By Patrick Brogan
Social media is great, isn’t it? Think of all the lols and memes over the years. It’s so good that kids would rather talk to each other on it over a real conversation. And they are sitting at the same table. How post-modern. All jokes aside, social media has revolutionised and sped up the way we live. It’s easier to stay in contact with people now, more than ever. Small businesses are thriving off it. Information is coming at you in torrents (pun intended) and it is also opening up new interests in stuff you would never have heard of. For me it is Slamball. Seriously, look that shit up.
Look, with all seemingly good things, we must be diligent. Social media has a long and checkered history. From my own experiences, I have seen this. I’ll just go into that first because I love talking about myself. Back in February of this year, Kanye West released a new album. I still haven’t heard it and never intend to. There was a massive amount controversy surrounding him at this time and it had nothing to do with his music. He called Taylor Swift a bitch and claimed he still might sleep with her. This, of course, was to drum up publicity for his new release because his music is terribly unimaginative and wouldn’t get attention otherwise.
I put up a number of tweets claiming this was a good tactic. Twitter took these down. I tried to get in contact with them over this matter. Easier said than done. Then, a while back Bill Tormey criticised homeless woman Erica Fleming for wanting to make a better life for herself. Being the class act he is, he did this over the Twittermachine. I decided I would give him a taste of his own medicine. I basically pointed out that he was romantically involved with a murderer, Catherine Nevin, and he should be the last person to assassinate another person’s character. Twitter took this down, too. He clearly has friends in high places.
I recently had a similar issue on Facebook. I usually post up three items a day that are not being covered by the mainstream media, but are important nonetheless. Yes, I do see the irony. A report conducted by numerous American universities found most of the big American banks were aware a financial crash would happen and there was insider trading between the US Government and the banks. Goldman Sachs were particularly guilty. I tried to tag Goldman Sachs with a corruption hashtag. Facebook would not allow this. I thought it may have been a coincidence, but in the research for this article, it turns out that Goldman Sachs was a part of a $500 million investment in Facebook and this was proudly announced on the social media site.
From the outset, controversy has followed Facebook. The Winklevoss’s, Winklevii? –I’m not sure what the plural is– brought Zuckerberg and Facebook to court. They accused the founder of stealing their initial idea, HarvardConnection, and their source code. It can be difficult proving that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t already have an idea to set-up a social media outlet. 6 Degrees was already eight years old at this point so it was hardly an original idea. The twins, who are influential in the BitCoin world, received a $65 million settlement in 2008. The twins later appealed this on the basis of fraud and the courts decided the initial settlement was fair.
The twins told writers from The Harvard Crimson, the University’s daily paper, about Mark Zuckerberg’s indiscretions at the time and told them to look into it. After much toing and froing the Crimson decided to print a story on the allegations. Mark Zuckerberg then used Facebook login details to hack into the writers’ email accounts to find out what they had said about him.
Then there was the mood experiments they carried out on people. Facebook altered the news feeds of about 700,000 users to show either mainly positive or mainly negative stories and then measured their reactions. The users were unaware of this. The company never really apologised after the story came to light, and said they should have done things differently. Facebook has always looked upon its users as guinea pigs and has made a lot of money from using your personal information. If you don’t believe this you are a Zucker. Sorry.
More recently, they censored a photo put up by the Norwegian prime minister. Erna Solberg posted up the famous ‘Napalm Girl’ image on her page in solidarity with a Norwegian newspaper that had its post to mark the Vietnam photo’s 40th anniversary removed.
Facebook has also censored Palestinian journalists. It gave no warning or reason for doing this. The company said this was a mistake, but many commentators believe this is part of an agreement struck up between Facebook and the Israeli Government. Given that Palestinian journalists rarely get a chance to tell their story in the Western mainstream media, social media is vital for them. The Israelis have always had a bugbear about this. Given Zuckerberg’s shady record, it is highly likely it was intended rather than a mistake.
Internet manipulation doesn’t stop with social media, however. Google also has got its hands dirty in this regard. In a hilarious segment on Redacted Tonight, Lee Camp talks about the research Robert Epstein did on search results manipulation and it is troubling.
Also on Redacted, Lee Camp compares Bing and Yahoo suggestions against that of Google’s. When ‘Hillary Clinton is’ is typed into Yahoo/Bing, suggestions like lying crook, filthy liar, the devil and is the antichrist appear. Contrast this with Google’s ‘Hillary Clinton is awesome’ and winning. So, the Google is definitely backing a Hillary Clinton presidency. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, co-founded Timshel. This takes personal data and then uses it to target potential Clinton voters via email.
Dollah Bills, y’all!
None of these companies are charities and at the end of the day, their main purpose is to make money. Nobody can really blame them for this and I am the first to congratulate them on some of the ingenious ways they have done this. Also, the algorithms they use are created by humans and subconscious bias may be built into these. However, there is ample evidence to suggest they are deliberately tampering with information so the user sees a heavily biased narrative, a narrative that suits the companies’ financial interests.
In the last week, many people criticised the Obama administration for handing over the powers of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to an international board. They feel that this will affect internet freedom. Well, those critics are mistaken on two fronts. Firstly, ICANN was never directly responsible for content on the internet. Secondly, the internet was taken over by major corporations along time ago. Google it, oh, wait a minute…
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