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Facebook follows SCOTUS: Ads are people, too

Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.

We all know about the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United: when it comes to the political (and let’s face it, the governance) system, corporations are people. At least when that works to the corporation’s advantage. Facebook, about to enter the public trading world and so seeking ways to increase their value, has apparently been inspired by Citizens United: ads are people, too. A report this morning at Market Place explains that Facebook will allow advertisers to be like our “friends” who are telling us “stories,” not running ads. A “status update” from a friendly corporation will let us know about a great way to spend money on our “friend’s” product.

It certainly isn’t new that “social media” is used for marketing. Hey, I update my FB “status” with these posts, and those of others from TM and elsewhere. I regularly see posts from FB friends about their next gig, exercise class, or real estate offerings. The difference with the new “ads are your friend” FB option is that instead of an actual friend marketing their product, a corporation will pretend to be a “friend” telling me a story.

I suppose it’s another step in social media as business. And in a broader context, in the whole “corporations are people” movement. With the help of SCOTUS, corporations seem to have an advantage: they get to choose which identity they want — business or person — depending on which is most valuable.

For example, from OpEdNews:

SCOTUS Appears Poised To Say ‘Corporations Are People, Except When They Torture’

Yesterday (Feb. 28), the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the ‘mother of all corporate immunity cases,’… .

The case involves whether Royal Dutch Shell can be held accountable in American courts for allegedly working with the Nigerian government to torture, execute and detain members of an ethnic group under a law holding the most atrocious human rights violators accountable to international norms. To be clear, there are some legitimate reasons why the Supreme Court should be wary of this case – Shell is a foreign corporation, and its alleged actions occurred on foreign soil, so it is not entirely certain that American courts can reach Shell’s actions.
There are worrying signs, however, that the Court’s conservatives are prepared to simply declare all corporations, both foreign and domestic, immune from international legal norms. Most notably, the Court’s supposed swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, asked several questions suggesting that he does not believe corporations can be held accountable to this law:
‘… [I]n the area of international criminal law … there is a distinction made between individuals and corporations.’ …

… (Kennedy’s) questions … suggest that the Court is prepared to apply a baffling double standard to wealthy and powerful corporations. Kennedy, of course, was the author of Citizens United, which declared that corporations have the exact same rights as actual human beings for purposes of spending money to influence elections. Yet, when a corporation engages in mass atrocities, they are suddenly entitled to legal immunities far beyond those available to people.

Further complicating things, corporations are called upon by advocates to use their clout in support of whatever “people” issue. From The Advocate:

Citibank, Barclays Urged to Condemn Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill

A new petition is calling on Citibank and Barclays to take a stand against Uganda’s antihomosexuality bill.

In addition to being two of the world’s largest banks, both Citibank and Barclays have received praise for the support they’ve shown to their LGBT employees and customers. …

Now that Ugandan legislators have reintroduced what the media has dubbed the ‘kill the gays’ bill, which would make homosexuality punishable by life in prison or death, Citibank and Barclays are being called on because both have major operations in Uganda.

The bill is quite serious in its intent. The petition at includes:

… the bill’s author, David Bahati, has said, he believes the government of Uganda should ‘kill every last gay person.’

Finally, a corporation related story with a different kind of twist. From Mother Jones:

WikiLeaks Goes Inside Corporate America’s Wannabe CIA

What do Coke, Goldman, the Marines, and the Knights of Columbus have in common? They all paid Stratfor to act as their own private intelligence agency. …

The 200-plus emails that have been released from WikiLeaks’ cache of ‘Global Intelligence Files’–more than 5 million messages lifted from Stratfor, a private ‘global intelligence’ firm–are a comical mix of breathless geopolitical intrigue and workplace chitchat … . But the trove also offers insights into the business of corporate intelligence, showing how multinational companies paid Stratfor tens of thousands of dollars to watch global hotspots, cover their competitors, and even monitor pesky activists.

Well, we regularly use mercenary forces to supplement (or take over) military actions, so it’s no surprise the nation’s intelligence community is getting some free market challenge.

In an email last year, (Stratfor) CEO and founder George Friedman told his employees that the CIA saw them as direct competitors: ‘Everyone in Langley knows that we do things they have never been able to do with a small fraction of their resources. They have always asked how we did it. We can now show them and maybe they can learn.’

That’s a good way beyond social media and corporate actions, but of course, all corporations are about making money. With social media, we are the product, not the consumer. The questions asked by, among others, users of social media, Occupy, petitions and the ACLU, are largely about what those corporations do with the power that comes with making lots and lots and lots of money.

(Poster via OWS News)

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4 Responses to Facebook follows SCOTUS: Ads are people, too

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter March 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Citizens United will go down in history as perhaps the most blatantly corrupt  and indefensible ruling handed down by the SCOTUS. The actual destruction of Democracy as has been practiced here for 200+ years. Followed by this one. If these two rulings stand I predict some truly ugly results and reactions.


    • Joyce Arnold March 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

      That is becoming more and more the question Sec: what will the “results and reactions” be? How far do things have to go before more people make their displeasure evident in ways we might think unlikely? I’m not an alarmist, but Citizens United and NDAA, for two big examples, are amazingly scary actions.

  2. fangio March 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    I would argue that the consumer is a product.  We are sold,  traded and tested in an electronic marketplace.  The consumer,  of course,  has made this easy to do by participating in venues such as Facebook.  The citizen was transformed into a consumer by Madison Ave and now corporations and social media are transforming consumers into products.  Anyone who thinks they have any privacy left is in for a big surprise.  Stratfor just proves what the average American does not know.  The security state is well on it’s way to consolidating power here in our now deceased democracy.  As for Mr. Kennedy,  he is just another example of what happens when intellectual light weights are put on the court for nothing more than political purposes.  What was it Reagan was always railing against:  activist judges.  What a joke!

    • Joyce Arnold March 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      Oh yes, we’re the product being sold via FB and other social media.

      As for SCOTUS, you know the only “activist” judges are Lefties, with their un-American and un-Christian interpretations of the Constitution. Those on the Right are just telling us what the Constitution says. As dumb as that sounds, the scary part is that apparently lots of people actually believe it’s true.


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