At the time of writing Facebook claims 59 million active users, including 7 million in the UK, Facebook's third-biggest customer after the US and Canada. That's 59 million suckers, all of whom have volunteered their ID card information and consumer preferences to an American business they know nothing about. Right now, 2 million new people join each week. At the present rate of growth, Facebook will have more than 200 million active users by this time next year. And I would predict that, if anything, its rate of growth will accelerate over the coming months. As its spokesman Chris Hughes says: "It's embedded itself to an extent where it's hard to get rid of."PLEASE WATCH THIS:
But there are more reasons to hate it. Many more.
Facebook is a well-funded project, and the people behind the funding, a group of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, have a clearly thought out ideology that they are hoping to spread around the world. Facebook is one manifestation of this ideology.
Although the project was initially conceived by media cover star Mark Zuckerberg, the real face behind Facebook is the 40-year-old Silicon Valley venture capitalist and futurist philosopher Peter Thiel. There are only three board members on Facebook, and they are Thiel, Zuckerberg and a third investor called Jim Breyer from a venture capital firm called Accel Partners (more on him later). Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook when Harvard students Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskowitz went to meet him in San Francisco in June 2004, soon after they had launched the site. Thiel now reportedly owns 7% of Facebook, which, at Facebook's current valuation of $15bn, would be worth more than $1bn. There is much debate on who exactly were the original co-founders of Facebook, but whoever they were, Zuckerberg is the only one left on the board, although Hughes and Moskowitz still work for the company.
Theil is the co-founder and CEO of the virtual banking system PayPal, which he sold to Ebay for $1.5bn, taking $55m for himself. He also runs a £3bn hedge fund called Clarium Capital Management and a venture capital fund called Founders Fund. He has made money by betting on rising oil prices and by correctly predicting that the dollar would weaken.
But Thiel is more than just a clever and avaricious capitalist. He is a futurist philosopher and neocon activist. A philosophy graduate from Stanford, in 1998 he co-wrote a book called The Diversity Myth, which is a detailed attack on liberalism and the multiculturalist ideology that dominated Stanford. He claimed that the "multiculture" led to a lessening of individual freedoms. Thiel is a member of TheVanguard.Org, an internet-based neoconservative pressure group that was set up to attack MoveOn.org, a liberal pressure group that works on the web.
TheVanguard is run by one Rod D Martin, a philosopher-capitalist whom Thiel greatly admires. Their aim is to promote policies that will "reshape America and the globe". The chairman's message says: "Today we'll teach MoveOn [the liberal website], and the leftwing media some lessons they never imagined."
So, Thiel's politics are not in doubt. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment:
Thiel's philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks.
The internet is immensely appealing to neocons such as Thiel because it promises a certain sort of freedom in human relations and in business, freedom from pesky national laws, national boundaries and suchlike.
Facebook is a deliberate experiment in global manipulation, and Thiel is a bright young thing in the neoconservative pantheon, with a penchant for far-out techno-utopian fantasies.
The third board member of Facebook is Jim Breyer. He is a partner in the venture capital firm Accel Partners, who put $12.7m into Facebook in April 2005. On the board of such US giants as Wal-Mart and Marvel Entertainment, he is also a former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Now these are the people who are really making things happen in America, because they invest in the new young talent, the Zuckerbergs and the like. Facebook's most recent round of funding was led by a company called Greylock Venture Capital, who put in the sum of $27.5m. One of Greylock's senior partners is called Howard Cox, another former chairman of the NVCA, who is also on the board of In-Q-Tel. What's In-Q-Tel? Well, believe it or not (and check out their website), this is the venture-capital wing of the CIA. After 9/11, the US intelligence community became so excited by the possibilities of new technology and the innovations being made in the private sector, that in 1999 they set up their own venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel, which "identifies and partners with companies developing cutting-edge technologies to help deliver these solutions to the Central Intelligence Agency and the broader US Intelligence Community (IC) to further their missions".
The US defence department and the CIA love technology because it makes spying easier. "We need to find new ways to deter new adversaries," defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003. "We need to make the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of our transformation efforts." In-Q-Tel's first chairman was Gilman Louie, who served on the board of the NVCA with Breyer. Another key figure in the In-Q-Tel team is Anita K Jones, former director of defence research and engineering for the US department of defence, and - with Breyer - board member of BBN Technologies.
"We want everyone to be able to use Facebook," says the impersonal voice of Big Brother on the website. I'll bet they do.
More you may also be interested in:
If you're a Facebook member, a career as a government spook is only a click away.
Since December 2006, the Central Intelligence Agency has been using Facebook.com, the popular social networking site, to recruit potential employees into its National Clandestine Service.The search for better spies led the NCS to set up shop on Facebook, which is used primarily by college students.
However, dealings between social networks and the government may raise the hackles of citizens concerned about their privacy online.
"If (the CIA) knows about Facebook, and they have a page on Facebook, it would be surprising if they weren't using it in other ways," says Nicole Ozer, civil liberties and technology policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
Ozer says that there's no way we can be sure what the CIA is up to online.
"It seems if they would go to the trouble to infiltrate peace groups that they are also online looking at information."
Just for fun, try substituting the words 'Big Brother' whenever you read the word 'Facebook' and please pay close attention to #6:
1 We will advertise at you"We want everyone to be able to use Facebook," says the impersonal voice of Big Brother on the website. I'll bet they do.SOURCE
"When you use Facebook, you may set up your personal profile, form relationships, send messages, perform searches and queries, form groups, set up events, add applications, and transmit information through various channels. We collect this information so that we can provide you the service and offer personalised features."
2 You can't delete anything
"When you update information, we usually keep a backup copy of the prior version for a reasonable period of time to enable reversion to the prior version of that information."
3 Anyone can glance at your intimate confessions
"... we cannot and do not guarantee that user content you post on the site will not be viewed by unauthorised persons. We are not responsible for circumvention of any privacy settings or security measures contained on the site. You understand and acknowledge that, even after removal, copies of user content may remain viewable in cached and archived pages or if other users have copied or stored your user content."
4 Our marketing profile of you will be unbeatable
"Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg, photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience."
5 Opting out doesn't mean opting out
"Facebook reserves the right to send you notices about your account even if you opt out of all voluntary email notifications."
6 The CIA may look at the stuff when they feel like it
"By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States ... We may be required to disclose user information pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or in compliance with applicable laws. We do not reveal information until we have a good faith belief that an information request by law enforcement or private litigants meets applicable legal standards. Additionally, we may share account or other information when we believe it is necessary to comply with law, to protect our interests or property, to prevent fraud or other illegal activity perpetrated through the Facebook service or using the Facebook name, or to prevent imminent bodily harm. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, agents or government agencies."