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Word power: John Lanchester on Facebook

Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company.


John Lanchester’s You Are the Product is detailed, lengthy, very sharp.

Ostensibly a review of three recent books, his essay is more especially a withering analysis of Facebook’s “real” nature and of its present impact on “us”.

Lanchester also considers various ways its and our futures could unfold/develop/unravel.

One of them:

A customers’ revolt could overlap with a backlash from regulators and governments. Google and Facebook have what amounts to a monopoly on digital advertising. That monopoly power is becoming more and more important as advertising spend migrates online. Between them, they have already destroyed large sections of the newspaper industry. Facebook has done a huge amount to lower the quality of public debate and to ensure that it is easier than ever before to tell what Hitler approvingly called ‘big lies’ and broadcast them to a big audience. The company has no business need to care about that, but it is the kind of issue that could attract the attention of regulators.

London Review of Books published Lanchester’s essay on August 17.

Read all of it here.

Once you have, you may find the paragraph quoted above is less “hyperbolic” than it may look at first sight.

Likewise, this observation:

For all the corporate uplift of its mission statement, Facebook is a company whose essential premise is misanthropic.


Published in opinions and journalism word power


  1. joe Petralia joe Petralia

    Thany you for the post Doug….

    For anybody wishing to read this article in full ……

    To avoid falling into the the very trap you’re seeking to avoid, you can thwart the:

    “Enter your email address to unlock this book review for free …and enjoy 24 hours of free access to the entire LRB archive of essays and reviews. Email address: Your address will be added to our mailing list. By registering you are agreeing to our terms.”

    By copy/pasting the underlying content into notepad and reading it on in relalative anonymity, the ‘copy’ command does not acknowledge the road block.


    • Thanks Joe. I did not have to enter my details in order to “unlock” the article. There was an invitation to enter them in exchange for 24 hours “free” access to the magazine’s entire archive. I did not in any way respond to that “kind” invitation, and was able to read the article, unimpeded, more than once, over several days.

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