WASHINGTON, March 19, 2018. – Facebook has grown into a giant private behemoth who has a databank of information on American’s to make any spy agency proud. Facebook users are no longer a “customer” of the social media platform. They are an asset whose social media data collection is for sale without the users’ permission. When signing up, they gave willingly gave those rights to privacy of their information away. Recent revelations that Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of 50 million Facebook profiles to target American voters is simply heart-stopping.
What is most frightening about the Facebook phenom is that so many American’s surfed right over and gave them access to their information. From hard data, name, address, birthdate, marital status to information culled without active participation – from where they shop to who they know Facebook began building a database.
If they find out you are hiding behind a pseudonym, you might find yourself banned.
Facebook determines who is naughty and nice
Like a techno-Santa they know when users are heading out to the show, are eating dinner or leaving town for vacation. They track where and what we buy. And the places we surf to during the day.
Then we downloaded the app to our phone and they know who we are calling and when. When we are asleep, awake, traveling, shopping. Wherever we go, whatever we do, Facebook, with our approval, is documenting and collecting data about its users.
IN May 2017, The Economist wrote “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data – The data economy demands a new approach to antitrust rules“:
Who, what is Facebook
Marck Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 amid controversy. Within a week of the Harvard sophomore launching the site, three Harvard seniors, Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, accused him of stealing the idea from them.
The claim was that Zuckerberg was hired as a web developer to create the site HarvardConnections.com. Zuckerberg was suggested as the right man for the job.
Only Zuckerberg took the idea for HarvardConnections.com, delaying the development of their site, in order to rush Facebook.com to market. An allegation that Business Insider says the following December 7, 2003 IM between Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, Facebook co-founder, proves.
According to Business Insider (At last — the full story of how Facebook was founded – March 2010) that IM between Zuckerberg and Saverin, not only shows intent, but how Zuckerberg planned to beat the competition:
Check this site out:and then go to . Someone is already trying to make a dating site. But they made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them. So I’m like delaying it so it won’t be ready until after the facebook thing comes out.
This IM suggests that, within a week of meeting with the Winklevosses for the first time, Mark had already decided to start his own, similar project–“the facebook thing.” It also suggests that he had developed a strategy for dealing with his would-be competition: Delay developing it.
It’s a new Cold War
For those too young, or too uneducated by modern halls of learning, to remember, the recent Facebook data breach is far too reminiscent of the Cold War espionage. From 1947, the end of World War II, to 1991, Cold War espionage was about intelligence gathering between the Western U.S., UK and NATO countries and the Eastern Blocs – the aligned counties of the Warsaw Pack and The Soviet Union.
The difference between then and now, the enemy was an enemy of the state. Today’s intelligence gathering is a private company with a liberal political ideology against Conservative America.
Over the last fourteen years, an unaccountable private corporation has collected and is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world’s population.
Last but far from least, they are tracking the sites we go to, the articles we read, the information we share. All this with our tactic approval. Or maybe naivete. Facebook quickly went from being a fun social experience to a 21st-century dive down big brother’s rabbit hole.
Facebook: Propaganda Model of Social Media Control
Mark Zuckerberg once claimed that once we were all connected, life would be better. He was wrong. When you put millions of people into one cyberspace room, the tendency is the opposite of coming together. Like a modern Civil War, siblings fight siblings over statues, children fight parents over politics, friends for life become unfriended for life as our tolerance for a different opinion on literally anything, escalated out of control.
Then instead of staying in the background, a playground monitor or a disinterested third-party to the process, Facebook began collection data collection from its users. In turn, with that data in hand, they began to relegate the flow of information to billions of human beings.
In their book ‘Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of the Mass Media’ Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky discuss how propaganda works in a mass media. Their model shows how a population can be manipulated “and how the social, economic, political attitudes are fashioned in the minds of people through propaganda.”
Facebook’s decision that they had the right to manipulate its users by deciding the validity of a user, person or company, makes it suspect. The posts they put into your personal feed are there to encourage social and political opinions. What is most harmful is that they monitor people’s interactions.
Who we friend. And who we unfriend. What we like, or share.
Political propaganda: The unseen face of Facebook
Facebook seeks to influence more than your buying habits. By censoring one political website over another, Facebook determines who will, and who will not, benefit from income-generating sharing of posts. More than a friendly place to share day-to-day information, Facebook quickly moved from being a private company to become a media influencer.
What does this mean?
Facebook’s news section acts like any other news bullpen with a group of young journalists curating the trending module on the Facebook page.
The job of these young ivy league trained curators is to write the headline and summary on every promoted topic. Where this becomes problematic is that those promoted topics include links to news sites. Placement in this block of information is not based on organic user interest. But on the social and political ideology of the facebook curators.
The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic and include links to their list of approved news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, has become, like a vaunted Drudge link, the holy grail to publishers. Get onto that list, and watch your webbased publication become an overnight success.
Like a Drudge link, unless you are among the approved, it will not happen.
Facebook determines what users, 167 million in the US alone, are reading at any given moment.
According to Michael Nunez at Gizmodo.com (Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News):
“Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.”
Nonetheless, Facebook is treated as if it is simply a conduit for information, meaning it is not liable for the content its users share – in much the same way the phone company can’t be sued for a prank call to your house.
Banned by Facebook
Facebook’s propaganda reach goes far beyond pushing stories they deem worthy (i.e., liberal, pro-Clinton, socialist posts) to pro-actively banning conservatives who wish to get their message out. If a conservative user is not careful, they can easily be banned via one of the Facebook censors reacting to a post they see, or a post that is reported by another user.
Speaking with The Guardian (Publishers or platforms? Media giants may be forced to choose) Iain MacKenzie, a spokesperson for Facebook, says:
“Every piece of content on Facebook has an associated ‘report’ option that escalates it to your user operations team for review. Additionally, individuals can block anyone who is harassing them, ensuring they will be unable to interact further. Facebook tackles malicious behaviour through a combination of social mechanisms and technological solutions appropriate for a mass-scale online opportunity.”
Facebook has admittedly taken a firm line on conservative content and commentators.
Honest Ads Act
In October 2017, steps were taken by US senators to regulate online political advertising on social media sites, like Facebook. They approached the issue in the same manner that there are rules regarding political advertising in more traditional print and broadcasted media.
The Honest Ads Act would require large platform companies like Facebook and Google to retain copies of the political ads they serve and make them available for public inspection. The companies would also have to publish information about who bought the ad, how much it cost, and what rates they were charged. The act would apply to any platform with more than 50 million monthly users, and anyone who spent more than $500 a year on online ads.
Facebook and DigiDay
Facebook is resisting many legislative attempts to regulate its content. In February 2018 the website Digiday reported on LittleThings, a four-year-old site that developed an audience by sharing feel-good stories and videos on Facebook, shut down today, putting 100 out of work.
This after Facebook encouraged publishers to create and invest their time and content generation of videos and articles, to Facebook. Once Facebook decided it wanted more user posts and less publisher content in its news feed, they destroyed sites like DigiDay with their new algorithm changes.
The impact of Facebook’s iron-fisted dominance over the platform is that media publications are constantly scrambling to keep up with the platform’s changing strategy.
The editor-in-chief of Wired, Nick Thompson, recently told the Digiday podcast that there was a fear:
Facebook has a dial somewhere that can be turned to cut off media that gets too uppity”.
When social media leads to death
Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, recently made headlines when speaking at Stanford:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
“This is not about Russian ads,” he added. “This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
Palihapitiya spoke of a false WhatsApp messages warning of a group of kidnappers led to the lynching of seven people. WhatsApp is a Facebook company.
“That’s what we’re dealing with,” Palihapitiya said. “Imagine when you take that to the extreme where bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
Even if we avoid Facebook, it is not easy to protect our personal data. You cannot stop it from being sent down Big Brother’s propaganda rabbit hole. Roger McNamee, managing partners of Elevation Technologies, says the company uses techniques found in propaganda and casino gambling to foster psychological addiction in its users. These include a steady stream of push notifications, the gratification of people you do not know wishing you a Happy Birthday. In The Guardania, McNamee concludes in “Why not regulate social media like tobacco or alcohol?”:
We are at a critical juncture. Awareness of the risks posed by internet platforms is growing from a small base, but the convenience of the products and psychological addiction to them are such that it may take a generation to effect change from the user side, as it did with anti-smoking campaigns. Recognition of the corrosive effect of platform monopolies on competition and innovation is greater in Europe than in the US, but no one has found an effective regulatory strategy. Awareness that the platforms can be manipulated to undermine democracy is also growing, but western governments have yet to devise a defense against it.
The challenges posed by internet platform monopolies require new approaches beyond antitrust enforcement. We must recognize and address these challenges as a threat to public health. One possibility is to treat social media in a manner analogous to tobacco and alcohol, combining education and regulation.
For the sake of restoring balance to our lives and hope to our politics, it is time to disrupt the disrupters.
Nick Srnicek, author of Platform Capitalism, says,
“Facebook is acting like a classic monopoly: it’s buying up competitors like Instagram, it’s blatantly copying rivals like Snapchat, and it even has its own app, Onavo, that acts to warn them of potential threats. All of this is combined with an unchecked sweeping up of our data that’s being used to build an impervious moat around its business.”
Facebook’s informational dominance means that it is time to change how we treat Facebook and other social media platforms. When first launched, Facebook and Google were little more than an advertising agency. They made money selling targeted ads to its users. However as the political discussion has heated up, groups like Cambridge Analytical are using the psychophysiological data collected.
And while the influence of Cambridge Analytical on the 2016 Elections is unknown, that President Obama was known as first “social media” president is important. At the time of the 2012 elections, much was written about his campaigns ability to use social media – from Tweets to Facebook Posts to Instagram images to email – to capture the attention of the American voter.
So perhaps it’s time to start treating Facebook as the giant multinational corporation. A corporation that sells you to the highest bidder.