By examining how Facebook manipulates its users for financial gain, TruthHawk argues how the social media giant is "a structural threat to free society". Because Facebook is a "centralization of private data, power, and influence," even if Mark Zuckerberg proves to be a saint, it could become "the most powerful tool for political power and manipulation in history" for whoever gains control of it.
Take a hypothetical Facebook user, Jimmy. Jimmy tends to scroll Facebook on his phone for 5 minutes, then close the app. Facebook knows that Jimmy likes posts from his friend Steve, because he tends to leave positive comments on them. Next time Jimmy reaches the 5-minute mark, Facebook shows him a post from Steve. Jimmy leaves a comment, scrolls for a bit longer, then quits the app at the 8-minute mark. Facebook also knows that Jimmy is crushing on Jenny – he tends to linger whenever she shows up on his Instagram feed, even if he doesn’t like or comment. Next time Jimmy’s at the 8-minute mark, Facebook shows him a post from Jenny. This pattern continues, and Jimmy’s Facebook use grows from 5 minutes a day to 15.
Facebook Research has learned, hypothetically, that you can only keep people in the Machine Zone with positive content for so long. So the algorithm starts to use negative content too, now and then. Jimmy hates Chad, and Facebook knows this because Jimmy says so in his Messenger conversations. So nowadays, when Jimmy reaches the 15-minute mark, Facebook will show him a picture of Chad doing something fun. The rage drives Jimmy to keep scrolling until he gets that dopamine hit from a Steve or Jenny post.
Meanwhile, Aral Balkan looks at the recent open letter by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, where he laments that we have lost control of the web. Noting that "Big Data is our Big Tobacco," Aral explains what really happened: the web was stolen by people farmers.
It is stolen from you every day by people farmers; the Googles and the Facebooks of the world. It is stolen from you by an industry of data brokers, the
publishingbehavioural advertising industry (“adtech”), and a long tail of Silicon Valley startups hungry for an exit to one of the more established players or looking to compete with them to own a share of you.
There is also this, the end of anonymous society.
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