Transparent Lies



Personal Info

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Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, believes in radical transparency. It’s a term that he coined that basically suggests that “the idea of humanity would be better off if everybody were more transparent about who they are and what they do (MacKinnon, p. 150). This point is echoed more than once in Rebecca MacKinnon’s Consent of the Networked. While this is an admiral statement and one that I actually agree with, the chances of it happening are slim to none in regards to digital media as a whole. There are several people on my friends list who have alias names (or possibly nick names mixed with their real names) such as “The Main Event” or “Lisa QueenB Fields”. Would Zuckerberg deactivate all of the accounts that have pages with alias name in the Facebook data base today? Probably not. The truth is, in the grand scheme of things, alias names are really not that important, especially when they contribute to the masses of social media. Those masses help keep sites like Facebook thriving and in existence. “A user name search on Facebook for “Donald Duck” turns up many dozens of users by that name…..The abuse teams say they cannot go after everybody and must prioritize the accounts that have unusual patterns of activity or that other users actively report as having violated the terms of service (MacKinnon.p.156)”.

The forbidden fruit is always sweeter. Bradley Manning’s story (“We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” video) is a great example of this. The glitz and glammer surrounding his case of downloading hundreds of thousands of sensitive and top secret government files is not the simple fact of collecting them. The fact that he was able to obtain all of the information unbeknownst to so many people around him is the jaw dropping factor. Manning wanted to share all of the information he found with the world, in an effort to be completely transparent. However, had he been totally transparent from the beginning, his clever plan would have never even taken lift off. I’d be interested to see what Zuckerberg’s take is on the transparency (and ironically lack thereof) from Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

Although there are some people that may not intentionally forge transparency in the digital media realm (creating alias user names, posting false pictures of themselves or others, exaggerating their accolades, etc), we all do it in some form or fashion. Think about the last time you signed up for a user license agreement. Did you read all of the fine print? If you’re anything like me, then your answer is probably no. We skim over sections that speak about illegal copying of a body of work or art (a great example is music). No one announces that they may “borrow music” from a service or app. In actuality, they are not being totally transparent. This is primarily because the cost benefit analysis of being totally transparent before you do something does not outweigh the option of masking your intentions and asking for forgiveness later (if you even get caught).

Of course, navigating through the world of digital media (and life in general) would be much easier if everyone were completely transparent. We would know their motives, understand their thoughts and never be caught off guard. But where’s the fun in that? As long as people neglect to be transparent in their personal lives, we can’t expect them to turn on an honesty switch and be transparent when using digital media. Plus, isn’t that part of the thrill of digital and social media (finding out what’s authentic or not)?



  1. In a way, I do think people can be transparent when they are on Facebook but at the same time it depends on the person. It reminds me of the picture that says “I used to want to be able to read people’s minds, but then I got Facebook.” I think it also depends on the generation. I know when I was doing my undergraduate career and we were always on Facebook I was a lot more transparent than I am not that I have graduated. It is interesting that MacKinnon discusses that the Facebook management team is adamant that “the real-name requirement is key to protecting users from abusive and criminal behavior” (MacKinnon, p.153). I did not know that it was illegal to use fake names or an alias on Facebook before this reading and I know a lot of people that do have fake names on Facebook. But I think some people can get away with it because Facebook has so many users and it makes me wonder how can they monitor all of these aliases?
    I did not like or agree with the quote about “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity” (MacKinnon, p.150) because I have three different Twitter accounts for three different groups. I do this so my work or close friends will not see what I post for class, so my class doesn’t see what I post for work and only my real friends care about what I do in my personal life. So this has nothing to do with integrity; it is for legitimate reasons I keep things separated. Although on Facebook it is different for me because I have all of my friends in one group. I do limit what I post on it more than I used to but I still see it as a way to let friends know what you are doing. The great thing about this is sometimes you go somewhere, post it on Facebook and then a friend who is at the same place sees you and you are able to connect with this person.
    At the same time, I totally agree with what you are saying about signing license agreements; I have only read a couple in-depth as they are usually long and contain lots of unclear language. And recently, I have only read them more because I have heard what they are trying to sneak into them through discussions in the class. This reading really made me more aware of not only license agreements but also how I communicate and present myself online.

  2. Hi! My name is (what?)…my name is (who?)…
    my name is… Slim Shady!

    Ahem…excuse me!
    Can I have the attention of the class for one second…

    My name is not Slim Shady or Susan E. Riveter! I am Jodi Madera-Prado!

    With that out of the way, on to the radical transparency! I do not find Zuckerberg’s position ironic at all considering that his first venture was to make a point if a person was “Hot or Not.” When Facebook was at the glorious beginning it was a social platform to an inclusive group of privileged individuals with a University email. It has always been about letting people see who and what you are all about.

    Obviously, I am a rebel without a cause! In all honesty, there are grave implications of the “teacher-student” online relationship. Therefore, I have been more gun shy to let old habits of defending my character die hard by making an alias for all of my graduate classes. Might be that integrity taboo thing or the front stage self. I’ve always identified in playing a character as a defense.

    I did find it interesting how Facebook can take down pages that are actually serving as a resource to activists, because it is reported fake. Yet, republishes when it deems right or good? I’m interested in that amount of power from a beginning mentioned above.

    I just recently tweeted about a new market of savvy pied pipers on social media. Teens and young adults are able to generate followers with fake accounts, yet drive influence and commercial markets are taking notice. This is an interesting counter culture idea to the transparency Mackinnon calls for in her book Consent of the Networked.

    Truth to Power- It is none of your business to tell me who I am supposed to be.
    Power to Individual- You signed the User agreement.

    There is an opportunity cost to buy in into most social contracts, however social media platforms have become overzealous in the fine print requests. I appreciate Mackinnon in this aspect because in a lot of cases the people do not know that they should be asking for transparency because they are blinded by the light of wanting to participate. For those of us that can’t risk it, we become the characters we’ve always wanted to be!

    Susan B Anthony
    Emerging Media and Communications
    Rosie the Riveter

    Susan E Riveter

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