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Debate: Harmfulness of Facebook

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This House believes that Facebook does more harm than good

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

Privacy: Does Facebook infringe upon privacy rights?

Pro

  • Facebook news feeds generally makes people feel exposed and invaded: Danah Boyd, social networking scholar and blogger noted in 2006, "privacy is an experience that people have, not a state of data....When people feel exposed or invaded, there's a privacy issue."[1]
  • Many Facebook users don't understand the privacy implications of allowing news feeds (Therefore, News Feed should be an opt-in rather than an opt-out function). While it is true that users can opt-out of News Feed, this assumes that they would understand the implications of not opting out. The implication of not opting out of news feed is quite profound. Users can view every action you take on Facebook. This creates a general window of public observation of an individual's activities that can have a profound effect on the behaviour of that individual. Some cite this environment of constant observation as a panopticon, a “constant view of individuals through parasocietal mechanisms that influence behavior simply because of the possibility of being observed.” This environment of the constant potential for observation and surveillance dramatically effects behavior by making individuals constantly on-guard under the public observation glass. Yet, those that choose not to opt-out of "news feed" are not likely to consider the profound behavioral implications of these actions.

Con

  • Facebook's news-feed now has an off-switch, giving users the choice to adjust privacy settings. Choice is essential to privacy. If users can adjust privacy settings, than privacy issues largely disappear. It can no longer be argued in this context that Facebook or other social networking sites are violating the privacy of their users. Rather, the issue becomes that users are voluntarily opening themselves up to the world at their own risk.
  • Public information has a moderating effect on individuals. It is good that information about individuals is made more public. Social judgment has a positive moderating effect. Confucius actually said that he was very lucky that all of his actions were publicly scrutinized, as it ensured that he was careful and prudent in making decisions. Similarly, News Feed may make an individual think twice before they join an extremist group on Facebook, as it might risk a negative backlash of judgment from those in their network that view that action on News Feed.

Friendships: Does Facebook harm relationships?

Pro

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Con

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Information: Does Facebook help spread "undesirable" information? Does it matter?

Pro

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Con

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Crime: Does Facebook present a threat?

Pro

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Con

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Unique harms: Are there any harms unique to Facebook?

Pro

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Con

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Human factor: Is it Facebook, or its users doing harm?

Pro

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Con

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Commercial use of info: Is the commercial use of personal information unethical?

Pro

  • It is unethical for social network sites to use personal information to enable advertisers to better target you as a consumer. Personal information should not be used for commercial purposes. It is too invasive, and can cause emotional damage. For example, what if your profile indicates that your boy friend just broke up with you, for example. An ad agency is allowed to obtain this information and use it to send you an advertisement on break-ups. This could do emotional damage.

Con

  • Social networking sites have agreements that explicitly say that information can be used commercially in any way. If an individual doesn't want their information to be used commercially, than they shouldn't enter into agreements with these social networking sites. Or, they should close their account.
  • More targeted advertising is of greater value to the consumer. Why should we complain that advertisers will have more information about us to advertise to us things that we are more interested in buying? Advertising is not evil. Ads inform the consumer of a product that they may judge to be of value in their lives and worth spending money on. No product is being forced on consumers by ads, but offered as something that the consumer might deem worthy to purchase. Therefore, it should be welcome that social networking sites offer advertising firms information that can bring products of greater potential value to a particular consumer's attention.

See also

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