I have always made an effort to pursue ethical investing. In fact, my first investment in my 20s was an ethical mutual fund at Vancity Credit Union. Since then, I have made a sustained effort to decarbonize my portfolio, and that guiding principle has meant that my portfolio skews very heavily towards science and technology funds, especially tech and pharma stocks. I have read a few articles in the Guardian today that have made me question some of these investments, especially my investment in Facebook:
- Read Sacha Baron Cohen’s scathing attack on Facebook in full: ‘greatest propaganda machine in history’ link
- Surprised about Mark Zuckerberg’s secret meeting with Trump? Don’t be. link
- Revealed: Facebook’s internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence. link
Understood that the Guardian is not perfectly aligned with my own political views all of the time, and that there is an inherent bias against Facebook in this journal, after reading these articles it is hard to deny that there are some serious moral failings by this company.
A few years ago I was increasingly concerned with the content that Facebook’s algorithms was forcing into my feed, and more importantly the posts from friends that were suppressed. I didn’t have hard evidence that they were filtering my content with malicious intent, but my intuition was that something malevolent was happening on this platform, and my emotional reaction to it was swift. I deleted my account the moment that this option was available to me. I continue to maintain a small Facebook account for software development purposes, and use other Facebook products such as Facebook Audience Network, Instagram, and WhatsApp (for people who haven’t switched to Signal yet), but I don’t share my Facebook Profile publicly and I don’t read it for news anymore.
I now pay for subscriptions to magazines and newspapers, because good journalism costs money, and journalists deserve to be paid for their hard work. Canadians, did you know that you can get the Financial Times of London delivered to your door? A Saturday only subscription is only $159.00 plus tax and the quality of the weekend edition is beyond compare. If you are more into digital subscriptions, the Economist has a great iPhone app where each article can be read aloud to you by a real human. A 12 week trial is only $12. Since I have limited my news reading to a Saturday morning paper, I feel that I am able to keep up on world events without all of the emotional manipulation of Facebook promoted videos. I am also able to make time to read a lot more books for a deeper dive into subjects that interest me. More importantly, I have agency over what I read, instead of having my news spoon fed to me by an algorithm.
It is not my style to say “don’t invest in Facebook” without providing a positive alternative. There is a great publication out of Toronto that has partially restored my faith in capitalism. They publish a list of ethical investments for free, and I do shoot them a few dollars for an annual subscription as well. Here are their top 100 picks for 2019, and here is a link to their methodology for these picks. There are quite a few surprises on this list.
Final word, this is not a full list of the subscriptions I maintain, nor is it a representation of my current political views. I have chosen to include links to these magazines as an example of good journalism primarily because they leverage statistics and credible sources for their articles, and have a very long history of getting it right more often than getting it wrong. That said, I am always looking for more sources of credible information, I look forward to your comments.
I sell my Facebook stock Monday morning.