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AdLib On March - 20 - 2018

Voting FBRemember back when you were a social media virgin?

I remember my first experience with Facebook shortly after it had become “a thing”. I arrived at the Facebook home page and was bewildered by the locked gate. Only those who acceded to joining this site could view the posts there. Generally speaking, I like to know what something is before I join it (which is why I didn’t march with a tiki torch at Charlottesville then ask the skinhead next to me, “So, what are we marching for here?”) and I am suspicious when being required to join something I can’t even look at so I decided not to join at the time.

My introduction to Twitter was a little different and I have to admit that I wasn’t crazy about of the limitation on tweet length, it seemed arbitrary and encouraging people to distill down what they wanted to say to more simplistic, less thoughtful expression. As my interest in internet discourse has always been in the realm of more thoughtful, exploratory conversations on important matters, the truncating of thoughts into Idea McNuggets seemed like a dumbing down to a lower common denominator. Though on the bright side, I could be reaching more people who had A.D.D..

One thing that I have always valued, which now seems quaint especially to the younger generations out there, is the right and value of privacy. Having personal information that is your own possession and is shared only with whom you choose. Having grown up in the 70’s, when those with money and power were viewed with suspicion, I was predisposed not to be enticed by a massive corporation to use its platform to share my personal information with my friends. I find fruitcakes much more effective.

I recognize the many positives of Facebook and Twitter, the sense of feeling connected to others including friends and family, the ability to share news and causes instantly with many, helping people and businesses market and promote what they had to offer and being able to get likes for photos of avocado toast cut into the shape of a Game of Thrones dragon.

People have used social media to build powerful and important movements like #NeverAgain and #MeToo and even overthrow dictatorships in the Arab Spring. So, social media does have to potential to offer constructive power to the public too.

However, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have worked hard over the years to design their functionality so that people will become easier to influence and manipulate in terms of behavior. They are businesses that drive their profits by keeping people on their sites for longer and longer periods and of course, seeing more ads which means more profits. A central tool for high viewer traffic and usage is feeding posts to them that are intended to keep them reading, delighted, agitated and posting.

There is a big game being played by social media companies that is not visible when simply using their sites for their social functionality. This is a multi-billion dollar business, there is a massive amount of money being grabbed that is based on understanding human psychology and triggering responses that can be profited upon.

This psycho-machinery that powers the profitability of social media is what all these social media companies are built on. So when a party with bad intentions, like Cambridge Analytica or Vladimir Putin, uses this highly manipulative machinery for their own malicious purposes, they’re just using them as they are designed to be used by advertisers and others.

As we used to write frequently about Huffington Post but what also applies to social media sites is that they are engineered to subconsciously addict people because of course, the more frequently people use their service, the more money they make from advertising. “Like” buttons, “Retweet” counts, many of the “fun” aspects of social media sites are meant to give members a little rush of excitement and condition them to want to check back frequently to see how many people like them or what they posted. It’s a piece of cheese at the end of the maze, meant to keep us more motivated to run it again and again. One will post a video of their dog with a Trump wig, licking itself then anxiously return again and again to see how many “like”s they got…or if some people thought it was actually Trump.

There are now completed studies about this addictive effect that social media sites have on people.  As concerning as this should be with regards to corporate social engineering, what we’ve also become aware of since the 2016 election, is that the business models of social media are perfect vehicles for being hijacked by those who understand their power and seek to use it for big, destructive schemes.

Between Facebook and Twitter, I find Twitter to have more redeeming qualities, balancing the plus of immediate news sharing against the negative of rampant bot and troll accounts plaguing it. The promotion of damaging propaganda on Twitter by Russian bot and troll farms, various extremist groups and other bad actors have helped to poison society by blurring the line between truth and propaganda, especially to the benefit of Trump and his compulsive lies and phony conspiracy claims. So despite its pluses, Twitter still has and is contributing to the intentional damaging of our democracy and increased polarization between Americans (and that’s not even counting the Hillary/Bernie supporters STILL investing a great deal of time and energy denigrating the other and their supporters…newsflash…2016 was two years ago!).

One difference between them, Twitter is in the messaging business while Facebook is in the personal information compiling and acquisition business which is a bit more worrisome.

As has now been widely reported now, Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that Donald Trump paid $5.9 million for services in his campaign, used Facebook exactly as it has been designed to work, to scrape a wide array of personal data about people to better manipulate them and get Donald Trump elected by doing so. As Chris Wylie, the now-whistleblower who helped founded Cambridge Analytica, said the company aimed to “explore mental vulnerabilities of people” and that the company “works on creating a web of disinformation online so people start going down the rabbit hole of clicking on blogs, websites etc. that make them think things are happening that may not be.”

Facebook is a propagandist’s dream. Compared to the manipulating power of Facebook, Joseph Goebbels was an amateur running a high school election. It’s hard to imagine Nazi Germany not winning WWII if they had Facebook at the time to precondition and propagandize the world and build global support before its invasions began.

Right now, we don’t know if Facebook did or didn’t collaborate knowingly with Cambridge Analytica in deceptively using private data to manipulate people psychologically into voting for Trump or not voting for Hillary Clinton. However, what we do know is that this is what Facebook is designed to do…taking people’s personal information and using it to manipulate them.

Facebook will use the Orwellian reasoning that they are only mining all of your privacy away to serve you better, to show you the news and posts that you’d most like to see or offer you products and services that you’d most want to have. The flip side of that is the truth, they gather all this personal information from people to sell that information for a profit to companies and even foreign countries seeking to undermine our democracy. People on Facebook ARE the product Facebook sells to make their money and as is far too clear now, they will not only sell out people but their democratic system too without hesitation to reap more profits.

Of all the social media companies, Facebook was and is designed to be a dominating entity over the public so it should be no surprise that it was in bed with Cambridge Analytica in manipulating the 2016 presidential election.

I mentioned Orwell, Facebook is an ultimate expression of Orwell. It offers a facade of being about bringing people together. Reuniting high school friends, keeping relatives close, and sharing special (and not so special) thoughts, photos and videos with like-minded people. What isn’t always recognized is that, this is not the primary purpose of Facebook, to bring people closer under their tent, it is step one of a two part system. First, build a communal place where people will feel free to share their valuable, personal information…then use that to reap money and power. It’s that last part that too many people are missing when they look too closely at that kitty video.

Facebook is not a non-profit organization. It’s purpose is based on generating more money and influence than previously imaginable. Mark Zuckerberg is not a humanitarian, he is a money-driven corporate czar who, like Vladimir Putin, spends a great deal of time, energy and money to construct a facade as “a good guy” who cares about people, in order to cloak his true, greed and power driven self.

One company, one person should not have this much wealth or power. If power corrupts, this much power, to manipulate millions of people and influence elections and destinies worldwide, has to be more corrupting than anything that came before.

Hopefully this growing story about how Facebook helped Cambridge Analytica corrupt our democracy (and others around the world) will bring about federal regulation over this sociopathic behemoth and open people’s eyes to the power over themselves they cede to Facebook and other social media companies by using their sites.

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

One Response so far.

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  1. kesmarn says:

    Facebook really is the devil’s instrument. I have to confess, I fell for it for a while. Reconnecting with people I’d lost touch with, meeting new people who were kindred spirits — what was not to love? Even as my son was cautioning: “If the social media product is free? You can bet on it: you ARE the product.” (You mentioned this too, AdLib.)

    I thought I was being cagey. Gave FB false or no personal information. (Did y’all know I was born in 1907?) Was careful about accepting friend requests or invitations to join unfamiliar groups. But when a friend of mine reported that she had mentioned on FB one evening that her aging dog was very ill and then discovered an ad the next morning on her FB page for “pet caskets”? Well, that creeped me out.

    Besides the propaganda opportunities, there also seemed to me just too many chances for serious misunderstandings to occur. In the hyper-emotional environment of online discussions, even old friends would occasionally drastically misread what I was trying to say. And I take responsibility for some failures to communicate clearly as well.

    Earlier this year I started to realize that I was spending more time than I could afford -- given family responsibilities -- and (rather than feeling validated and supported) I was actually feeling worse half the time after having spent half an hour on FB. I cut back drastically. And it has been all to the good.

    Tonight I saw an interview with Tim Wu on this topic on the PBS Newshour. He’s a Columbia law professor and tech expert. His take? Do not believe Zuckerberg when he says he’s sorry this “happened” (as if it was an act of God, not greed) and vows to do better. “They say that every time,” Wu cautioned. He added: “When Cambridge Analytics says they’re extracting users’ personal data and using it to advance their own financial interests? Facebook (initially at least) didn’t see that as a crime. After all that’s their business model!!

    So if Zuckerberg and friends claim to be “Shocked! Shocked I tell you!” to discover that they’ve damaged users’ confidence and betrayed their trust? Don’t believe ’em.


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