Multinational social media giant, Facebook, used by approximately 185 million people in the US alone, has recently altered an element of its digital platform. Instead of letting people decide whether or not they would like to receive AMBER alerts, notifications that a minor is missing, all people with a Facebook account will now have the alert appear in their news feed if there is one in their area. Removing account holders’ ability to “opt out” of AMBER alerts appears to be a provocative move on Facebook’s half. Enormous corporations such as Facebook are often maligned for their thin attempts at forms of corporate responsibility, which do little to counteract their other more questionable practices (see Facebook’s history of data collection and emotional manipulation for some background on those controversies). Often, they are held up as forms of “accounting” (see Diane Nelson’s article “Reckoning the after/math of war in Guatemala” for an excellent examination of the nuances of sociopolitical arithmetic practices) that do not address the elements of their day to day activities that people find problematic (sexism in the workplace, environmental pollution, etc.). It appears that the larger questions on the table in cases such as this are: can one type of action “pay” for another? Do the debits and credits add up? The obvious answer, in many ways, is no. However, this is a topic that appears to warrant deeper thought. While posting AMBER alerts does not absolve Facebook’s other actions, it does carry its own weight in helping reduce risk for missing children. How will such practices, and the publics’ perspectives on them, grow and change as social media and mobile technology are increasingly mobilized for profit and social justice purposes (which sometimes align and sometimes, as in the case of Facebook, do not)? How might these new digitally mediated social justice actions be reconfiguring public understandings of science and technology?
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