Is this latest news about a private company using data gleaned from Facebook to influence voters really much of a surprise?
Apologies for this post but I want to get my thoughts on this down. It’s always been pretty obvious that all those third-party apps that seek access to your profiles newsfeeds and friend’s lists were doing it for the purposes of data harvesting. Most claim they need the data to help ‘improve’ your user experience, but c’mon in this day and age are we still really that gullible?
Sure, the data used probably helped Trump get elected to the Whitehouse and probably played its part in the Leave victory during the Brexit referendum. But then we have to ask ourselves ‘what does this say about people?’ It basically shows that if people are so easily manipulated by what they see on social media, they are mindless sheep, but then again, we could easily say exactly the same thing about the media in general. Every piece of news, political debate and discourse is tailored towards a target audience or created in order to generate debate. Scare tactics and propaganda are nothing new.
You can look back through history to show that many (if not all) political leaders have used propaganda and rhetoric to stir up support. Julius Caesar, for example, was a master at manipulating the masses into believing that he was their saviour and the right man to save the Republic. So, why are people expecting anything different in this modern age where social media practically begs organisations and politicians to take advantage of it?
We can hardly blame Facebook for the poor performance of Hilary Clinton or for the blatant scare tactics used by the Remain campaign’s Project Fear. Poor messaging lost those respective votes not social media.
If we take anything from this story, it is the hypocrisy of those demanding satisfaction. You can guarantee that this wouldn’t have even made the headlines if Hilary was now President and the UK had voted to stay in the EU. Voters went against what was expected of them and this has undoubtedly spooked many in the establishment.
When I say, people need to take personal responsibility I mean it. If people believe everything they read without question, then it’s inevitable that they will be manipulated. If anything, social media has highlighted a troubling fact. People allow themselves to be manipulated and believe hook line and sinker the things they are being told. The mainstream media are just as likely to lie to you as an alternative news site, and it seems as though journalists nowadays seem more inclined to create stories from Twitter posts than actually get off their asses and do some actual investigative reporting.
Do some research before clicking that like button and stop locking yourselves inside echo chambers where you only hear the points of view that you think are right (we’re all guilty of this). It’s for this reason that in recent years it feels like the world has gone slightly barmy. On one side you have the far-left droning on about SJW and PC nonsense, and on the other, you have the far-right that have risen as a direct response spouting their horrid viewpoints.
With Facebook, it’s clear to see when the rot set in. As a user when it was first launched in the UK I’ve experienced all of its changes so far. At first, it was genuinely useful for staying in contact with friends and family. You didn’t have to pay for posts to reach a wide audience, and the timeline only showed you what your contacts were up to. Then they introduced paid ads, newsfeeds etc. After those were introduced organic reach plummeted, the only way people could get people to see their posts was by paying for it via Facebook ads. Then the timeline became filled with news and political posts, and those made by friends and families rarely appeared at all. Is it any wonder that unscrupulous organisations would take advantage of the platform?
Personally, I think the days of social media as we know it are hopefully coming to an end. Everyone is talking but nobody is listening, and that needs to stop. What’s happened to respectful debate? Now we see people with opposing hurling abuse rather than actually listening to the other side, and this is making us a more divisive and angrier society than ever before.
Ironically its ‘social’ media that is being blamed for the downward spiral our societies are heading for. Unless things change and soon, the days of the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc. are doomed.
*Again, sorry for the political post. I promise there’ll be a writing-related one very soon.*