I’m sure you have heard the comment “You’re not the customer…you’re the product” and I think this needs exploring once again in light of recent revelations in the press about Facebook data being “harvested” by Cambridge Analytica to “hack” elections (Trump and Brexit).
I do not profess to have answers…or even particularly good questions to ask about this but a few things seem to be very obvious to me but not so to people who are shouting so loud about what’s happened.
- Facebook is a business. Zuckerberg created the company to be a platform for people to share their experiences and bring them closer together, probably without any clear understanding of how he could monetise this. For over a decade we (everyone) has used Facebook to keep in contact with friends, to share content, to promote ourselves and we haven’t paid for the privilege of doing to. Facebook is a business and NOT a charity…
- People are talking about how these elections have been hacked. Yes, we feel dirty. Yes, we feel manipulated…would we have voted differently if this hadn’t happened? Perhaps, perhaps not…but I’m not sure that people can have a fundamental belief system shifted with an algorithm. If you’re a Catholic (to pick a religion at random) you are unlikely to change to being a Sikh (to pick another at random) because I show you some things about Catholicism that aren’t very nice because…because it’s a belief and this is very deeply ingrained in you. You argue that yours is the one true religion, as every other religious person argues that theirs is. Politics is the same, you have an affinity based on your own values and beliefs (or perhaps your upbringing)…NOT based on facts. So can I change this? Perhaps, but I doubt it…
- What they did was against the law. No it wasn’t. In the same way that I share things that resonate with me (which I hope are true, but nonetheless) reflect MY view of the world rather than facts. Read a left wing newspaper’s view of the news, then a right wing newspaper’s view of the news. You may think that sharing things that aren’t true (or perhaps aren’t balanced isn’t nice/right/good)…but it isn’t against the law…
So, what should we, or what could we, do about this?
I can’t help thinking that we, the public, need to take more responsibility for fact checking things before we believe them. Some people believe that The Office is in fact a documentary, I cannot legislate for the gullibility of those people and more than I can legislate for the gullibility of people who make the “wrong” decision at election time.
I think that this is more about how we, humankind, need to think about how the world around us has changed and we as a species haven’t. We need to educate ourselves and our children to be able to fact-check things before we just believe them.
The world of social media is still in its infancy and it is perhaps outgrowing our understanding of it…it’s certainly outgrowing our ability to see some of the consequences of things that happen on there but, for better or for worse, it is what it is. Facebook however is going nowhere. 2,400,000,000 subscribers/users and the mainstay of communication in many people’s lives it is a constant for us all for the foreseeable future.
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