Sunday, 28 April 2019

Weapons of Mass Cultural Destruction: Facebook and Metal Detectors

The amenability of Facebook or the anonymising and handling of illicit antiquities sales has been widely discussed recently, especially concerning antiquities from foreign conflict zones (see mention of recent conference here). This nasty process also takes place in Britain, where local pilferers of the past, knowledge thieves and other culture criminals make use of it too. Farmer Silas Brown writing on Heritage Action's Heritage Journal  has recently spotted something disturbing: 
see this group of greedy, archaeo-posing clowns with 3,887 members … Metal Detecting Finds Auction Club”  “This is a group for people to auction metal detecting finds responsibly.” “Respect everyone’s privacy. What’s shared in the group should stay in the group”. Every single one of their many thousands of finds is YOURS, dear colleagues – or the country’s! What did they tell YOU when they asked for permission?
In what way is selling metal detecting finds made 'responsible' anyway? This ios one whole asopect of the hobby omitted from the Code of Practice for Responsible Artefact Hunting in England and Wales, even after 'revision'. 

Certainly, no confidence at all in that innate sense of responsibility is roused by What’s shared in the group should stay in the group because unethical activity cannot be simply dismissed as a 'privacy' issue. 

See:  Siva Vaidhyanathan, 'Regulating Facebook will be one of the greatest challenges in human history' The Guardian Sun 28 Apr 2019
Regulators are trying to address Facebook as if it’s like companies they have encountered before. But Facebook presents radically new challenges. [...] Each of these regulatory measures hope to address one negative consequence of Facebook at a time. No one, it seems, is prepared to consider Facebook (and its other global services, WhatsApp and Instagram) in its totality. It’s as if governments around the world are addressing individual weather systems as they hit and do harm. But no one is considering the dangers of climate change. [...] Facebook is such a powerful and pervasive global system that confronting it demands radical new thought. It reaches more than 2.3 billion people, and that means more than 2.3 billion people regularly post videos, photos, and text to Facebook. They do so in more than 110 languages. The very idea that Facebook can police itself is absurd. Beyond scale, Facebook operates across most of the world without serious competition for advertisements or attention. Among the five social media platforms with more than one billion users, four of them (Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram) are owned by Facebook. The fifth, WeChat, operates primarily in China, where Facebook does not. The only platform that competes for attention with Facebook at that scale is YouTube (owned by Google), with about 2 billion viewers. But it performs different functions in our lives.
And metal detectorists use both to promote their hobby and to inflict damage on the cultural heritage.

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