It’s the Ides of March, and Facebook is big mad because it gave MIT Tech Review’s Karen Hao lots of access and she turned around and stabbed it in the back1, by writing an honest story about how Facebook isn’t even slightly interested in fixing the problems with its “engagement over all else” model. Facebook sells a toxic product that’s engineered to be as addictive as possible, like if R.J. Reynolds had been a waxy Harvard nerd instead of a tobacco farmer. That comparison is not even mine, it comes from a Facebook employee who asked if “Facebook was like a tobacco company funding research to show its products were not a problem” during a webinar about the ”playbook” staff were given to help them explain that their employer is not destroying society, a totally normal document that any company might distribute.
The blundering damage-control effort also included Facebook’s CTO Mike Schroepfer and its Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun reply-guying Hao on Twitter. Facebook used to be notoriously tight-lipped and leakproof, so the fact that it can’t currently prevent C-level execs from sea-lioning a random reporter on a rival social network is maybe not a great sign. Schroepfer also talked to Platformer’s Casey Newton, where he described Hao’s article as “pick[ing] on a team at the company,” which it was very clearly not. Outgoing Tech Review editor Gideon Lichfield (on his way to Wired as part of the great Shuffling Of The White Dudes kicked off by Nick Thompson taking a CEO job at The Atlantic) posted a useful thread walking through the less public parts of Facebook’s PR strategy. Meanwhile, internal research at Facebook shows that just “111 users contributed half of all vaccine hesitant content.” It’s a tiny population, yes, but a dedicated team of AI scientists is currently researching cutting edge ways to maximize their reach and engagement.
Our own regrettable platform Substack tried again to explain why paying writers an advance to write isn’t “publishing.” Rick Paulas is trying to compile a list of Substack Pro writers, on Substack itself of course. Jude Ellison S. Doyle is giving free subscriptions to trans folk. Jess Zimmerman is planning to leave. Dan Hon observed that with a tier of paid contributors and a tier of free contributors, Substack “looks just like how Forbes.com works.” Kelsey Atherton points out that keeping the Pro writers secret “makes transparency and accountability on hires impossible.” Substack CEO Chris Best says that the Pro list isn’t a secret, it’s just that “some folks would rather avoid being in conversations like this one, and we respect that.” How nice for them!
Today in The Suburbs: Daisy Alioto on “TikTok and Suburban Gothic” in Dirt. Carl Hiaasen, longtime chronicler of America’s most suburban state, Florida, has ended his run at the Miami Herald. And no one can doubt this Pennsylvania mom’s commitment to Sparkle Motion.
An NFT collector was robbed on Nifty Gateway, kicking off what is sure to be a whole new wave of rich people discovering what the word ”immutable” means. Others are reporting the same. According to The Verge, Nifty Gateway says there’s no evidence the platform is compromised. Artnet talked to the buyers of the $69 million Beeple, and they seem… nice 😎. And The Verge’s Justine Calma wrote about “The Climate Controversy Swirling Around NFTs.” Could crypto be made more energy efficient? No! (But maybe! (But no)).
Rosamund Pike is trying to grow an Oscar by planting her Emmy and BAFTA in the garden. As good a plan as any, and better than some. Today in Holzer: ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE. Escape your Zooms and therefore all remaining human contact with Zoom Escaper. The hardest thing in game design is doors. Go reset your “Days Since Elon Musk Made Us All Go: ‘This Fucking Guy!’” board back to zero because Musk is now “Technoking of Tesla” and the company’s CFO is “Master of Coin,” according to an actual SEC filing. Let’s spin the Wheel of Discourse: round and round it goes, and it looks like today… Bari Weiss and Bill Maher endorse Chinese Communism. Ok!
Today’s Song: Slint, “Carol”
~ The boy's face went pale. He recognized the tab. ~
Et tu MIT?