What the Facebook copyright hoax says about us

by Charles Miller on October 1, 2015

My friends on Facebook are generally a tech-literate and cynical bunch, so the ratio of people who fell for the recent spate of “Repost this legalese to regain control of your content” chain-mail hoaxes vs the people who have posted sarcastic reactions to it is about one to twelve.

And that bugs me.

We (the tech industry, but more broadly society) have created these Internet agoras. To members, these sites are vital means of maintaining contact with friends and loved ones, of not feeling left out of important parts of their lives. But the same people will grasp at the most tenuous of straws if it gives them a slight hope that they might claw back some sense of ownership, safety and control.

Every time a social media site changes its defaults, loosens its privacy settings or tightens its licensing, we tend to take lack of action by its members as tacit acceptance that privacy and ownership just don't matter. Hoaxes like this tell us otherwise. People feel trapped and helpless in a complex, baffling system. They want a way to assert control over their online lives, and they don't understand why it's not as simple and obvious as saying “I wrote this. I took these photos. They are mine.”

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