Futurebook

The Open Rights Group (ORG) is a UK-based organisation that works to preserve digital rights and freedoms by campaigning on digital rights issues and by fostering a community of grassroots activists. It campaigns on numerous issues including mass surveillance, internet filtering and censorship, and intellectual property rights.

Futurebook, based largely on the Facebook platform, is a live demonstration of how social networking could operate in a post-Brexit UK, featuring extremely invasive advertising, redacted content, bandwidth throttling on its streaming media, comment censorship and more. These elements demonstrate some potential outcomes should EU-based digital policy acts be rescinded by the UK following its departure from the Union.

Futurebook homepage on a macbook screen
  • Client : Futurebook
  • Website : www.futurebook.co
  • Issues : Digital Rights, Privacy, Brexit, Net Neutrality, Censorship, Surveillance
  • Services Offered : Web design, Development, Animation, Strategy

The Challenge

To execute an effective parody format, Futurebook's colour palette, visual style and appearance was strongly based on Facebook's; visual familiarity had to be combined with jarring elements to capture users' attention. Futurebook had to be built flexibly to ensure the platform was versatile, enabling ORG to reuse it in the future for other campaigns and issues. It also needed to strike a balance between being dystopian and realistic, annoying to use without being unusable.

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Content Censorship

The normal Facebook 'Create Post' area is used on Futurebook to highlight the potential for censorship and surveillance. When attempting to post something on the feed, users are presented with one of a number of warnings/errors written by ORG, such as 'Something in your post has been flagged for review. We’ll let you know if we allow it'. Similarly, if they try and change who is able to view their post, the platform highlights that their content will always be viewable by the government, even if visibility is set to 'Only Me'. This theme continued with the presence of redacted comments throughout the feed, and with the fact that users' comments get deleted as they attempt to type, followed by the disappearance of the comment box entirely.

User attempting to write a post on Futurebook

Content Types

The most immediately visible content types ORG can use to get their message across are the Facebook-style posts and adverts. In addition to this, the custom Wordpress back end we created allows ORG to create and amend profile images, comments (visible or redacted), names, create custom pop ups on adverts and when users click 'like' and more. The 'Why am I seeing this' button on adverts is a particularly good opportunity for ORG to highlight the potential for increasing invasiveness in targeted advertising. The ability to create standalone custom pages and link to them additionally enables ORG to create content such as parody privacy policies, events, competitions and more.

Futurebook adverts on an iPhone

Reveal

To explain the campaign fully and highlight a clear call to action for users, we incorporated a strong and visible reveal effect at the bottom of the feed.

Gif revealing Futurebook as a parody site

Glitch Effects

To convey the possibility that UK-based internet users could have their internet speed throttled after changes to the law, we create glitching effects as the user scrolls. This is designed to surprise, annoy and inform users, drawing attention to the issue.

Gif of glitching effects as user scrolls
"If we lose rights to free expression and privacy, the online world will begin to look a lot more like Futurebook - creepy, annoying and bland. Futurebook is a nightmare that Open Rights Group is determined to fight against."

- Matthew Rice, Open Rights Group's Scotland director.
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