Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute have published a study projecting ‘the future accumulation of profiles belonging to deceased Facebook users’. Carl Öhman and David Watson used the social network’s ‘audience insights’ data, which businesses use to target their adverts, to find out how many ‘monthly active users’ of different ages there are across the world, and combined this with life expectancy data to create their models. If Facebook continues to grow at its current rate, by 2100 it will host the accounts of 4.9 billion dead people.
The Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have just announced the birth of their first child, a daughter named Max. Procreation has apparently turned Zuckerberg’s thoughts towards his legacy. In ‘A letter to our daughter’ posted (where else?) on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg explains that he and Chan want their daughter to ‘grow up in a better world than ours today’. The post was ‘liked’ by more than a million people, including Melinda Gates, Shakira and Martha Stewart. In response to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s congratulations, Zuckerberg wrote that Max ‘is clearly going to be a Lean In girl!’, referring to Sandberg’s 2013 handbook for women who aspire to be CEOs.
In late April, an amateur video of Israeli army aggression in the occupied West Bank began to circulate online. The content was neither new nor surprising: a soldier shoving, kicking and pointing his gun at unarmed Palestinian teenagers in Hebron’s old city. What was new, however, was the form and scale of the public response. When the soldier was suspended, the Israeli public mobilised on social media in unprecedented numbers to support their ‘brother in arms’. Pundits called it the army’s first ‘digital rebellion’. Thousands of soldiers uploaded mobile snapshots of themselves holding handwritten protest banners: ‘We are with David the Nahalite’ (the suspended soldier was in the Nahal Infantry Brigade). In some of the selfies, the message was written on the soldiers’ half-naked bodies; in others it was spelled out in ammunition. The meme then spread to civilians, who uploaded pictures of themselves at home or at work, with pets and household objects rather than guns.
This was a big week for Facebook feminism. A worldwide coalition of feminist groups, led by the UK's Everyday Sexism Project and Women, Action and the Media in the US, have been challenging Facebook's advertisers (mostly via Twitter) to suspend their ads until the platform agrees to remove some straightforwardly offensive images making hitting and raping women sound like fun. (They are depressingly easy to find on the internet. A couple is having dinner, a single rose in a vase on the table: 'Win her over... with chloroform.' This is the tame end.) If asking the advertisers to ask Facebook to ask whoever posted the images to take them down sounds like a roundabout way of going about things, that's because it is: Facebook, who have censored photos of breastfeeding in the past, had already vetted the images and didn't think they violated 'Facebook's Community Standard'. On Wednesday they backed down and issued a statement setting out how they were going to change their moderators' ways.
Binyamin Netanyahu recently paid for advertising space on Facebook: Dear citizen: In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, but our enemies will fail. I invite you to join my Facebook page. Happy Passover. After this campaign, Netanyahu's page boasted ten times as many ‘Likes’ as that of Sheli Yechimovich, the leader of the Labor Party. But her staff revealed that only 17 per cent of them were from Israelis. More than half were from Americans, and 5000 were from admirers in Indonesia.
It has become commonplace to describe the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as Facebook or Twitter revolutions; and almost as commonplace to respond that the role of social media in popular insurgencies has been exaggerated. Less attention, however, has been paid to states’ use of these technologies as PR and counterinsurgency tools. Look at Israel, for instance.
Last weekend the Observer carried a dramatic account of 'The Gaza Youth Manifesto', written in English by a handful of young people in Gaza and posted on Facebook. Given the thousands of people in the West who have said they 'like' it on Facebook or posted positive comments, the manifesto is said to herald a new movement for change in occupied Palestine.