Sunday, January 27, 2008

Here's a little David and Goliath story to warm your heart. Like in the original the good guy won, at least this time. Facebook (Goliath) is of course, the mega-giant and the villain in this piece. Started on February 4, 2004 Facebook has grown to presently include over 60 million active users. It averages about a quarter of a million users per day, and see over 65 billion page views per month. There are about 1.7 billion photos on Facebook, and last spring a poll conducted in the USA found that it was the most visited site amongst people aged 17- 25. There are about 2.2 billion "friends" tagged in user photos, and more than 60 million photos are added each week.
OK, that's Goliath. Let's go to David. Derek Blackadder (see for his Facebook page- note that you have to register with Facebook to view anything on their site) is an union organizer for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He is also a Canadian contributor to the labour solidarity website Labour Start which Molly has often referenced here on this blog. Blackadder fell afoul of the powers that be at Facebook by adding too many "friends". As an union organizer this is just the sort of thing that he does- he expands his social network as fast as possible. Facebook threatened, and then they lowered the axe by banning him. This, however, didn't go over too well with other union activists that use Facebook, and a protest site( ) was rapidly set up by John Wood of the UK. The campaign was promoted by Labour Start as well. Within 8 hours almost 2,400 people had signed up in solidarity with Blackadder. Fearing further bad publicity, Facebook relented, and Derek is now back online doing what he does best. One small victory for the little guy.
There is actually quite a bit of controversy about sites such as Facebook. Many have predicted that their popularity, and the resulting traffic jam of useless photos and video (see YouTube), will lead to such a slowing of online communication that the internet will become virtually useless (some may say has always been that way). Specific to union organizing, however, Eric Lee of Labour Start has written an essay entitled Bandwagons and Buzzwords: Facebook and the Unions about the limitations of using Facebook as an organizing tool. The John Wood mentioned above wrote a rejoiner titled In Defence of Facebook (Sort Of) which disagrees with Lee, but also points out the author's own reservations about this tool.
Look over both of the above essays to see what their authors say. In the meantime Molly raises a glass to Derek Blackadder. Long may he "face" or whatever the verb derived from the noun may be in this case.

1 comment:

Derek Blackadder said...

Cheers! right back.

I've boiled down my experiences of FB as an organizing tool here: