And we ought to.
A couple of weeks ago, we at PRL made a post lambasting Facebook for recent changes to their algorithm and service. These changes have made it harder for our page to grow and for people to see our posts. We have over 100,000 fans and our posts have gone from reaching millions in a week (last year) to 200,000 if we were lucky. What actually prompted that particular post was seeing our reach literally cut in half overnight. It’s important to us that our fans be able to see the content that we post, so we were justifiably upset when we noticed this happening.
We received a lot of support from fans and a lot of shares on an image that contained a message to Facebook complaining about the issue. The message made some reasonable demands, like allowing people to sort their timelines how they would like and letting them see all of their pages’ posts. Mixed in with the support, however, were a few critical voices. Their views could be summarized in the following points:
- “You don’t have the right to bitch about a free product.”
- “If you don’t like it, stop using it.”
- That’s not very libertarian/free market of you.
This wasn’t the first time I had seen these comments. Every time Facebook changes something, people come out in droves to complain and these responses generally follow suit. And every time they do, the people making them are wrong.
“You don’t have the right to bitch about a free product.”
To begin with, Facebook isn’t really free. Sure, you don’t have to exchange money to use it, but you do have to pay with your privacy and information. Facebook uses your information for advertising and other purposes, which is their main source of income. I don’t have a problem with this and gladly exchange my data for use of the service. The sneaky way Facebook has gone about getting this information and their lack of transparency is worrisome, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Even if Facebook was “free”, that still wouldn’t mean that we couldn’t or shouldn’t bitch about it. The point of complaining (at least if you’re not a troll) is to let the provider of a service or producer of a product know that you, the customer, are unhappy. If the company or business wants to keep their customers, they will likely take these complaints into consideration and make the necessary changes. By griping to Facebook about their changes to the Newsfeed, we hoped to get their attention and hopefully get them to revert back to the way things were.
“If you don’t like it, stop using it.”
If we decided to stop using Facebook, that could also send a message to the company that we’re unhappy with their service. However, we didn’t feel that it was necessary to completely abandon the service, so we stuck with it and tried to send them a message. We also felt that it would probably help Facebook more if we provided this feedback, instead of just up and leaving without giving a reason. Keep in mind that it would take many people to quit the service for them to notice whereas having a meme/image go viral would draw their attention more easily.
“That’s not very libertarian/free market of you.”
The point that this all leads to is that it is, in fact, libertarian/free market to criticize Facebook for their recent changes. We are providing voluntary input into the marketplace that we hope will cause Facebook to alter their policies. What we are NOT doing is creating a fucking White House petition in the hopes that Obama will come to the rescue. We don’t want the government to interefere, we just want Facebook to hear us and change. If they don’t, we’ll either ride it out until it ultimately fails or leave it behind if another, better service comes along. And that, is perfectly libertarian.