😵‍💫 We are tired of Facebook scandals

Still, we have to talk about them as no one has figured out what to do.

👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.

In this edition

  • Facebook Files, again

  • Most popular podcasts on Apple are owned by Amazon

  • Planet Squid Game

Facebook whistleblower says there is still a chance to fix the social network, maybe with more focus on algorithms than content

Is Facebook evil? This week, I was a guest on a daily news podcast [here, in Slovak], and the host asked me this question. I seemingly surprised him with a negative answer and I cannot stop thinking about it.

I do believe Facebook, the social network, is a tool. Tools aren’t good or bad, they are what humans make them. In the case of Facebook, the company, the decisions were made to turn Facebook, the social network, and Instagram into money-making operations at all costs as the Facebook Files investigation has shown so far.

This week, we have seen Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower testify before congress (OK, maybe not all of us watched as it took 5 hours, you can watch the whole thing here).

Some said there was little to nothing new that we got to know from the hearing but most who watched or otherwise followed the testimony have seen an ex-employee talking about the inner workings, decision-making on the highest level from the first-hand perspective. Not some report that was written by a journalist who was approached by a leaker.

Frances Haugen was so compelling that watching the reactions from lawmakers and media alike formed a strong narrative of an ex-employee trying to make the company accountable and never trying to speak more than she knew about.

What should be the next steps? I would love some independent researchers to look at the data in question and evaluate it. Also, Facebook should just publish all of its internal research regarding the well-being of users, especially kids.

Obviously, there is no simple solution. Some tech journalists who I have been following for years and who report daily on the company think the biggest problem is Mark Zuckerberg and overall accountability.

If regulation is the answer (it wasn’t after the Cambridge Analytica), then it should not be only about Facebook. Lawmakers should look at the rest of the major social networks and compel them to release the same documents that Facebook is criticized for now.

Still, the market seems to be working, TikTok is on the rise, so is Telegram and Signal. Maybe time would be the best regulator. The problem is, Facebook is causing harm at the moment.

And yes, I am tired of writing about it, people are tired hearing and reading about it. But we are past the point we can ignore what’s happening at the company.

Useful reading:

  • Mark Zuckerberg breaks silence to say the Facebook whistleblower’s claims ‘don’t make any sense’. [The Verge]

  • Facebook seems to be in a slow, steady decline, evidenced by frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, and talent attrition. [NYT]

  • Facebook runs the coward’s playbook to smear the whistleblower. The Big Tobacco playbook is underway. [The Verge]

  • The Facebook whistleblower says its algorithms are dangerous. Here’s why. [MIT Tech Review]

  • How to fix Facebook. [NYT]

Other Facebook-related news:

  • Senators grilled Facebook exec Antigone Davis at a hearing about Instagram's impact on teens and were frustrated by her reticence to answer questions directly. Watched about two hours of it, was kind of frustrating. [TechCrunch]

  • The Facebook outage: What happened. [NYT]

📲 Android 12 is out. Lots of new things there and big redesign. [The Verge]

🖥 Windows 11 is out. The reviews are mixed, but mostly positive. [The Verge]

💻 Microsoft Surface Pro 8 review: new modern look, 120Hz display, and improved stylus, but it is expensive, accessories aren't included, and ports are limited. [The Verge]

👨‍⚕️ Fascinating: An ophthalmologist details using the iPhone 13 Pro's macro camera to document changes in his patients' eyes, for which he previously had a $15K setup. But think of this in the context of all high-end smartphone cameras and how good they have gotten. Bet you there are others like this doctor using non-Apple devices. [PetaPixel]

💸 Apple brought in more profits from games than Xbox, gaming giants Nintendo and Activision Blizzard and PlayStation in its fiscal year 2019. So there is a reason the company wants to stay a gatekeeper, in 2019 there were exactly 8.5 billion reasons… [WSJ]

😧 This is bad: Twitch confirms major data breach after its source code and secrets leak out. [The Verge]

  • Twitch leaks reveal the Critical Role Twitch channel has earned $9.6M USD over the course of three years. The famous Dungeons & Dragons players have accumulated an active and adoring fanbase since 2015 when they started airing their first campaign. [WEPC]

👉 Google News Shh-owcase: Publishers break silence over secret deals behind a $1bn scheme. Google knows how to make friends (with money). [Press Gazette]

📺 South Korean Netflix series Squid Game will likely become the streamer’s biggest show ever, topping Bridgerton and Witcher. The idea that a non-US show becomes so huge was unthinkable only a few years ago. Now, Netflix is tapping into something other streaming platforms will probably follow. Watched it, it’s a great show. [Vulture]

📈 Disney+ will pass Netflix in global subscriptions in 2025, a new forecast predicted. [MediaPost]

  • On a related note: A new research report indicates Prime Video has approximately 14.6 million subscribers in Japan, compared to 6 million for Netflix and 1.8 million for Disney+. [HR]

📬 Another Substack competitor emerges. Beehiiv sits somewhere between Substack (free to start) and Ghost (you pay a flat monthly fee). The proposition is really nice. [Axios]

🤔 Another report confirms that casual readers are a big opportunity for publishers. And the way to get them to subscribe is introductory offers, identifying certain segments of them and adjusting the value proposition. So no, it’s not rocket science. [NiemanLab]

1️⃣ Impossible to shut down: The WhatsApp distribution model developed by African media. Pan-African media The Continent exists only on messaging apps, insulating it from threats by authoritarian regimes. [by Daryna Shevchenko]

2️⃣ Two very different things we can learn from African and Scandinavian media. Insights on product thinking from across the world of media. [by David Tvrdon]

3️⃣ Not quite Signal, not yet WeChat: can Telegram fulfill its ambitious mission? Telegram has superior user experience going for it. Now it needs to manage abuse by bad actors and monetization. [by Bohuslav Romanenko]

4️⃣ Google keywords matching in 2021. Worth reading if one of your Google advertising objectives is to increase traffic to the site. [by Sofiia Padalko]

5️⃣ How to fight the power of fear and polarization. Journalists have the tools to get people engaged in solving local problems. [by James Breiner]

[ 📬 Get The Fix newsletter delivered to your inbox every week with the latest insights, news, and analysis about the European media market. Sign up here > ]

€ Apple revealed the most popular podcast subscriptions and free channels. At the top of the paid chart sits the Amazon-owned Wondery Plus channel, among free channels The New York Times’ 25 show-strong offering is the most popular. [Variety]

🎙 Anchor has announced a bunch of new features. Finally, the Q&A and Polls feature is available worldwide. And podcasters in the US will have more options to monetize their podcasts via ads. [Anchor blog]

🎧 The history of the word 'Podcast'. [Podnews]

📊 Gen-Z podcast statistics: 50% use Spotify, Gen-Zers turned to podcasts to keep track of current events and news, or after being introduced to podcast clips on Youtube, TikTok, Instagram, and other social channels. [Transistor]

👀 A big product update from Descript. I am most excited about the Studio Sound 1.0 feature. [Descript blog]

😲 Amazon has a smash hit on its hands — a new computer game with hundreds of thousands of players. The PC video game “New World” is the smash hit Amazon has been waiting for. [CNBC]

❓📊 Poll: Which is the ‘one’ Big Tech company you could not live without?

  1. Amazon

  2. Apple

  3. Facebook

  4. Google

  5. Microsoft

  6. Other

🙌 Thanks. I used HandyPolls to create this poll (instructions).

Last poll results: 50% want an audio edition, 17% would even pay for it, 33% don’t want it.

🙏 And big thanks to my editor Celine Bijleveld. Follow her on Substack here.

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