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Official June 2011 Monthly Guest Blogging Contest Post #5
Contest Article

Free Software Foundation (FSF) is an organization that campaigns for the freedom of usage of softwares. They support things like open source and programs under the GNU General Public License where users have the right to use the programs free from any limitations mostly found on proprietary softwares.

When we think of proprietary softwares, or softwares under some license that holds and limits the users of the program to the terms suggested by the company or the creators, what product would immediately register on our minds? Of course, the oh-so-famous Microsoft products.

When Windows 7 became live on 2009, FSF immediately created a campaign “Windows 7 Sins” stating the things that Microsoft yet again brought to existence – the monopoly role of the said product on our regular computing lives, the terms to carry on our shoulders, the limitations included that prevents the users from expanding their knowledge and the right to know about everything they need to know about the product they are using, and so on, and so forth.

But recently, a post against the usage of the social networking site Facebook caught my interest.

You Won't Find Us on Facebook

 

What’s with Facebook that made them against it?

We all know that we are free to use Facebook as we are not paying anything to use it. Nonetheless, what ‘free’ on the Free Software Foundation means is the freedom to use, not ‘free’ as in free beer – the analogy they always use to define the word free. But we are free to use Facebook, right? Or are we not?

FSF is claiming that by using Facebook, we are not communicating with other people directly; that we are communicating with Mr. Zuckerberg first before the person we are interacting with. Sounds legit? Yes, I can tell. Some posts, especially on your Status, will first be checked by the system before you send it. If it contains some malicious and distasteful content, it will not be posted. That’s the same as links, if you post links (e.g., links under famous URL shorteners like bit.ly), you need to enter the words to a CAPTCHA test first before it is posted.

Is filtering depriving users their freedom to post whatever they want? As we all know, filtering is for security purposes, to prevent abuse from users. But is preventing abuse a deprivation of freedom?

“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good,
in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs,
or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
– John Stuart Mill

Well, a system could not possibly detect the main purpose of a user when submitting a post. Unlike humans, it cannot instantly tell that a certain post is made for malicious purposes or not. It could detect only a little. So is the system’s inability to fully detect the purpose of the user a flaw to the whole system? I don’t think so. It’s like cursing a dog for not being able to purr.

Another thing is the tracking system used by Facebook to detect Likes and Recommendations on a page that contains it – that even non-Facebook users’s information will be logged and that these information could be used to invade the users’ privacy. One almost high type of a speculation (but is not impossible), is that it could be used by the government on surveillance purposes.

And so they are suggesting that we use the alternatives which passed their requirements of a free software (again, free as in freedom not free beer.) The alternatives mentioned are GNU Social, Status.net, Crabgrass, Appleseed, and Diaspora.

What makes it sound absurd?

Of all the alternatives mentioned, I’ve only heard of Diaspora. What makes Facebook effective as a social networking site is that you could really network with people you want to interact to. The problem with FSF’s alternatives is – it’s like suggesting us to connect with ghosts. We all know that not all Facebook users are geeks, and you just can’t tell them to leave Facebook and create an account on Crabgrass or GNU Social. The tech geeks you could convince; but social networking isn’t about all people with same interests together, else just create a forum site or something similar to deviantArt.

Facebook has contributed a great role to drive traffic to our before-unknown spaces on the web. Could social media enthusiasts live without Facebook for the sake of this campaign? What left me thinking is – is there any similarity between Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg that made them trigger the “dislike” button for both?

How about you?

Do you use Facebook? Do you regularly use it? Are you willing to give up using Facebook and migrate to the said alternatives? If yes, will you (or could you) convince your friends to migrate, too? Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions.

 

About Gian Faye Paguirigan

A 19-year old Web Enthusiast from the Philippines. She started blogging last August 2010 - went on a hiatus for months - and returned to the blogosphere on Febuary 2011. She blogs Loading-Info, which she habitually calls L-I. More >>

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