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The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive ’value abundance’?

By Michel Bauwens

, by Al jazeera

Open-source software, shared innovation and crowd-sourced manufacturing threaten capitalism as we know it.

Chiang Mai, Thailand - Does Facebook exploit its users? And where is the $100bn in the company’s estimated value coming from?

This is not a new debate. It resurfaces regularly in the blogosphere and academic circles, ever since Tiziana Terranova coined the term "Free Labour" to indicate a new form of capitalist exploitation of unpaid labour - firstly referring to the viewers of classic broadcast media, and now to the new generation of social media participants on sites such as Facebook. The argument can be summarised very succinctly by the catch phrase: "If it’s free, then you are the product being sold."

This term was recently relaunched in an article by University of Essex academics Christopher Land and Steffen Böhm, entitled "They are exploiting us! Why we all work for Facebook for free". In this mini-essay, they make a very strong claim that "we can certainly position the users of Facebook as labourers. If labour is understood as ’value producing activity’, then updating your status, liking a website, or ’friending’ someone, creates Facebook’s basic commodity."

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