Facebook and the power to influence millions of voters
The recent testimony of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is being portrayed as the response of our political class to invasions of user privacy. But this is really about the political classes’ realization that Facebook has the power to organize voters and skew elections based on the preferences of Zuckerberg and his minions.
By Zuckerberg’s own admission, the tech industry is liberal. Thus Facebook, along with Twitter and Google are censoring conservatives in an attempt to restore liberalism’s previous monopoly on information. Pro-life and anti-gun control posts are squashed. A popular pro-Trump duo of African-American women, Diamond and Silk, has been deemed “unsafe.”
The tech industry also avails preferred politicians to its data. President Obama used data given to his campaign by Google and Facebook to target specific voters. Google executives visited the Obama White House and astonishing 427 times. Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s founders, set up the initial web site to fund raise for President Obama and used Facebook data to target donors and voters.
The New York Times marveled at Obama’s genius at using the latest technology, but once it became apparent President Trump did the same thing, they became apoplectic, even blaming Facebook for selling ads to the Russians that attacked Hillary Clinton. But then Facebook executive Rob Goldman pointed out that the Russians purchased few ads, purchased ads for Bernie Sanders, too, and spent most of their money after Trump already won.
The liberal media pirouetted and attacked Facebook for allowing Trump to use the data produced by a British marketing company called Cambridge Analytica, who collected data via Facebook through surveys. This time the liberal media drew blood. Zuckerberg quickly learned Political Groveling 101 while liberals called for his head. To add insult to injury, Facebook stock tanked 20 percent.
But even prior to these events, Zuckerberg was perplexed by the Trump victory and actually went on a listening tour to Trump country. While the political class opined that Zuckerberg was pondering a run for the presidency, it is also possible that Zuckerberg simply wanted to figure out why all the polling and data analysis predicting a Hillary victory were wrong. He may have concluded that Hillary Clinton was correct. These people are truly deplorable hayseeds and the way to beat them is to deny them access to information.
Thus Zuckerberg had Facebook create what are called algorithms to prevent the dissemination of conservative posts. An algorithm is a set of computer code that directs output using what are called “If-Then Statements.” Perhaps an example will make this clear.
Let’s say a web site asks you to type either 1 or 2 into entry point. You type in the number 1. The code that controls the site has a line that says…
If userinput = 1 then print “You typed 1”
Algorithms can consist of thousands of If-Then Statements or their variations to analyze millions of data points. Facebook is constantly reviewing posts by users and collecting data. Even if you consider yourself nonpolitical, Facebook can determine your political orientation. For example, if you post a vegan recipe, Facebook increases the probability that you will vote Democrat. If you post a picture of your daughter’s first communion, Facebook increases the probability that you will vote Republican. Other data gleaned from your posts — your age, your gender, your race, the car you drive, not to mention your actual statements — allow Facebook to pigeon-hole your political orientation.
Once this is done, a Facebook algorithm says…
If user = Conservative then block conservative postings
If user = liberal then allow liberal postings
This algorithm can be crucial in the close election, in that it energizes the liberal base more than the conservative one. Facebook surely knows this, which is why many former Hillary and Obama staffers are now on their payroll. Big tech is determined to never allow another Donald Trump to occur.
How this will play out remains to be seen. But conservatives who wish to remain politically viable should not be calling for the regulation of Facebook. This is a battle they will never win. Rather, anti-trust litigation must be pushed and Facebook, along with Twitter and Google, should be broken up.
Monopoly in any industry –especially information – is not good for the country.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.
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