Guest post from my friend Keith V Fischer, who originally posted this on his own FB page. Reprinted here with his permission.
Our eyes need be drawn to “institutions, like free speech and social media” that have been complicit in seeding the chaos in American society as evidenced by the most recent Russian indictments. If you haven’t read them, you should. The steps outlined show how easily citizens can be manipulated, and their actions compelled or suppressed by simple ads or posts on the largest social media platforms.
Rob Goldman (VP of ads at Facebook) recently attempted to inoculate himself and his company by quoting “free speech” and touting too-little and too-late policy changes being made.
Friends make no mistake – Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc are profit motivated companies who’ve wrapped themselves in the cloak of free speech to our detriment. They argue they have no legal or moral responsibility to the algorithmically supercharged content they disseminate to us that impacts our lives. This content is designed to tug at our most visceral emotions, and their behavioural algorithms laser target the content to drive our actions to click, post/repost, like, tweet and retweet. This content and these algorithms fuel our righteous anger and indignation; make us susceptible to ‘alternate facts’; and have created billions of addicts to their platforms. There’s little attempt to validate the identity of content sources or combat the bot army of fictitious users that can be enabled like sleeper agents to propagate and amplify sinister intent. Evidence based truths are elusive and we’ve been conditioned to be lazy and believe something just because people share it or tag it so.
In its infancy the internet was a place where one could expand their horizon by seeing and interacting with people beyond our location and means. As social media became big business the platforms became sophisticated in tracking and understanding every movement in our lives. These platforms serve up with ever more accuracy what we will buy or click or drive more time away from tangible world outside our doors.
The apps and platforms that once opened our minds to new horizons and ideas are now digitally boxing us into places where our worst emotions are validated, repeated and shared again. The platforms reinforce our beliefs by repeating like-minded content to us and as a result our lives become smaller and our paranoia larger.
Social media has hammered a huge wedge into society. We’re divided by bytes and bits and words stripped of context and nuance. It has has polarized our attitudes and made us afraid to talk, to act or to listen. We’re defensive and intractable in our opinions. We’ve lost our empathy and optimism.
While many can’t remember the great wars of prior generations, we’ve unleashed a more sinister attack on our humanity knowingly enabled by companies trafficking in manipulation and profiting while ignoring the consequences. The social media companies who’ve once espoused to “do no harm” should step up and accept their responsibility. A few companies have pledged to do good in the world and more is needed especially by companies that can weaponize words with real-world consequences.
Young people are watching and suffering the hard lesson being learned here. For whatever reason may they continue to eschew these “old people” platforms and find balance between the digital world and their real community of family, friends, schools and churches. I’m encouraged by kids calling “BS” to politicians and groups that attempt to gaslight them.
There’s real hope on the horizon fueled by a pissed-off younger generation. I pledge to do everything to give them a voice and a hand to save our society from the digital chains that bind us apart.
Thank you for reading.