this post with additional content. Share your comments related to Facebook, social media, and today’s hearing in this thread.

~ ~ ~

On a personal note: I don’t use Facebook for many of the reasons outlined in Haugen’s disclosures and the reasons that the Federal Trade Commission issued a consent decree against Facebook back in 2011 (which Facebook violated, resulting in a $5 billion fine in 2020).

I already had strong doubts about Facebook because my oldest child was bullied by a classmate on the first day they opened a Facebook account. They had begged me to let them open an account and in spite of all my precautionary measures and coaching, they were still tormented immediately and out of view of the other student’s parents.

That was more than 14 years ago. Think of what 14 years of this kind of behavior alone will do to our children and young adults, let alone what troll farms masquerading as children on line will do to them.

And now we know Facebook has known about this toxicity targeting young women and girls, and that it has continued to develop a platform aimed at monetizing children and teens’ use of social media.

Kill it now.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:30 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

I missed the earliest part of the hearing, am now going back through earlier portions.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) at 9:27 am expresses reluctance to break up companies or deem social media platforms to be utilities, calling it heavy handed.

Uh, not heavy enough. Yesterday’s outage proved Facebook is a communications system when WhatsApp went down with Facebook and Instagram.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is prodding about regulatory oversight. Haugen says Facebook’s closed system traps the company and prevents them from changing their operations – a closed loop which it can’t break – and government intervention through oversight would break that loop for them.

Nation-state surveillance comes up next; Facebook could see other countries surveilling users. Haugen says the U.S. has a right to protect Americans from this kind of exposure.

UPDATE-2 — 12:36 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Live hearing again. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) says he sent a letter to Facebook about related concerns well before this hearing. He asks Haugen about age restrictions for users; she feels the restriction should be changed to 16-18 years of age because of teens’ weaker impulse controls and concerns about addictive behaviors.

How to screen for age is tricky, IMO. Kids have gotten around this and parents have been just plain neglectful.

UPDATE-3 — 12:47 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (calls Facebook a “black box,” designed as such by Mark Zuckerberg, referencing legal obligations under Section 230.

Haugen adjusts the point he’s making by noting Facebook had said it could lie to the courts because it had immunity under Section 230.

Well that explains why Zuckerberg believes he can lie to Congress as well, as he has in at least one hearing, and why a representative for Facebook lied just this week to Congress in spite of Facebook documents liberated by Haugen proving otherwise.

Haugen says she doesn’t like seeing people blaming parents. Sorry, too bad — as a parent I know the ultimate authority over internet use at home with parent-funded devices is the parent, and I know far too many parents are just plain lazy when not willfully uniformed about social media use. More parents should have been up in their representatives’ faces all along about social media’s impact on their children.

UPDATE-4 — 12:55 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Haugen is responding to questions from Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). She says Facebook knows how vulnerable people are who’ve had big life changes like divorce or death of a friend/loved one, how they can lose touch with surrounding community in real life because they are framing their perspective on thousands of distortive posts on Facebook.

She also doesn’t believe in breaking up Facebook.

Too fucking bad. The outage yesterday proved Facebook needs to be broken up.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has been given a copy of a tweet by a Facebook employee, Andy Stone, who rebuts Haugen’s credibility based on her work experience. Blackburn invites Mr. Stone and Facebook to be sworn in and testify instead.

You know there will be more concerted attacks on Haugen’s credibility. Sure hope there’s nothing on her in Facebook’s data.

UPDATE-5 — 1:06 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asks about Facebook studying children under 13 about eating disorder and whether the company is pushing eating disorder-related content children that age. Haugen implies they are getting ground this by encouraging inauthentic accounts.

Klobuchar asks about banning outside researchers; Haugen says the blocking is an indication that federal oversight is necessary when Facebook goes so far out of its way to block them.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) says he sent a letter to Facebook ten years ago asking if the company was going to collect data on child users on its platform, and now Congress is back revisiting the issue. He plugs further regulation including controls on AI.

Haugen earlier in this hearing said AI was a known problem referring to bias.

Markey brings up the Children’s Television Act of 1990 he authored which protects kids up to age 12.

Sounds like Facebook must have used this as a jumping point for its existing prohibition on accounts for those under age 13.

Haugen responds to Markey saying removing Likes/Comments/Reshares which encourage more engagement aren’t enough to protect children. They’re still exposed to dangerous “extreme and polarizing” content.

Markey asks if Haugen thinks any visible measures of content popularity should be removed on content for children – she’s not quite as forceful on this as his question about removing targeted ads aimed at children to which she’s firmly agreed.

77 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I’m just sick listening to this hearing — Facebook is every bit as bad as my paranoia told me all along in spite of having left the platform more than a decade ago. Revolting.

    And we haven’t even gotten to Facebook as a threat to national security yet, just a threat to our nation’s children.

  2. Geoff says:

    Kill it now. I’ve said this so many times over the past decade.

    I got on Facebook briefly in around 2009 reconnected with a few people, and was immediately taken aback at the level of social discourse. Frightening didn’t begin to explain it. What astonished me the most was how people would interact each other even when they knew each other, once they weren’t forced to be in the same physical space. There were many people that would make pronouncements that made me cringe, and rethink whether I really knew them. This was in 2010, right before I deactivated and never looked back. I expressed these thoughts to a few of the people that I had reconnected with, gave them my email address, and said adios. A few stayed in touch.

    In the time since, the microcosm of personal Facebook horror expanded infinitely. Yet, year after year, when I would tell people why I wasn’t on it, and trot out the growing list of reasons, almost to the person, they all found ways to justify their staying on the platform. This weekend, an informal HS reunion gathering… a pleasant guy, intelligent, generally thoughtful, somehow couldn’t see why I was upset that his son just got a job at Facebook. I said, did you miss the hundreds of articles on how this company is killing democracy? Facilitating genocides? Destroying kids’ mental health? Using you as a product? Ultimately, I just felt dejected, and said, if you can’t figure this out, I don’t know what to tell you. I just feel like so many people are basically lazy and addicted to whatever few positives it still provides.

    But you can break free. Even if your kids’ school uses it to announce events etc, just quit, and tell the school why you did, and that it’s not OK to force this on people. Deactivating was a bit painful at first, or so it seemed. There is a bit of FOMO, or at least there was briefly for me when I got off. But the reality is, YOU DONT NEED IT, IT NEEDS YOU. In a short period of time, I realized I had freed up so much more time to just pick up the phone and talk with people, or go out with people in person, or just do ANYTHING but slide my thumb across the screen so I could feel envious about everyone’s perfectly curated life that doesnt really exist.

    As I said yesterday, “best day in the history of social media was yesterday.” If only it had lasted more than a day.

    • Rayne says:

      I left Facebook roughly the same time. And yes, just like my child’s classmate who was so sweet and polite offline but became a monster online, people let their ids run free in social media the way they don’t in real world meatspace. I didn’t even bother with telling that child’s parents about the problem because I already knew they were squirrelly conservatives; the degree became more obvious once their child was unleashed online. I had to coach about how to block and how to defend boundaries that same first day of social media.

      I also have no regrets about coaching my kids to use pseudonyms online because this crap will haunt them forever. Easier and safer not to use it at all.

    • Fran of the North says:

      Never spent a whole lotta time on FB, maybe 2 logins per year. This latest has me completely disgusted, and so I figured I’d tilt at a windfarm or three.

      Just permanently deleted my account. Death by a hundred million cuts? Probably wont happen, but one can send a message, no matter how faint.

  3. ernesto1581 says:

    look: the prime directive of this outfit was articulated many years ago. it goes like this:
    “[because] they’re dumb fucks.”
    (m. zuckerberg.)

    All else, as the good rabbi said, is commentary.

  4. Ken Muldrew says:

    “Kill it now.”

    A consummation devoutly to be wish’d for, yet given this site’s hostility toward metaphor when talking about legal matters, I wonder if you or other readers have some concrete strategy in mind to accomplish this.

    Personally I favour the Universal Postal Union developing some shared protocols that can be used by each country’s post office to implement a social network as a public service. I don’t think the U.S. could really take the lead on this given the apparently malevolent aspirations of DeJoy, but this is not a program that requires a superpower to initiate. Imagine social networking being as benign as regular mail.

    [to be clear, I’m suggesting that Facebook could be neutralized by taking away a huge chunk of its users by providing an alternative that is funded by governments rather than surveillance capitalism…naively optimistic, I grant you; still, I am interested in finding out what other strategies people are thinking about.]

    • Rayne says:

      For starters, Facebook should be devolved into three entities which existed before acquisitions: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp.

      These companies should be banned from sharing data with each other.

      And I think any communications platform should be subject to regulation same as telecom companies.

      ADDER: “Kill it now” when referring to a trillion-dollar company with a global presence complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, is not the same as advocating the death of a human or group of humans. Let’s not lose site of the fact corporations are legal constructs and this particular behemoth is a monster among them.

      • J R in WV says:

        I’m pretty sure the Roberts Court has declared that corporations are “people” in the context of the law.

        Why then should corporations not be subject to the death penalty if they cause fatal harm to their “customers” — especially since no actual people would be physically harmed by the termination of the subject corporate entity. And in fact actual people would be saved from pain and suffering by the termination of the evil corporation…

        ETA: We’re talking genocide here, right? Put it down like a rabid dog!!!

    • rip says:

      Possibly. Back in the days, all the internet communication apps were open source and relied on transparency – both for the apps themselves and the communications.

      The corp types constantly saw ways to monetize these things.
      Mosaic -> Netscape -> Firefox and eventually the plague called IE.
      Sendmail -> millions of POP3 and SMTP commercial apps

      FB was developed using the internet and a open-source language (PHP). They monetized and controlled it. This is the failure.

      Of course all the major OS manufacturers had to develop their own proprietary version. Each with special bloatware and baggage and its own vulnerabilities.

      So, to shorten my history list. This is a bit like healthcare in the US. We’ve let people/companies control and monetize what used to be free and available to everyone. Maybe we should continue the process of letting a US government (or international effort) develop open and free and transparent clients.

      Not sure who would trust which government to do this without its own connivery…

      • Ken Muldrew says:

        Sure, there will be abuses of data collection by governments (but you may already know that this has been going on for some time now and on a rather shocking scale, too). The evil behind Facebook, however, is using the surveillance data to target susceptible populations with not just advertisements for crap that you don’t need, but also with political messaging and hits of endorphin-releasing, belief-reinforcing messages to stoke the addiction. All delivered privately so that people who might fight back are never made aware of propaganda circulating through their own neighborhoods (or even within their own families). When a private company does this, you can’t fire any of the executive officers, but when a public utility in a democracy does this, you can fire all the bosses (if you set it up properly, anyway…here I am checked by my own example of DeJoy at the USPS, who is inexplicably still in place).

        • J R in WV says:

          When? right now!

          Where? most of the rest of the world!

          Republicans keep us from having the good things the whole world already has!!

  5. Manwen says:

    I so appreciate this forum. Like other who post here, I am not a fan of FB. I never ventured into the space. I allowed my daughters, now in their late 20s, to use it in their later high school years, though we remained in communication about the online chatter. (I think they wanted me to stay off as they were so embarrassed for their friends when their parents starting friending their children’s friends.) I watched some extended family driven apart by extreme partisan fights over America’s politicized cultural wars. When FB became a publicly traded company, I did not understand where the profits came from. I learned about the nature of micro-targeting advertisement and began to understand how they were using all that apparent innocent profile information in increasingly rapacious and dangerous ways. The 2016 election made the impact of all of that so much more clear. And, whatever temptation I had to join to connect with dear old friends and distant family, was not going to overcome that.
    However, I do not see a path to putting Zuck’s Genie back into its bottle. Societies have tried to shut down new communication technologies throughout human history. It never happens. Society’s power centers have tried to ban everything from visual art to printing presses. They have banned groups from being taught to read and write. Human beings are communicating beings. Once a new technology is introduced, it cannot be undone. This hearing is setting the immediate future course. There will be regulations on how FB is used. Section 230 is almost certain to be repealed, the sooner the better. But, at the end of the day, a Facebook like platform will continue to exist. The guiding principle for regulators is how governments regulate the technology without converting that power into authoritarian regulation of public communications. The history of communication technologies informs us that, over time, we will learn how to live with this technology too. As in the past, there are negative consequences along the way. We have to find a way to protect the innocent during this period of transition.

      • ducktree says:

        See, The Red Line transit system used in Los Angeles before the auto industry slashed and burned it.

        See, also, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for the evidence.

    • rip says:

      Good statement (a bit of paragraphs would be nice.)

      I guess the only way to stuff a genie back in the bottle is to destroy both. And hope that a new bottle/genie will be created that can learn from the past.

      In our short stint on this planet, written communications seem to have only been present for 6,000+ years (IANAH). Stuff written way back when is still surfacing and still being decoded.

      Our current technology (terabytes on our laptops, etc.) will be far surpassed in 10-20-50 years. New ways of reading, analyzing, processing, and acting on this information will be hard for us now to understand. These genies are now going back into a bottle – without a total societal and probably physical meltdown.

      I have great hopes for future generations. And great fears for the other possible fork – destruction.

  6. Silly but True says:

    We’re very far along into U.S. Court of Appeals recognizing the public and public officials use social media as important functions of the modern “press” or public square. U.S. government needs a heavy hand and regulate Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo like the utilities they effectively are.

    For its part, Facebook is especially toxic and holds undue influence and especially needs a heavy hand.

    Also revoke all of the 230 nonsense and force Facebook and its ilk to accept the consequences of serving as the editor it is rather than uninvolved pass-through service not responsible for content it falsely claims to be.

  7. rattlemullet says:

    What was anyone expecting from a college student who developed the platform to denigrate and degrade women. Facebook is and has always been for fools.

    • EG says:

      “The Social Network”movie incorrectly portrayed Mark Z creating a survey at the launch of Facebook to rank women by their photos. The real story (acc. to articles that debunked the movie) was that both men’s and women’s photos were being voted on. Still gross but better to get the facts straight before shifting focus. The things the guy actually has done matter more.

      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it, facemash was Zuckerberg’s answer to Hot-or-Not.

        rattlemullet still has a point: Facebook’s underlying original concept was toxic. It wasn’t a tool to help people connect but a means to express base human feelings. Zuckerberg merely found a way to normalize expression of humans’ lowest sentiments otherwise restrained in face-to-face interaction,, and monetize this at scale.

    • Leoghann says:

      Many great people were once college students; some started their careers while still in college. The bigger problem with Zuckerberg is that he’s sociopathic and has Asperger’s Syndrome. One of the effects of Asperger’s is a lack of awareness of social cues. Sociopathy, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a lack of conscience or moral guideposts. Put the two together, and you have a person who can’t really discern what social norms are, and could really not give a damn. It’s all about success to him, no matter the cost to others.

      • AndTheSlithyToves says:

        Bandy Lee has been warning us about sociopaths for quite some time:
        Bandy X Lee, MD, MDiv | @BandyXLee1
        Our nation is in the grips of sociopaths, which essentially means mind manipulators. We need to build and maintain our mental health in order to resist becoming their pawns and patrons.
        10:59 PM · Oct 3, 2021·Twitter Web App

  8. obsessed says:

    Question for the lawyers (i.e., everyone but me): Is there any route to prosecuting Zuckerberg or the company, or is Congressional legislation the only hope for reducing the harm FB is causing?

    • Rayne says:

      Facebook violated a consent decree and had to pay a $5B fine. That apparently wasn’t enough. IANAL but IMO it will take prosecution for false statements before Zuckerberg catches the cluestick and perhaps removal by his own corporation’s board for lying to shareholders.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, yes. False statements to Congress and dishonesty to shareholders. Not saying either are likely or easy, but seem relevant.

  9. Frank Anon says:

    I’m disgusted every time my business forks over another $900 for Facebook advertising, but we live in a highly connected area that has killed the newspapers. Facebook and their ilk have literally destroyed the common manner of communicating what we sell to the community. Even direct phone solicitation can’t be done, as people won’t answer – imo because of the amount of time on the devices. Their destruction would bring back normalcy in how we speak, or at least open up multiple channels, perhaps. Yet until them, I either advertise on Facebook or have half or less patrons every event.

  10. Anomalous Cowherd says:

    I have never signed up to FascBook, never gone to look at FascBook, yet I still see megabytes of FascBook cookies or whatever every time I look at my web data. I feel like I’m being stalked. There oughta be a law against them monitoring the web usage of people who aren’t members. It’s more than annoying to have to use additional technical measures (VPN, live-boot OS with no persistence, etc) just to preserve a modicum of privacy. Going completely offline is damned difficult – if not impossible – in this day and age.

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t know how much protection it offers but at least Firefox has a Facebook Container feature which halts some Facebook tracking. If you use Google regularly it might not hurt to change your advertising ID regularly and to reboot your device to break any regular pinging between device and advertising database. Just because Google issues an ID doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t finding a way to use it to crossmatch other marketing and psychographic data. And of course, clear your history, cookies, cache on a regular and frequent basis.

      • Leoghann says:

        I’m not sure whether it was here or elsewhere, but a few months ago someone mentioned changing the default search engine in Firefox to Ask Jeeves. It’s such an obvious solution. And I have noticed a downturn in directed ads. The main thing I still notice is that Facebook starts giving me ads for things I look for on Amazon, usually within an hour or two.

        • Rayne says:

          Interesting. I haven’t had that experience with Firefox, but then I also use the Privacy Badger extension (which can be a little aggressive at times).

          Ask(.)com formerly known as Ask Jeeves isn’t a search engine and hasn’t been for more than a decade having left that field in 2010. It outsourced whatever search it does to some other entity while the business itself is now owned by InterActiveCorp (IAC). I can’t do any digging in Ask’s site to see if there is more information about the outsourced search feature because my VPN blocks Ask.

        • milestogo says:

          Duckduckgo and firefox is a good starting point for better privacy without too much hassle and good functionality. Adding a VPN and regularly clearing cookies and other caches with something like CCleaner is a good next step. I personally also do not use Google or any social media.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          DDG’s more recent, unlike earlier, versions use Giggle in more default settings and don’t allow deleting of certain options. Much less privacy conscious than before.

        • milestogo says:

          I did not know that about DDG, thanks. it’s hard to keep up but they’re still better than Google. CCleaner isn’t perfect but it does the job easily enough. I also tighten up and turn off all the Windows privacy settings. Linux would be better but I’m not willing to go that far. Privacy and security on the Net should not require a PhD to manage like it currently does for the average user

    • rip says:

      In addition to FB containers, there are lots of extensions/add-ons to all the browsers that will disable fb links. They are insidious and keep getting more so.
      uOrigin and Privacy Badger help a lot.

    • Neil says:

      A Firefox add-on called NoScript will help with this. Basically it makes it that you have to set different scripts to Trusted/Temporarily Trusted/Not Trusted/ etc.

      Default behaviour is that any script on a page you visit is not allowed to be run by your browser. So, the normal thing is that you would manually allow the minimum necessary scripts to allow the page to work acceptably. You choose what you want to allow to run and what not. Which means that things like facebook scripts will not run unless you manually allow them to.

      It does take some extra time to deal with, and on occasion becomes a bit of a goose chase to isolate which script is needed to allow something to work on a particular page, especially when the list of scripts on a page get into the dozens – but that’s not often. You then also come to appreciate simpler web pages.

      As you build up the usage of NoScript, over time, you accumulate “Trusted” settings (which the plug-in saves) and you only have to do the manual setting for new sites you’ve not been to before.
      Purchasing over the internet also tends to call up scripts that weren’t active on the page before so sometimes you’ll have to do parts of an online order twice to get the right scripts allowed.

      For whatever it’s worth.

  11. punaise says:

    I guess I’m an outlier here. I lightly use FB (and to some degree IG) to post scenic outdoor photos from hikes and travel, but also to stay marginally connected with a few relatives and plenty of folks from high school. I steer clear of the obvious data mining polls/questions and receive very little political content. I don’t get dragged down awful rabbit holes or get into shouting matches as I just scroll past shit like that if/when it pops up. All that said, I’m sure they know way more about me than I realize: that I’m researching e-bikes, camping gear and PV solar installers for starters.

    I could certainly get by wtthout it. Except for the pun threads. :~)

    • bmaz says:

      Tell me about the solar! We have a huge amount of roof space and, well, a lot of sun. Have always thought about it, and am again. Do you contemplate a battery storage system with it? I will never buy anything that benefits Musk, but Generac makes a similar storage system I believe.

      • BobCon says:

        I’ve been looking into it, and unfortunately there isn’t a lot of clear guidance. “Power From the Sun” by Don Chiras is the best book I’ve seen and I think it gives a lot of good information on different options. It’s a bit technical but not overwhelmingly so.

        A critical piece is whether you finance or not — financing tends to eat away a lot of the economic value, although some people go ahead on strictly environmental grounds.

        Payback also depends on whether you are feeding surplus electricity into the grid and getting paid for it (net metering) or storing in batteries. Batteries unfortunately don’t last as long as solar panels and need to be replaced from time to time, which adds to costs. Not all states and utilities have net metering systems, unfortunately.

        But I’ve found that there’s an unspoken, unchallenged assumption of a lot of solar boosters which just isn’t true — they think that the only viable solution is a 100% independent system, either charging batteries for nighttime needs, or feeding surplus electricity into the grid and getting credits for nighttime use.

        It’s actually viable to run a system which simply offsets a big chunk of your power needs and then you simply draw from the grid for the rest. A partial system is still good financially if you don’t borrow to pay for it, and cutting power consumption by, say, 60% is still a big benefit for the environment.

        • Ken Muldrew says:

          Another consideration is whether you live in an area with smoke from forest fires. The newer, more efficient panels are just knocked right out by smoke. This past summer here in Alberta, Canada, the number of days with almost no power production was staggering (I have some older panels that didn’t drop nearly as much, but they also only produce half as much power/area as the newer panels). This will be an ongoing issue for some regions as the forests will be burning for a while yet.

          In general, though, batteries are only warranted for off-grid (but the technology is changing rapidly). A reversible meter provided by your utility is the best option but, as BobCon points out, you can still get payback (and then some) just with household use.

        • punaise says:

          Living in the oft-smoky SF Bay Area, that is good to know.

          I’m just starting to dig into it as a homeowner (should know more based on my professional activity!). There is a confusing array of brokers, middlemen, vendors and products out there. Some folks refuse to consider Tesla on principle, and their service leaves a lot to be desired I hear.

          Battery wall would be for keeping essential circuits running during PG&E shutdowns due to high fire danger – gotta keep the fridge and freezer running, internet on, a few lights here and there. Plus charging the eventual e-car. Right-sizing to account for future mechanical goals here include switching from conventional gas furnace to electric heat pump; we’ll probably only keep gas for the range and the newish on-demand water heater.

          Beyond orientation and tree shading, not every roof shape is conducive to an efficient array of panels. Fire code requires three foot clearance around all edges (including the roof ridge) and at slope transitions. if you have a lot of the architectural features that can help make a home interesting (dormers, cross-gables, multiple hips) that really eats a way at the available roof real estate.

          BTW I’m deactivating my FB account today.

        • elcajon64 says:

          In a similar boat. I’d like to see more solutions that don’t feel like the main purpose is to enrich the middlemen. I also want as little to do with PG&E as possible.

        • BobCon says:

          From what I’ve read from solar advocates, if outages are only a few days a year the cost benefits of a natural gas backup generator outweigh batteries pretty significantly IF you already have gas service. And since batteries need to be replaced and you tend to need a lot, the environmental advantages of batteries over a few days of gas per year may not be significant.

          Another thing to consider is whether there are solar cooperatives. In some areas you can basically buy a share with a bunch of other people in a coop which plants a bunch of panels somewhere and you get credit on your bill for what it produces. Since big installations are generally more efficient than home installations, this can be a way to effectively zero out your emissions at a lower cost. Not all jurisdictions allow them, though.

        • J R in WV says:

          We were fortunate to ID a trustworthy Solar expert to install the whole set-up on our off the grid home in the SE Arizona mountains. His installed panels provide all we need, the lead-acid battery bank failed right on schedule. The installation cost about the same amount running the grid power lines to the house would have cost.

          But we also got a check from the power co-op because they didn’t have to account for us as a customer in their base requirements. Then we got a big federal tax credit. We have a small Honda generator in case of extended cloud events.

          In WV we’re on the grid, solar isn’t feasible because of our geography and forest. We are prone to frequent blackouts due to weather, and have a Generac plumbed into the natural gas line. IF you don’t have gas service, you can have a propane system installed. The Generac is the largest air-cooled unit, and powers everything but the central AC, those compressors take a big load. It also won’t power the deep well pump, which is several hundred feet away from the house/generator. Also selected and installed by local trustworthy retired mine electricians.

          There is no replacement for finding skilled and experienced AND HONEST tradesmen for these major installations, even after educating yourself as much as possible.

        • bmaz says:

          The large A/Cs (we have two) are the issue here. And the summer, when they are critical, is the issue.

        • milestogo says:

          bmaz, I was able to get educated on the matter by interestingly enough studying implimentations in the sailboat catamaran industry. The new ones are able to get long term independence through solar and lithium battery implimentation such that some sailors are going completely fuel free with aircon for long periods of time. Housing is clearly different but if I had a house, I would go the solar and Li battery route damn the expense. But then I’m more concerned with the nerd tech hobby aspect and energy independence than the economic viability.

        • pdaly says:

          There is a ‘solar hydrogen fuel’ house in NJ.

          It has been up and running for more than a decade.
          The homeowner is an engineer and he designed it himself as a proof of concept. Total cost of the system $500,000 but he is working on lowering the cost for future projects.

          In addition to storing hydrogen for use in the winter months, he also takes advantage of battery storage and geothermal.

          Hoping the safety issue of storing hydrogen in tanks on one’s property is fully worked out before it becomes widely available, given the risk of human error as well as the predictable risk of aging infrastructure going forward.

      • skua says:

        If heat from the sun is a major factor then roof-top solar panels have an advantageous passive effect – they cast shade on the existing roof.

        • Rayne says:

          I had been wondering what sun shades might do to reduce heat immediately surrounding the house. Fairly cheap to install and use; I know I need some here in Michigan on my south-facing deck which gets to be +100F during hottest part of summer.

  12. BobCon says:

    I think one straightforward approach to partially regulating Facebook will be to require extensive auditing and reporting on user numbers and penalize FB (and other major online companies) for misrepresenting their audiences to advertisers.

    Print and broadcast companies have long faced strict penalties, to the point of criminal sanctions, for inflating readership and ratings numbers. Anybody who follows online advertising knows how bad their numbers are. Ozy is just the latest example, but I would not be surprised if easily 25% of the eyeballs Facebook bills to advertisers are fakes.

    FB’s contract language may well limit advertiser suits, but there is no reason governments can’t regulate them heavily.

    I think FB could finally be forced to crack down on bad actors and stop the fiction that they can’t know whether troll accounts creates in Macedonia are real or not — if they can tell advertisers they know all of the under-65 IT industry sports car drivers in Lincoln Nebraska, they can block fake human accounts.

    This will help block the kinds of intimidation and incitement campaigns run by authoritarian regimes using fake accounts.

    And I think they can also be forced to crack down on the bogus sites they host like Ben Shapiro’s, which Joel Kaplan and Zuckerberg exempted from normal FB rules about audience numbers inflated by dubious traffic.

  13. Eureka says:

    Our girls, our girls, our children, our girls. So glad you’re posting about this, Rayne — one of many FB issues, sure, but one central in the Venn-est of all.

    I saw earlier on the news a vibrant child — full of the life force that typically shape-shifts, constricts, entering the t/w/een years [see _Reviving Ophelia_ and _The Body Project_]. Energy so bright I could taste it before my thoughts rebounded to our cultural culling procedures and FB’s role [I LMAO’d when some rather contracted sounding stats were released ~ last week from their self-selected sample polling on adverse FB impacts on body image in girls, e.g.. Treble the numbers and get back to me. Facebook is nothing but apex saturation in all the self-problematizing to-do lists American girls already face. And while we know that Black girls especially and BIPOC girls more generally are more resilient to some measures of this, they hardly escape it.]

    So, this girl I saw full of life: she’s one of three kids who’ll go to Game 4 of the World Series to compete (ca. :52 ~~ “It says that I’m good!”). She’s wearing some filthy headband (the brown parts are supposed to be eye-whites, so … should be white, I assume) which I believe she’s only explaining because TV (and it shall remain unwashed for her trip to the Series). Asked about her future softball aspirations, she instead says she wants to play professional football (wide receiver). You go, girl:

  14. Tom says:

    I’ve never been interested in having a FB page, mainly because life is too short and the older I get the more careful I am about how I use my waking hours. I generally have mixed feelings about social media and think of the internet as the world’s biggest bathroom book. There’s no free lunch and everything in life is a trade-off. I sometimes wonder whether the cavemen at Lascaux ever said to themselves in the midst of their cave painting: “Say, guys, how ’bout we knock off for a while. It’s too nice a day to be inside.”

    My main exposure to FB goes back a few years to when I was a child protection worker. Many of the parents I worked with were on FB, mainly I think because sign-up was free and because it was a way for people to communicate with each other when they couldn’t afford time on their cell-phones. Perhaps that’s why I always had the impression that FB was partly intended to appeal to a lower socio-economic group of people.

    People were also so unthinking in how they used FB. Parents would post photos of themselves sitting in a smoke-hazy living room holding a toddler on one knee and a Princess Leia bong on the other and then wonder why our agency would come knocking on their door. Or parents with a history of domestic violence who were under court order to have no contact with each would post photos of themselves having a beer together at the local bar. In these cases, I must admit, FB made our job easier as it provided evidence of child neglect and maltreatment in a way that we in protection services hadn’t had before.

    But FB also made for major headaches. Parents in custody/access disputes would keep tabs on and harass each other via FB. High risk birth parents whose children had been apprehended and adopted would go online to try and track down where their children were now living or going to school. Single mothers who might have traveled half-way across the country to escape an abusive or controlling boyfriend would live in fear that their ex might be able to somehow trace them via the internet or social media, or through her children’s online activity. Angry parents who’d had their children taken into care would set up FB pages to verbally attack and insult our agency as well as individual workers. So it was always a relief when I would be assigned a new case and would meet the parents–usually the younger ones–who would roll their eyes and tell me, “Oh, the internet, what a waste of time!”

    • Rayne says:

      I want to point out you’re technically using social media to read this site’s work and post your comment here; we don’t track you, we aren’t beholden to corporations’ ad dollars, we don’t share what data you expose. Social media and the internet are not inherently bad; it’s how they’re structured and used.

  15. Seouljer says:

    This is a great article! …I know I’ll share it with all my FB friends who already like all the same shit I do /s

  16. Christopher Blanchard says:

    No. No. No. That isn’t no to controlling Facebook or other social media, but a very big no to imagining this is new or different.

    Think, please, about the introduction of print from the 1440s. What that did was facilitate and partly cause the change from the savagery of medieval war to the much greater savagery of the sixteenth century wars of religion. We eventually get over that, with a lot of governmental attempts at control.

    Think, again, about the changes in printing technology from the late 19th century, which allowed, amongst lots of other things, the Hearst newspapers’ creation (they plausibly claimed) of the last Spanish – US war and the conquest of Cuba, and the Zinoviev letter which, in 1924, broke the first Labour government in Britain.

    If you are thinking about controls or regulation you must think in the long term – mass communication has vices and virtues. Don’t be parochial or limited in how you respond.

    • P J Evans says:

      Did you forget that old Ben was a printer before becoming a politician?
      And there was Zenger, also.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL If you think I’m advocating digital book burning you need to back up from your device and take a look at where you’re reading my bits and pixels today.

      The reason why Haugen appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee is the reason why Facebook needs to be regulated: this is NOT a legitimate business model when it relies on damaging users to obtain profits. The business model needs to be regulated which is not at all the same as regulating speech; there is NO constitutionally-protected right to profits let alone specific business models. There is NO right to injure others, especially not by way of a commons which was developed with and receives continued protection via tax dollars.

      Nail that to the doors of your personal church.

  17. may says:

    Tim Berners- Lee (it amazes me how many people who call themselves net knowlegable don’t know who he is)
    has (along with others) come up with


    any one know about it?

    i’m on the outside of the outside but as far as I can make out,

    anything posted on inrupt is property of the poster and only the poster.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, may. Good point! Here’s a useful article:

      “Can MIT’s Tim Berners-Lee Save the Web?”

      “Thirty years ago, MIT professor Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and altered the course of human history. Now, in the face of misinformation, malicious behavior, and the exploitation of personal data online, he’s determined to slay the beast it has become.” – Tom McGrath, 9/14/21

      • Neil says:

        Thanks very much for posting the link to that article !
        Very timely for me, in fact. Doing an online master’s in data science – I’ll be throwing the link at my colleagues now…

  18. pdaly says:

    I use Facebook but avoid using its automatic login/saved password feature.
    Despite logging off after every session, I invariably find I am still “logged in” in multiple sessions if I later check the FB privacy & security activity area. I’ve never shared my password and have changed it several times, so I believe those sessions are still me. I can delete all the existing sessions, but they accumulate again with time.

    The stickiness bothers me. It is as if FB treats my “log off” commands as mere requests for FB to take under advisement.

    • P J Evans says:

      They really need to fix that one, because it’s not what “log off” means.
      Some of the sites I use will log you off automatically after some time with no activity. That’s better than FB. (I occasionally forget to sign out of email.) Others leave you signed in until they go down; those I don’t mind, it’s expected behavior.

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