Former Facebook Exec: "They're Lying Through Their Teeth"

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Antonio Garcia-Martinez (former Facebook product manager), author of Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley, originally posted at The Guardian,

For two years I was charged with turning Facebook data into money, by any legal means. If you browse the internet or buy items in physical stores, and then see ads related to those purchases on Facebook, blame me. I helped create the first versions of that, way back in 2012.

The ethics of Facebook’s micro-targeted advertising was thrust into the spotlight this week by a report out of Australia. The article, based on a leaked presentation, said that Facebook was able to identify teenagers at their most vulnerable, including when they feel “insecure”, “worthless”, “defeated” and “stressed”.

Facebook claimed the report was misleading, assuring the public that the company does not “offer tools to target people based on their emotional state”. If the intention of Facebook’s public relations spin is to give the impression that such targeting is not even possible on their platform, I’m here to tell you I believe they’re lying through their teeth.

Just as Mark Zuckerberg was being disingenuous (to put it mildly) when, in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, he expressed doubt that Facebook could have flipped the presidential election.

Facebook deploys a political advertising sales team, specialized by political party, and charged with convincing deep-pocketed politicians that they do have the kind of influence needed to alter the outcome of elections.

I was at Facebook in 2012, during the previous presidential race.

The fact that Facebook could easily throw the election by selectively showing a Get Out the Vote reminder in certain counties of a swing state, for example, was a running joke.

Converting Facebook data into money is harder than it sounds, mostly because the vast bulk of your user data is worthless. Turns out your blotto-drunk party pics and flirty co-worker messages have no commercial value whatsoever.

But occasionally, if used very cleverly, with lots of machine-learning iteration and systematic trial-and-error, the canny marketer can find just the right admixture of age, geography, time of day, and music or film tastes that demarcate a demographic winner of an audience. The “clickthrough rate”, to use the advertiser’s parlance, doesn’t lie.

Without seeing the leaked documents, which were reportedly based around a pitch Facebook made to a bank, it is impossible to know precisely what the platform was offering advertisers. There’s nothing in the trade I know of that targets ads at emotions. But Facebook has and does offer “psychometric”-type targeting, where the goal is to define a subset of the marketing audience that an advertiser thinks is particularly susceptible to their message.

And knowing the Facebook sales playbook, I cannot imagine the company would have concocted such a pitch about teenage emotions without the final hook: “and this is how you execute this on the Facebook ads platform”. Why else would they be making the pitch?

The question is not whether this can be done. It is whether Facebook should apply a moral filter to these decisions. Let’s assume Facebook does target ads at depressed teens. My reaction? So what. Sometimes data behaves unethically.

I’ll illustrate with an anecdote from my Facebook days. Someone on the data science team had cooked up a new tool that recommended Facebook Pages users should like. And what did this tool start spitting out? Every ethnic stereotype you can imagine. We killed the tool when it recommended then president Obama if a user had “liked” rapper Jay Z. While that was a statistical fact – people who liked Jay Z were more likely to like Obama – it was one of the statistical truths Facebook couldn’t be seen espousing.

I disagreed. Jay Z is a millionaire music tycoon, so what if we associate him with the president? In our current world, there’s a long list of Truths That Cannot Be Stated Publicly, even though there’s plenty of data suggesting their correctness, and this was one of them.

African Americans living in postal codes with depressed incomes likely do respond disproportionately to ads for usurious “payday” loans.

Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 25 probably do engage with ads singing the charms and advantages of military service.

Why should those examples of targeting be viewed as any less ethical than, say, ads selling $100 Lululemon yoga pants targeting thirtysomething women in affluent postal codes like San Francisco’s Marina district?

The hard reality is that Facebook will never try to limit such use of their data unless the public uproar reaches such a crescendo as to be un-mutable. Which is what happened with Trump and the “fake news” accusation: even the implacable Zuck had to give in and introduce some anti-fake news technology. But they’ll slip that trap as soon as they can. And why shouldn’t they? At least in the case of ads, the data and the clickthrough rates are on their side.

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ghengis86's picture

No fucking shit?
FaceFuck-where YOU are the product!
Glad I'm not on that or other social media.

D Nyle's picture

They Keep directing Me to Youporn, When they damn well Know I'm a PornHub guy

Peterman333's picture

You should give the porn up if you can, it's worse than anything on facebook, destroys your soul oh and it makes you want sex less too by the way. You're designed to desire the opposite sex in a normal way, the porn makes that go away, eventually leading to mental issues. Oh and if you need another reason, the same people behind the Zuck and his crap are behind porn too and I can assure you they don't have your best interests in mind.

D Nyle's picture

forgot the sarc tag, but apprieciate the care, but after owning a "escort club" in Thailand in my youth, Not much video porn can do for me

Peterman333's picture

Nah, it can mess you up. You see the human in the flesh it's one thing, completely different from watching simulated acts. I know the allure believe me, just saying for your mental health it's good to avoid.

greenskeeper carl's picture

The biggest problem with porn is how young teens start watching it now, and what's depicted. It gives them a completely unrealistic expectation of sex. They are able to access so much content at a young age that it literally alters their brain chemistry. Like anything else, it isn't harmful on moderate amounts, but it can be highly addictive.

Automatic Choke's picture

"It gives them a completely unrealistic expectation of sex."

And you get a realistic expectation of sex from fantasizing over underwear ads in sears catalog, like in the goodle days?

Get real.   Kids/teens fantasize, then learn about sex when they start having sex in normal relationships.


HedgeJunkie's picture

In my day it was 'National Geographic' black and white.

Mr 9x19's picture

it can be worse, you can use FB on win 10.....


lol it's adouble win...

system spying + nagivating spying over social syping. 

they should merge and call it winface_1984

Observant's picture

For me, NatGeo came in after the Sears catalogue. The women were ugly but you got to see all their boobies.  :)))

Observant's picture

Good to know I wasn't the only pre-pubescent looking at the those scantily clad beauties in the Sears catalogue during the 60's.  LOL

TheEndIsNear's picture

Are you speaking from your own personal experience?

Saucy-Jack's picture

Who gives a fuck?

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

GUS100CORRINA's picture

Iranian claim confirmed: AMERICA is the GREAT SATAN!!!

Who is behind AMERICA's journey to HELL! 

Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOG) (GOOGL)!!!

Remember, the above companies are called FANG for a reason. AAPL and MSFT are in the MIX as well. WHAT A DEN OF VIPERS!

I am expecting divine judgment any day now or maybe it has already begun!!!!

Tom Green Swedish's picture

Netflix And apple are the only decent ones in the mix but the tax cheating and sweatshops with Apple are just sorry. Amazon is ok. If I was a retailer I would sell everything from China with a negative profit margin then after all competition was gone I would impose a tariff on it of 400 percent. Hey no profits for 5 years worked for Amazon. Pray facebook doesnt get VR/ AR first. Telecommuting is the future and I would prefer to pay for it rather than have ads on it or spying on me. The smart one would monetize in other forms not ads. Its worth about 1$ a month tops based on user count. Pretty afforable considering netflix is getting away with 8$ a month for reruns amd stale movies most of which were not good. 90 percent of content on facebook is either crappy or a rerun. It and most of the internet is njust a bumch of recycled crap. I guess buy twitter. They dont give a fuck.

Anopheles's picture

That's Netflix in the US.   In other countries, they don't get all the sitcoms, but the movies are outstanding, hit movies, as soon as they are on DVD, are also on Netfilx.  But that's NOT what happens in the US.  The studios won't release movies to Netflix (for a reasonable cost) until the studios get the DVD and streaming sales themselves. 

Luc X. Ifer's picture

Working remote/telecommuting trough VR is Matrix practically - people who praise its benefits have no idea what corporations would look for into this marvelous opportunity for them to complete their cattle ownership. The employer can asses your output practically on a millisecond range and demand you fitting your biological functions particularities as per his imposed efficiency template - plantation work comparing with this would be heaven.   

WillyGroper's picture

"The employer can asses your output practically on a millisecond range"

trust me, whether virtual or not, they've been doing that since the 90's.

Luc X. Ifer's picture

For most of the ppl using a computer yes cause they don't even know it, me, i'm a seasoned IT toughbone, I know how to keep them at bay.  

WillyGroper's picture

tied into an ACD is a bitch as they count from 2 systems.

galley slave like no other.

Miskondukt's picture

Netflix is a social programming whore. 

Archibald Buttle's picture

aaaand the spying wont be going away, whether you pay for the service or not. 

Refuse-Resist's picture

Name the (((problem))) man.

Name (((it)))!!!

max2205's picture

What's facebook ?

small axe's picture

Facebook and Military Intellegence Support Operations have a lot in common. Both target civilian populations and seek to alter their perceptions and mindset. And both are evil.


Citizen_x's picture


Great post...

Too bad that most do not see it for what it is...what it actually is.  Remember the parable of the pyramid...

   " On the backs of the many; support the few "


Seasmoke's picture

Zuckerburg needs ads for ovens on his Facebook page. Fucking P.O.S.

Pork Rind's picture

Bigger ovens, smaller Jews. A newer, faster Hitler.

NoWayJose's picture

Every Facebook user gets what they deserve.

ironmace's picture

I wish there was a way to pull the plug on that fuckin' site. Just long enough for them to get the picture.

scintillator9's picture

If one is married, just simply talk to an ex girlfriend on a regular basis, and if she is married too, one will find that soon, both of one's communications will come to an abrupt end.

Easy Peasy to pull the plug on FB.


gregga777's picture

Suckerberger says that all is fair in love, war and business with respect to the goyim.  And it isn't a sin to lie to the goyim.   The Talmud told him so.  

Tom Green Swedish's picture

Karma. Just like Zuckerberg stole the idea amd used lawyers to steal this garbage concept the somebody will find a way to figure out how this company infringes on peoples privacy with data and intiaite a massive lawsuit tarnishing their brand forever. Same thing with Google. These are the two most unethical companies Ive ever come across.

Downtoolong's picture


Facebook is somewhat analogous to an ambulance chasing attorney, except that Facebook is vying to represent the perps and insurance companies in the case.


Stan522's picture

I tell my kids FakeBook is where you go to see what your friends didn't invite you to the night before...


Waste of time...

Takemine2go's picture

So (((Facebook))) is targeting the young goys when they are emotional and easy to influence?  So......standard practice for (((them)))

hotrod's picture

Must be some reason why another Competitive social networking site cant be originated.  Surely the CODE is not that complicated.

IndyPat's picture

I seriously can't believe that Facebook is still out there.

Makes me wonder why the fuck AOL disappeared, then. Clearly there are enough dipshits out there to support it.

Peterman333's picture

I can't believe you can't believe it's still out there, they have a hold, an algorithim on people's emotions. That ain't goin away until the internet gets turned off.

darteaus's picture

Silicon Valley exec lying to boost his stock price?

Standard Operating Procedure: The stock is the real product of any SV company.

space junk's picture

FascistBook lies about everything.  Mark Suckturd should be chopped up into little pieces and fed to some Coy fish. I hope the volcano sucks his Hawaii house into the lava with him in it.  preferably livestreamed.....

oh.  I'm sorry.  Was that 'antisocial'?   FUCK YOU FAKE BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was watching AHS yesterday on the history of Stalin.  What would the world look like if we had computers back then and someone like Stalin had the computational power of Fakebook?  I truly shudder at the implications.  It's something today's Script Kiddies can't even fathom.  They had mind control, and they had propaganda, but it's nothing like all the shiny bells and whistles for today's phone-smitten kiddos.  God Help Us. 




pocomotion's picture

How does one delete the FB application on an i-pad?


How do you remove and leave face book permanently?

RSDallas's picture

Hey everybody, just a tip, teenagers hate Facebook and don't use it.

Sid Davis's picture

Anything for a buck.

The laws that governments have created to protect the owners of corporations from liability for the bad acts of the corporation, effectively spawns bad behaviour by corporate management. And not only do these laws spawn bad behaviour, but they allow for the aggregation of large amounts of capital, which in turn allows corporations to heavily influence politicians. This is how monopoly and economic fascism then becomes destructive of free markets.

The answer is simply to take the government out of the business of granting corporate charters, and instead force businesses to operate as either sole proprietorships or general partnerships, both of which organization forms make the owners personally liable for the bad acts that the businesses commit. This also limits the size of businesses because very few people would invest in a business where they had little or no control over what the business does.

Instead of a few giant corporations dominating business, we would have widespread distribution of capital in the economy with countless small businesses actually controlled by the forces of competition. Corporate law has a tendency to destroy competition. It was actually the monopoly privilege granted by the British Crown to the Dutch East India Company (a corporation owned by British politicians) that made Colonists hate the Crown, spawned the Boston Tea Party, and in fact was one of the significant causes behind the American Revolution.

Vlad the Inhaler's picture

Easy peasey, delete your FB account and tell everyone you know to do the same.

InnVestuhrr's picture

Zuckerberg and Facebook are social parasites.

I would exploit Zuck's passion for collectivism to collectivize Facebook, ie confiscate it and turn it over to the people for ownership, operation and control.

TheSilentMajority's picture

Waiting for a whistleblower at FB to expose the true MAU.

Is it true that the real unique-individual MAU is less than half of what they say?

Same goes for twatter and all those other social media sites.