Op-Ed

The Upper Cut: Here's What Facebook Is Really Doing to Your News Feed

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Imagine you own a company that makes strawberry jam. As a business owner, you work to produce a quality product at a reasonable cost and sell it at a profit.

You start off buying other people’s strawberries, but over time you realize that you can get better, fresher strawberries for only a little more money by growing them yourself. That cuts into your profits a little, but people notice the quality of your product and the increased sales more than make up for the higher costs.

As time goes on, you make other, similar changes — your costs rise a bit, but your sales rise right along with them, and you feel good about offering a product to consumers that keeps getting better and better.

And consumers continue to notice the changes, leading more and more of them to buy your product.

In fact, you’re so successful that millions of consumers — oh, let’s just pick a number and say 5.3 million of them — sign up to receive updates about where your jam is sold and when it’s going to be delivered there so they can get the very freshest product. That’s how much they love it.

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Over time, the little company that picks up your jam from your production facility and transports it to stores cannot help but notice your success — after all, they’re picking up and delivering more and more of your jam every week. So the president of that company — we’ll call him Bark Tuckerburg — approaches you with a proposal.

“Tuck,” as he is commonly known, offers to build a fleet of trucks designed specifically to transport your jam. He knows people want your jam; he has plenty of cash lying around because you’ve paid him so much already as you built your company; and he knows the distribution industry so well that he can design excellent trucks for this purpose.

In return, all he wants is a little more of your money. But he promises such efficient distribution for your jam that you can hardly say no.

The fleet works out well — so well, in fact, that it hardly makes any sense for your jam company to use anyone else to distribute your product. No one else can compete with Tuck’s distribution model.

Have you noticed the recent changes to what you see in your newsfeed?

Sure, you throw a little business to Mom & Pop’s Trucking Company and Big Betty’s Transport-a-Go-Go, because you know it’s not wise to have all your eggs in one basket, but there’s just no way those small fry can compete with the custom truck fleet that Tuck has built.

The only way they can get more of your business is to build their own custom fleets the way Tuck did — with your money. Neither you nor they can figure out how to make that cost-effective. So Tuck gets 90 percent or more of your business.

And for a while, that’s fine. Until it’s not.

One day, Tuck tells you that the government is concerned that your strawberry jam is not as healthy as other companies’ strawberry jelly. And he claims also to be concerned about the healthiness of your product.

Based on what evidence, you want to know. Based on the fact that I control 90 percent of your distribution, Tuck answers.

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Plus, there are some stories floating around the internet that your product contains some sort of mild hallucinogen that causes people to see people I don’t like or agree with as more competent than they are and people I do like and agree with as, well, unlikable. Maybe even corrupt.

I can’t have that on my conscience, Tuck says.

Oh, that evidence, you say.

But don’t worry, he assures you. To keep the government off our backs, we’re going to cut down every jam, jelly and preserves company’s business by 20 percent when we implement our new distribution algorithm. Which we’re going to do in about 10 days, by the way, to give you time to plan.

Ten days to plan for a 20 percent drop in business. Right.

The day Tuck puts his new algorithm into effect, you see a 20 percent drop in business. Well, you think, this stinks… but we can get through this.

Your competitors in the jelly and preserves companies tell you they are also being impacted — by 11 to 14 percent, not 20 — but still, they’re being impacted.

Over the next three weeks, you see your distribution dropping further — 35 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent. By the end of the month after the distribution algorithm change, you’ve lost 80 percent of your business and you’re still not sure whether you’ve hit bottom yet.

Meanwhile, your competitors are complaining about their lower business, too — which they say is still being impacted by about 10 to 15 percent.

Meanwhile, your customers are complaining. They like your jam. They’re unconvinced — because the “evidence” is unconvincing — that it’s not as good for them as jelly or preserves. They suspect, in fact, that because of the ingredients you use in your jam, it might actually be better for them. Maybe a lot better.

They want what you’re producing. They want to pay you for it. They like and value it.

Tuck, whom you thought was a good business partner — maybe even a friend — clearly doesn’t care. He won’t give it to them, even to the 5.3 million people who signed up to be notified when it was available.

Tuck is not a good business partner, and he’s certainly not your friend. In fact, the truth of the matter is that he dislikes you and your product so much that he even holds your customers — who are, by extension, his customers too — in contempt.

Maybe he really has decided that he knows better than they do what’s good for them. More likely, he’s using that elitism as cover to do what he really wants to do anyway — betray your trust, and that of your customers, because he can afford to.

He knows your customers need and want many other products that he offers. If the price of that is a reduction in other products they want, well, they don’t have much choice in the matter. He controls the distribution.

And, like I said, he already has your money.

Mom & Pop and Big Betty would love to help — really, sincerely, love to — but they can’t be expected to build an entire new fleet of jam-delivery trucks using solely their own funds.

And because Tuck changed his business model essentially overnight, you don’t have as much cash on hand as you’d like to help them help you.

You’re the one producing the jam, but it’s Zuck — er, I mean Tuck — who’s jamming you.

That’s what Facebook is doing to us, and to you. Despite long, sincere-sounding, and very public protestations over the past 18 months to the contrary, Mark Zuckerberg does not care about either of us.

He controls the distribution. He has decided to give you what he wants to give you — not what’s best for you (which only you can decide) or what you want (which you’ve indicated with 5.3 million likes on our Facebook page).

I believe that he believes that The Western Journal, Breitbart, and TWJ’s sister company Conservative Tribune helped defeat Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump by providing news and commentary — largely through Facebook — that many in the mainstream media simply weren’t offering.

Whether that’s true or not isn’t the point. Zuckerberg appears to believe it, and he appears to be acting on that belief by penalizing conservative sites that disagree with his elitist liberal worldview.

This little parable isn’t a warning to Facebook publishers — the damage there is already done. Neither is it a warning to Facebook readers, many of whom have already noticed the changes in how news is offered to them on Facebook and aren’t happy about it.

It is, however, a warning to Mark Zuckerberg against arrogance and elitism. Americans do not like arrogance, and they rarely reward elitism — not over the long run, anyway.

Just ask someone at AOL … if you can find anyone at AOL.

You know who else doesn’t like arrogance, Zuck? Anti-trust attorneys in Republican administrations.

Just ask Ma Bell.

As a reader, you can bypass Facebook’s nannying of your newsfeed by signing up to receive our emails here. However, not everything we publish makes it into our emails — we want to be sensitive to your inbox — so you can also use the “Follow First” function on Facebook (see the video below). We also encourage you to bookmark our homepage and visit it multiple times daily for real stories for, by and about real people.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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George Upper is editor-in-chief of The Western Journal and a frequent co-host of "WJ Live," a video podcast produced by The Western Journal. A former U.S. Army special operator, teacher and consultant, he is a lifetime member of the NRA and an active volunteer leader in his church. Born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, he lived most of his life in North Carolina before moving to Arizona.
George Upper, editor-in-chief of The Western Journal, is a former U.S. Army special operator, teacher, manager and consultant. Born in Massachusetts, he graduated from Foxborough High School before joining the Army and spending most of the next three years at Fort Bragg. He now lives in Arizona with his wife and a Maine Coon named Princess Leia, for whose name he is not responsible. He is active in the teaching and security ministries in his church and is a lifetime member of the NRA. In his spare time he shoots, reads a lot of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, and watches Bruce Campbell movies. He writes "The Upper Cut," a weekly column that appears roughly quarterly. He is a fan of individual freedom, Tommy Bahama, fine-point G-2 pens, and the Oxford comma.
Birthplace
Foxborough, Massachusetts
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Beta Gamma Sigma
Education
B.A., English, UNCG; M.A., English, UNCG; MBA, UNCG
Location
Phoenix, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Faith, Management, Military




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