Monday, July 8, 2013

On The First Amendment And Market Forces...

Something I've been seeing more and more lately is the "ZOMG Facebook won't allow [X]". This is the latest permutation on the "ZOMG eBay won't sell [X]" or "ZOMG PayPal won't accept orders for [X]." Now, while eBay and PayPal are services that your actual money goes to, Facebook does not cost anything nor do they owe you anything.

If they change the settings without telling you? That's their perogative. Annoying-as-hell ads on your mobile device? Same same. Blocking sites or posts of a certain nature? Ditto. If you don't like it, you're 100% free to start your own social network that allows [X] and doesn't block certain content. You're using their free service for free - you're getting what you pay for. If you don't like it, the digital door is right there.

They're not squelching free speech if they decide that pro-[hot button issue X] posts are over the line and delete them. They are a private entity - they are not beholden to the concept of free speech. It's especially ironic when you consider that it's a free service... While the First Amendment means the .gov won't kick down your door for something you post online (unless you're in Massachusetts, that is), it has dick-all to do with what Facebook will allow you to post on their website.

TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Robert Heinlein's pithy maxim from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" has never been more applicable than when dealing with the book of face. Being able to connect with friends and interact with folks from all over the world - for free - means that you accept their terms. If those terms mean dealing with popup ads or not being able to see certain content, well, you either accept it or you don't.

But don't complain that the free service is selling your data or prohibiting certain content. When you are free to leave, free to start a competing service, and don't have to invest one red cent, you either take it or leave it. It's a lot like complaining that the free car you got from the dealership down the road doesn't have a CD player and is in the wrong color. Of course, in this case it'd be a free Hyundai, but still...

Then again, like the expression goes, some folks would complain if you hung 'em with a new rope...

That is all.


Anonymous said...

A key thing to know on-line is if you aren't paying for a product or service... you are the product.

Dave H said...

I've had to remind a couple of people that the first word in the First Amendment is "Congress." It's not "Facebook" or "Google" or "The New York Times" or your favorite forum.

Sailorcurt said...

So what are you saying here? That people shouldn't complain when a service they use has a problem?

I'll agree that if you don't like it, you shouldn't support them by patronizing them.

That's why I don't have a Paypal account, don't use Google services of any kind and don't use E-bay. (full disclosure: I have a Facebook account, but only because that's my kids' primary means of communication. I don't post anything there that I don't want the world to know about).

Yes, it's inconvenient for me because I find myself left out of some things and there isn't a good competitor to Paypal.

Oh well, that's the price I have chosen to pay.

But it seems to me that your implying that people who choose not to make that (not insignificant) sacrifice should just shut the hell up when the companies they support don't do things the way they think they should.

I disagree in the strongest possible terms. Public outcry about things like this can often drive companies to change their policies. Granted, it's more difficult without the threat of "taking my ball and going home" and, in the case of Paypal, MUCH more difficult when there are no serious competitors to whom your detractors may turn.

Just because Paypal, Ebay, Facebook etc, have the right to do the things that are being decried, doesn't mean that the complainers don't have the right to complain about them.

I've done business with many companies over the years that I would recommend to others, but with whom I've had problems. I would never recommend the company to anyone else without fully disclosing the problems I'd had as well as the good points about the product or services provided.

Does that make me a complainer? Should I just shut up about it and let others figure out the bad parts on their own?

I don't disagree with you often, but on this one, I think you're flat wrong.

Bubblehead Les. said...

On the Gripping Hand, I'm old enough to recall that there wasn't a FaceBook 10 years ago, and I lived a perfectly fine life without it then, and am doing so even as we speak.

Nor do I Paypal, eBay and I use Amazon only for Books.

And since most of what I like to read comes from Baen, Amazon hasn't seen me for years.

Now if CunBroker gets boiught out by one of those InterWeb Monopolies, THEN there'll be an Issue. But until then....

Bubblehead Les. said...

Nor do Iz uze SpelChek...

Dave H said...

Sailorcurt: People who complain about the "violation of their First Amendment rights" by a non-governmental entity are tiresome and plainly don't understand what it really means. Shoupld they complain if they're unhappy? Absolutely. Even Facebook occasionally bends to user feedback. But claiming it's a Constitutional issue spoils their credibility.

(P.S. I'm not speaking for Jay. This is just my own take on the subject.)

Sailorcurt said...

I get your point Dave, and I see that this was a major part of Jay's point. If it had ended with a lecture on the first amendment, I'd have had no complaint (there I go, being a complainer again).

It was the whole "just shutup already" tone that I disagree with.

"But don't complain that the free service is selling your data or prohibiting certain content."

Why not? Just because someone makes the decision that the benefits of the service outweigh the costs, doesn't mean they shouldn't complain about those costs in an effort to get them reduced, or at least warn others about them in advance.

In my humble opinion.

OK...maybe not so humble, but it is an opinion.