All contributions in this zine, unless otherwise
stated in the exceptions, are licensed under
the GNU General Public License
Christian Fuchs’s contribution “Union campaigning in the
social media and advertising age: Perspectives for a digital
labour union” is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND
Lúcia Dossin’s contribution “Body and Soul”
is licensed under CC BY-SA
Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba’s contribution “The Extraction of Likes
by the Flies of Commerce” is licensed under CC BY-SA
We bid you all welcome to the second number
of the Immaterial Labour Union Zine! The
issue at hand revolves around the theme
“Advertisement on Social Media”. The process
of marketing audiences for economic surplus
was exposed and analysed in Dallas Smythe’s
1977 essay “Communications: Blindspot of
Western Marxism”. According to Smythe, all
non-sleeping time is work that we commit to
the communications industry, by means of
our labour power being sold to advertisement
What with our data being sold to advertisers,
corporate entities having their own pages and
accounts on mainstream social media, it is
Mathijs van Oosterhoudt, Christian
clear that we are ever more a part of Smythe’s
Fuchs, Lúcia Dossin, Δεριζαματζορ
Προμπλεμ ιναυστραλια, Daniel
We hope you will enjoy the valuable con-
tributions we have received, which will further
reflect on our experiences of ad-mediated
reality and the effects of this phenomena for
Would you like to contribute?
socio-political movements, as well as for our
May 16th, 2015
Subscribe to the mailing list :
by Lídia Pereira and Mathijs van Oosterhoudt
Great Zuckerboss, delightful Schmidt master,
Prithee! Tell me, what’s my price on the market?
I’ll give you some more content, for more accurate suggestions
I swear I’ll be productive and share with my connections.
Shape me profitable, formulate your ideal subject
Groom me to your investors, I want to look product perfect.
Bullseye! Another fool falls - it’s investment!
It went viral and took some balls
But product sold - you own an audience.
It’s been a long day at work today...
With data I toil, with adverts you pay.
by Christian Fuchs @fuchschristian http://fuchs.uti.at
Union campaigning in the social media and advertising age:
Perspectives for a digital labour union
Global advertising investments have in 2013 amounted to US$ 513.4 billion,
up 9% from 2008, the year the new world economic crisis started. The share
of Internet advertising has in these years increased from 12% to 27%, making
this realm the second largest sphere of ad investment after television. In the
same time period, ad investment share in newspapers has dropped from 25%
to 16%, contributing to the survival crisis of news journalism and print media.
Online advertising allows targeting consumers based on constant surveillance
of their online behaviour. Especially in times of crisis, when businesses worry
more than usual about bankruptcy and losses, such a shift from print to online
advertising is therefore likely to take accelerated pace.
A commodity is a good that under capitalist
conditions is sold on capitalist markets in
order to achieve profits. Wherever there is
a commodity, there is labour that creates
it. Google, Facebook and Twitter are no
commodities because there is “free” access
to them. But this freedom comes at the
(zero) price of digital labour: There is a data commodity created by users’
digital labour that online advertisers exploit in order to achieve monetary profits.
In the case of Google and Facebook ,this strategy works: Google in 2014 was
with profits of US$ 13.7 billion the world’s 39th largest company, Facebook
with profits of US$ 2.9 billion the 280th largest. Don’t be mistaken: These two
Internet giants are not communications companies, but the world’s largest
advertising agencies. The WWW is a global information and communication
space dominated by advertising that reduces us to the status of digital workers
and consumers. This model is however not universally successful: Twitter
is making loss after loss, increasing its losses from US$ 132 million during
2014’s first quarter to US$ 162 million in 2015’s first three months. Targeted
advertising is a volatile organisation model.
Labour unions fight for workers’ rights vis-à-vis capital. The most common
tradition in this respect is making demands for wage increases. Advertising
relates to consumption and has therefore not traditionally been an issue that
unions care about. It was rather predominantly left as political field to consumer
organisations. But if consumers more and more become workers, then the
situation changes. Union activities and demands then have to change.
But social media’s digital workers do not get wages, which is why Facebook
and Google’s profits are so large. Imagine a strong and powerful digital labour
union having many social media users as committed members. Should it
demand wages for social media use? The problem is that such demands do
not foster alternatives to the corporate Internet and leaves existing and future
alternatives in a precarious state. So what should a digital labour union do and
Corporate taxes are extremely low today. But capitalist companies massively
exploit unpaid and paid labour, including unremunerated labour that creates
commons such as communication, social relations, knowledge, education,
culture, etc. A basic income funded by corporate taxation is a social wage.
But basic income can be made up of different components. One of it can be
a wage for the creation of the information and communication commons that
advertising-funded media exploit.
Let us assume the world’s advertising revenues of US$ 513.4 billion are
charged by an ad tax of 10%. The resulting US$ 51.34 billion could via
participatory budgeting be distributed to the Earth’s 7.2 billion inhabitants.
A media cheque of US$7 per year could be generated that citizens could
collectively use for funding alternative, non-commercial, non-profit, community-
community/worker/user/consumer-owned media projects. Further corporate
taxes could be added in order to increase this amount. The concrete use of
this money could be decided in local or regional assemblies. Work in non-profit
cultural and digital co-operatives funded by a participatory media fee could take
on new qualities, could reinvigorate critical and investigative journalism, public
engagement, political and cultural community life, etc.
The struggle for a participatory media fee and an alternative, post-capitalist
media landscape that combines public power and civil society power could be
part of what the a digital labour union considers as feasible demands. Wages
for Facebook is a too limited demand. A social wage for the creation of the
communication commons at large is possible.
by Lúcia Dossin
Replacing “information” with “soul” and “content” with “body” on Facebook’s
About Advertisements and Other Commercial Content Served or
Enhanced by Facebook
Our goal is to deliver advertising and other commercial or sponsored body that
is valuable to our users and advertisers. In order to help us do that, you agree
to the following:
You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, body, and soul in
connection with commercial, sponsored, or related body (such as a brand you
like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a
business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture
with your body or soul, without any compensation to you. If you have selected
a specific audience for your body or soul, we will respect your choice when we
We do not give your body or soul to
advertisers without your consent.
You understand that we may not
always identify paid services and
communications as such.
by Mathijs van Oosterhoudt
by Δεριζαματζορ Προμπλεμ ιναυστραλια
by Daniel Aguilar Ruvalcaba
The Extraction of Likes by the Flies of Commerce
mar/31/facebook-tracks-all-visitors-breaching-eu-law-report) on the Technology
section of “The Guardian” reported Facebook’s misuse of user and non user
data, actively breaching EU law. A report, commissioned by the Belgian
data protection agency and conducted by researchers of the Centre of
Interdisciplinary Law and ICT, the University of Leuven and Vrije Universiteit
Brussels, had been published recently which denounced the abusive practices
enforced by the company in regards to the tracking of user data for targeted
advertising purposes. These practices extend beyond the platform itself, and
apply to any website making use of its Facebook’s services (e.g. “share” and
“like” buttons). This is possible by the placing of browser cookies which retrieve
users’ online behaviour information. There are options offered for opting-out of
advertisement on diverse online platforms, Facebook included. However, as
the report shows, for EU citizens that just means the placing of a new cookie
on the user’s computer.