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Gibson writes: "Even though I have a journalism degree and worked for NPR affiliates for 5 years, I no longer read newspapers, watch TV, or listen to the radio. I get all of my news from Twitter by following people on the ground, credible journalists, and independent news outlets."

Gibson writes:
Gibson writes: "Facebook and its advertising partners make billions. But the people who make Facebook's billions possible by posting viral content that gets lots of likes and shares get nothing in return for their work." (photo: Google/file)


Time for a Digital Labor Movement

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

13 January 14

 

ven though I have a journalism degree and worked for NPR affiliates for 5 years, I no longer read newspapers, watch TV, or listen to the radio. I get all of my news from Twitter by following people on the ground, credible journalists, and independent news outlets. I get a 140-character headline, a link to click on if I want to know more, and all of my news updates in real-time without any commercial interruption. I consider myself far more informed than I was in the days where I depended on conventional media for my information.

News content alone is nothing without distribution. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to see it or hear it, it is of little consequence. The same applies if someone writes a powerful, brilliant, hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism but doesn't have the social media savvy necessary to spread it around and get it seen by thousands of people on his own.

Just as the newspapermen and radio personalities were the creators and distributors of content in the 20th century, today's savviest social media users are the creators and distributors of the content making headlines and getting coverage from the conventional media. If those early content creators and distributors got paid for their work, why shouldn't we?

Today, Facebook is worth more than $100 billion, and is expected to make $12 billion in annual revenue by 2016 after creating a search engine of the content its 1 billion users have created for them over the years without pay. Facebook makes its money by tracking the content we post that gets more likes and shares than other content we post, and sells that data to advertisers to better track our online behavior so they can sell us stuff more effectively. Facebook and its advertising partners make billions. But the people who make Facebook's billions possible by posting viral content that gets lots of likes and shares get nothing in return for their work.

Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, makes $6 million a day. Facebook's 6,000 employees aren't capable of getting Zuckerberg $6 million a day, but the site's 1 billion users are. In posting content that lots of people like and share, advertisers get a better idea of the kind of content that is more appealing to users and buy that data from Facebook to make ads that target more people. In essence, Facebook users are like census takers: they gather data about their friends, family and coworkers, and then give that data to Facebook and its advertising partners. Both Facebook and its advertisers make lots of money off of the work we do for them. It's time we demand our fair share.

Facebook is not only making a killing off the content that page managers work hard to curate, but the site has even admitted that it's purposefully cracking down on pages' organic reach in a move to force them to pay for sponsored posts. Facebook's reasoning is that because there are so many pages competing to be posted in a user's news feed, it's only fair that the pages that pay for news feed space be given top priority. Now, Facebook is quickly becoming a pay-for-play site that forces out any page from news feeds unless they post viral content that gets shared widely. Regardless of whether a page pays for sponsored posts or posts viral content, Facebook and its advertising partners will still make money off their content.

Such a greedy move is akin to a constituent relations manager (CRM) software that manages an organization's email blasts, like Salsa or Nationbuilder, suddenly making those organizations pay a fee for emails they send to be put in their subscribers' inboxes. If those people subscribed to your email list or liked your page, they want to see your content, and you shouldn't be charged to communicate with them. As a company that made its billions off of its users' work, the users who consistently create viral content should be paid accordingly.

The website "Wages for Facebook" (W4FB) makes the case that page administrators and content creators who do a bulk of the work on Facebook are actively making people spend more time on Facebook as a result, and the viral content those people create is directly responsible for Facebook and its advertisers raking in profits off the data we collect for them. W4FB makes the larger point that the key to getting compensation for your work is to acknowledge that Facebook is, in fact, work, and that we are the employees. By first acknowledging that we have the right to have a wage, we can move the conversation toward bargaining for what a fair wage for work should be. And if we aren't compensated for our work, we could leave voluntarily, launching a Facebook Strike and refusing to post any content that makes Facebook and its advertisers rich, shutting down their whole profit operation.

Would it make sense to pay all 1 billion of Facebook's users for posting anything and everything? Of course not. But creators of viral content can and should be paid. If, for example, a page were to be compensated for creating a viral post that reached more than 200 percent of that page's likes, page admins could get, say, ten cents per share. This means for a viral post that gets 6,000 shares, the admins of that page who created that content could all share $600. In this way, Facebook and its advertisers would have a more egalitarian relationship with the people who mine their data for them. In a way, this could also be an important tool to fight Facebook addiction.

It's a very real problem for people to spend hours of their day to voluntarily give data to corporations seeking to profit from their personal lives. But if curating content for Facebook were seen as work that one could be paid for, that could mean two outcomes: either people would suddenly work very hard to make content that gets lots of likes and shares, or people not wanting to put in hours of work for free would voluntarily leave the site. And instead of a box on a screen telling someone how many friends they have, they could quit working for Facebook and rediscover their real friendships.

It's important that Facebook's hardest-working content creators are paid justly, not just so those people can have a wage for the work they do, but also in the best interest of Facebook, since they know their advertisers are counting on people to create that content. We aren't just consumers of information, we're the creators of that information that's being sold back to us. We deserve our cut.



Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

Comments   

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+8 # tswhiskers 2014-01-13 10:07
So who needs Facebook? What are emails for if not communication? AND PRIVACY.
 
 
+5 # reiverpacific 2014-01-13 11:01
Quoting tswhiskers:
So who needs Facebook? What are emails for if not communication? AND PRIVACY.


Well, I for one utilize Facebook as ONE way, with regular email and a pending website, of staying in social and informational touch with friends worldwide, sharing favorite music, my own music and business issues for all to see and comment on. I also use it as free advertising for my small business.
Also putting petitions out there on issues that are important to me and quite a bit of political commentary, especially on the FB pages of our state representatives ; and more.
If you want PRIVACY, Facebook is definitely not for you, as I've discovered to my cost once or twice by just making a negative or off-color comment! It can also be, and often is, a gossip-channel.
I've never "Tweeted" in my life and don't quite see the appeal of't, possibly because of my tendency to be a bit long-winded, visually descriptive, slightly tongue-in-cheek if appropriate when I do write.
Like Mr Gibson, I no longer read (US) newspapers or watch (US) TV (except BBC America, or free-speech TV occasionally) and only listen to small locally-based Community radio like listener-suppor ted KBOO 90.7 FM (Portland), which is full of good, alternative free-speech content and even did my radio training there and at KMUN -unpaid of course!
I guess we take it for granted that hi-tech people get paid well so this article is valuable in it's intent.
 
 
+3 # maddave 2014-01-13 11:38
Nawww, tswhiskers! We want "Privacy" in our email but privacy is the antithesis of what Facebook offers.
Facebook is a logical, accessible electronic extension of our common, everyday graffiti. It serves a need (that we all have) to be seen - to be noticed - by others farther-and-wid er . . . not unlike notes set afloat in bottles or messages transmitted into space.
Its forever-expandi ng lineage is:
1. Rocks and cave walls
2. Outhouses, public toilets, buildings, walls.
3.Busses, transit cars, & rolling stock
4. Internet
 
 
+7 # WestWinds 2014-01-13 11:18
I got rid of my (cable and/or dish) TV together with the radio years ago; too many commercials and not enough valid news. I don't need to pay for manipulative
brainwashing agendas, endless annoying commercials or BORING entertainment.

I get everything off the net and I've never looked back. No small wonder certain entities want to get control of the whole net.

PS While I think of it, don't get mixed up with Disqus if you can help it; mean-spirited, controlling and nasty. They need to be driven from every market.
 
 
-3 # bigkahuna671 2014-01-13 11:30
Not everyone reads RSN, not even in the US. And less than 1% of the world reads Carl Gibson, so who gives a damn what you write or what you think? I use multiple sources for my news and don't rely on Twitter...anyon e who's that foolish to rely on immediate thoughts like "I just took my first dump of the day" is not worth spending any valuable time on. 'Nuff said, you're yesterday's Twitter-feed... .
 
 
+2 # jwb110 2014-01-13 12:26
Quoting bigkahuna671:
Not everyone reads RSN, not even in the US. And less than 1% of the world reads Carl Gibson, so who gives a damn what you write or what you think? I use multiple sources for my news and don't rely on Twitter...anyone who's that foolish to rely on immediate thoughts like "I just took my first dump of the day" is not worth spending any valuable time on. 'Nuff said, you're yesterday's Twitter-feed....


I forward all of Gibson's articles to my friends who use Facebook. For the info to reach farther it is important for the readers to play their part. It really is not all that difficult.
 
 
+8 # fredboy 2014-01-13 11:46
Too bad your news view is so Twitter limited. I have two journalism degrees, a law degree, and was an award-winning journalist--and I still gather news from every source possible. Including--than k God--internatio nal sources.

I admit the US media has almost collapsed in fear and sacred cow worship. But limiting one's news to 140 character belches seems foul. Especially if you were or are a real journalist.
 
 
+3 # RMF 2014-01-13 12:25
I appreciate the author's perspective. However, given the state of the internet this is somewhat tilting at windmills. While the internet was about community at the outset, now it's all about commerce, nothing more than a big QVC and commercial NSA, all rolled into one. These large internet entities and software providers want to exploit users and reap commercial profit by mining user's personal data via the catch-22 of a take-it-or-leav e-it user agreement, so lengthy, and obtusely clause-ridden that no one reads. The result is an Orwellian world of internet commerce, and level of meaningful disclosure with lack of true informed consent that is appalling. I personally refuse to use Facebook and other social media because the cost is way too high in term of intrusiveness.
 
 
+1 # janla 2014-01-13 13:47
And what do all those links that Gibson clicks on lead him to? Often, probably, other people's articles and essays that they did the research for rather than relying on 140 character 'belches' of personal opinion.
 
 
+3 # MidwestDick 2014-01-13 16:38
The founders created the U.S. Post Office to facilitate civic intercommunicat ion and mutual education of the Nation. Why does it not provide e-mail -- e-mail with the privacy protections inherent in our constitution? Why does it not provide internet fora of the Facebook type, but with the protections of privacy and speech accorded to its citizens? Why does it not provide internet access to all who live here? The government financed the prototype of the internet, why do they not also provide the mature product?
 
 
+3 # rhgreen 2014-01-13 16:40
I would say to Carl Gibson "Shame on you!". There are good newspapers on-line (New York Times, Toronto Star, The Guardian, Ha'aretz) and magazines (the Economist, The Nation, National Geographoic). If you cheerfully limit yourself to what you describe then you are no better than the Tea Party folk who limit themselves to watching Fox News and listening to right-wing radio commentators.
 
 
+6 # Inspired Citizen 2014-01-13 17:02
We've been using Facebook to build a grassroots movement to unseat my Republican congressman. We go to his page, find unhappy constituents and recruit them to organize lit drops next Oct. through election day.

We unseated one county legislator for one vote he cast, and I think this strategy can be ramped up for our large congressional district to counter the propaganda on TV. At least, we're going to give it our best effort.
 

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