Secrets of Silicon Valley – Review and Opinion

It does not matter whether you watched the above programme, you will read here about the far-reaching effects of social media on society.

The Persuasion Machine

The above documentary is a fascinating insight into the realms of a futuristic world that is here now, in Silicon Valley, and makes you think. Yes, really makes you think. Jamie Bartlett, a cool, bun wearing hipster, sets out on a expedition of self discovery concerning the effects of social media on society, culture and most importantly, you.

America has become a contemporary idyll that has to be sustained for many reasons but mainly, these days it appears, political aspersions by rich and powerful men. We were shown many interviews where Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook Founder, is forthright in his hope that Facebook will connect everyone globally and will also help society create a globalised world. Barack Obama was said to be a kindrid spirit and felt the same way and was shown on stage joking that he was the man to get Zuckerberg in the shirt and tie. By his second term he had mastered the ubiquitous social media and enjoyed the capabilities of the online platforms.

Ultimately, Facebook has helped Trump come to power and without Facebook, his Facebook writer, Theresa Hong, Cambridge Analytica, tells us “he wouldn’t have won”. Cambridge Analytica used data relating to around 220 million Americans to target potential voters and possible donations. These few words clarifies the effect of using social media for not only social interaction, but also fostering political influence. The social media campaign was submitted by teams of computer personnel from Google, Facebook, YouTube and other ‘creatives’. Hong even shows us the empty offices where they used to sit during the Trump campaign.

Facebook, with other platforms, finds out your intimate traits including political views, sexual orientation and personality. The concern is obviously the disruptive power occurring and a new unpredictable world throwing us all into a political turbulence, never seen before. The technology community has, indeed, “opened a can of worms” that it was, evidently, mobilising against. Freedom to connect doesn’t just let us share holiday snaps and family news, but also provides a world of targeted advertising and bombarding political views.

Jamie Bartlett finds out just how powerful Facebook is. It has huge repercussions for our society as the data informs how we think, what we like and how we like it! A psychologist Michal Kosinski shows Jamie how Facebook and internet driven data cleverly informs about personality, background, education, etc. here so people like Trump can turn the statistics into votes. The persuasion machine can now secure you a place in the White House. Allegedly, Trump spent eighty-three million dollars on his social media campaign. One hundred, almost identical ads, were placed in one day, to see which one did best. This constant stream of cosy ads aimed at families, must have driven the public mad. You can imagine what they thought -*All right! I’ll vote for you, just stop the ……. Ads!* Cambridge Analytica were using data on around 220 million Americans to target potential donors and voters. Armed with Cambridge Analytica’s revolutionary insights, the next step in the battle to win over millions of Americans was to shape the online messages they would see.

 

“An algorithm that can look at millions of people and […] hundreds of thousands […] of your likes can extract and utilise even those little pieces of information and combine it to a very accurate profile,” Michal Kosinski tells Bartlett. “It can also use your digital footprint and turn it into a very accurate prediction of your intimate traits, like religiosity, political views, personality, intelligence, sexual orientation and a bunch of other psychological traits.”

 

Just in case, you were smugly thinking they can’t find much about you because you don’t use Facebook, think again. Amazon, Google and other internet sites, drive data to inform the nerds, all about you. Well, that is what Jamie Bartlett appears to discover.

A clause relating to media legislation The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was designed to make the internet safer, confirms the lack of responsibility of any media platform: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by anther information provider.”  This means the platform is not responsible for the content that is posted on it. Facebook does not own the information like Uber doesn’t own cars and AirBnB doesn’t own any property. Is this not just business and the formulation of an economy? The difference is the tech giants are not drilling for business they are generating it.

The trouble is this is infiltrating out lives and manifests a persuasion machine that is being exploited by, shall we say, unsuitable beings. As our visible footprint appears to revolutionise how democracy works, fake news is infiltrated online by emotion. It is not all about the written word but also inducing emotion by imagery. A picture of a sad looking Theresa May, which is easy to find, and a jolly Jeremy Corbyn, acting like he has won the election, plays on your psychology. This, I find hard to believe, but the point is illuminated by focusing on the fake news about Hilary Clinton, which may have lost her the election.

Social media and the internet seems to be having a profound consequence and projects negativity and misinformation that we haven’t had before. However, we’ve always joked never to believe what you read in the newspapers and the internet does provide us with an array of useful information. It is difficult to evaluate but maybe we will all become tired of social media. In fact, a recent study denotes that this is already happening with under 18 year olds choosing other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Funnily enough, I spotted the article on my Facebook feed by Mashable UK here. My Facebook newsfeed shows a definite slow down of posting by ‘friends’ and more articles and ads. I find myself reading books more and getting out and about so although they reckon that people spend fifty minutes a day on Facebook, this I think, will change as we get bored with it. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but look at Twitter and how people got bored with that!

Also, this wide reaching knowledge has been around for a long time and probably for longer than we realise. Information has always been extracted by ten yearly census, loyalty cards, where we live, if we go to a posh school or university. I’m not sure that the internet can be blamed for everything. Although I am continually shocked about how much people look at their phones and wonder what books are not being written and art not being created because of the mobile phone addiction.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed social media for connecting with other people. It is a way of joining an interesting conversation but it just has to be contained. These days, blogging is my favourite way of communicating although originally, I favoured Twitter due to the micro blog element and fast moving commentary.

It is our responsibility to read and educate ourselves on these matters. There are plenty of outlets providing information on all sides of the political spectrum and if we, as a society, rely on Facebook then maybe we should broaden our horizons. Don’t you think?

 

Watch the programme here: Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0916ghq

 

6 thoughts on “Secrets of Silicon Valley – Review and Opinion

  1. This is extremely interesting. It’s tough. I have always felt that major news agencies were biased, or occasionally, controlled by higher powers, whereas Twitter etc, gives an individual the opportunity to get their truth out there.

    That being said, fake news is easy to spread and the responsibility definitely lies with the reader. It can occasionally be near impossible to distinguish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve always thought Twitter is more authentic. This maybe because it supplies rapid commentary and is also far less commercial. Thank you for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like an interesting documentary. It’s kind of scary what social media knows about us.

    Technology can be used for great good — and great evil. But I also see the disconnect that happens via social media, i.e. people being so busy on it that they don’t really interact as much in RL.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating, Andrea, and very much as I expected – those pesky algorithms! Yes, I know we are being watched but I don’t think it is solely by Facebook, so I am not one of the paranoid ( I know some!) who say I will never use Facebook because I don’t want the algorithms….. because like you, I use it to keep connected although I do note that very few of my ‘friends’ come up on my timeline, and there are a lot of pushed ‘ads’ now. But I like to be in touch with a friend in France and the States and a few others – and for me, that’s Facebook.
    But there are others who don’t use Facebook simply because the whole social media and IT world is beyond them and I feel quite sad about that (not that they’re much bothered, I think) but personally I think they’re missing something. And also I do believe that we should be connected and then also just as you say at the end of your post, we should keep ourselves informed and educated about this type of media, because it is so very influential. We have a responsibility, and a duty, to understand what is going on out there. So as much as I can I try to do that – I’ll watch that documentary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree, it is important to stay connected. You can learn from social media and it is, overall, fun, fascinating and informative. Also, know people who don’t use social media and I, also think they are missing out. Thanks for your comments. Andy x

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s