Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Facebook is not a good neighbor, which is not good business

It is bad enough when relocating companies make it sound like they make your community better simply by relocating along side you without reference to the quality of jobs they provide, to the risk to your quality of life from their by-products and to the quality of neighbors they are after they move in (keeping in mind that the executives will not likely be living among you).

But when an incredibly wealthy company moves in and promotes itself not as primarily profit-driven but as a catalyst for the sake of community, and then it exploits everyone else in the neighborhood, it is beyond stupid:

It should thus come as no surprise that when it comes to dealing with governments and communities, Facebook is just as self-serving as any corporation not pretending to be on a social mission. This is demonstrated most clearly at its data centers.

These facilities, also known as server farms, are large collections of computers that power online networks. They use vast amounts of power and thus are located in rural areas with cheap electricity. Being highly automated, they create few jobs -- yet Internet companies take advantage of the desperation of local officials for investment of any kind to obtain substantial economic development subsidies.

Facebook announced in January 2010 that it would build its first data center in central Oregon, choosing a location in the economically depressed town of Prineville that was part of an enterprise zone, thus making it eligible for property tax breaks for up to 15 years. The company later began expressing public concerns about how its intangible property would be taxed. In recent months it has been pressuring state legislators to restrict the ability of the state revenue department to assess data centers as utilities.

Even in social media, especially with wildly popular Facebook, there is marketing and then there is the truth. Communities who commit to these companies may think that they are on the cutting edge, on their way to becoming the next big tech bubble. But tech companies are not any further above any other company at head-faking with the novelty and driving to bling.

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