I’ve been puzzling over the recent spate of news stories that highlight facebook’s as well as Apple’s affect on society, youth, mental health, etc. As a parent, my concerns over these issues came on with a vengeance as soon as I gave my kids phones (I was a holdout and waited until they were a whopping twelve years old!) So why is this issue emerging from all corners at once–parents, activist investors, executives, news agencies, etc? When a meme bombards me like this, I look for the agenda, and I think I found it in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Long ago, a family friend cautioned me against Scientology. She told me they had methods to make you vulnerable and captive, specifically, they invited you in, told you what was wrong with you, broke you down completely, then built you back up according to their goal of controlling you, your mind, your opinions, your behaviors, your loyalties, etc. I don’t know if this is how Scientology actually operates, but the method she described seemed rather clever and effective. When I read this article about facebook, I saw a similar pattern in the works.
Facebook plans to break down users’ connections to their newsfeeds as they are, which is how they emerged organically, then build them from the ground up to conform with pre-approved sources. If you still think Google, facebook, etc., were purely entrepreneurial ventures that got no advantage from government money, government think tanks, publicly funded university research programs, winner-picking incubators and the like, then you might think these companies should behave as they wish, but even a cursory bit of research demonstrates the biggest of Big Tech has been intertwined with government surveillance and censorship operations (and more), from the beginning.
Here are the passages in the facebook article that caught my eye and, I think, revealed the agenda….
Social-media site would favor posts by users and friends and rank journalism outlets by credibility
Under planned changes announced Thursday, Facebook will favor posts, photos and videos in the news feed that are shared and discussed among users and their friends over those posted by businesses and news organizations—a likely blow to companies that rely on Facebook to reach customers. The company also is weighing another major change that could eventually elevate media outlets deemed more trustworthy compared with publishers considered less credible, people familiar with the matter said….
The other potential change would involve ranking news outlets based on some measures of credibility, such as public polling about news outlets, and whether readers are willing to pay for news from particular publishers, the people familiar with the matter said. Such variables would inform the Facebook algorithms that determine which publishers’ posts are pushed higher in the feed, one of the people said.
Such a move would thrust Facebook into an even more active role in deciding what content is acceptable on its site—a role that makes some publishers uneasy. The company hasn’t decided whether to proceed with that shift, and it may choose not to do so.
And in case you didn’t know…
“Facebook has an enormous amount of power and agency when it comes to deciding if publishers will thrive or not thrive,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
A measure like the potential trustworthy rating “isn’t going to benefit everybody, but it is a move that adds some clarity to what was a cloudy and disingenuous position from Facebook—that all content should be treated equally,” Ms. Bell said.
Update (1/13/18): Here’s a story that just came out that adds another dimension to the mental health issues surrounding screens.
Update (1/15/18): And then there’s this…