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Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Prophecies about Facebook Nobody Heard

Por qubano22005

Already the Sri Lankan immigrant Chamath Palihapitiya, who grew up in Canada, had warned it: Facebook hurt human beings and was lacerating the humanity’s social fabric. He had even encouraged leaving the social network and taking a break but many did not take his words seriously. Some considered his speech in a university classroom was hypocrite coming from a person who became a millionaire thanks to, precisely, the popular social network. However, the Cambridge Analytics’ scandal shows that he was not so far from the truth and apparently was warning about a fact he knew well. Facebook, the most "fantastic" social network created by man was exploiting human vulnerability.

Palihapitiya’s statements were directly aimed at alerting on the issue. The head of Facebook’s growth division not only saw the users' exponential increase but also of the hours after the application used. But what I am almost convinced of is that he knew the secrets about how to use all this information for the benefit of the company.

This phenomenon had already been warned by the first president of Facebook, Sean Parker, who did not agree on the way the company exploited the users’ psychological vulnerabilities. Although at that time he was referring to a "feedback cycle of social validation, I am convinced that the ex-manager also referred to the way in which advertising and propaganda companies could make use of people’s tastes and preferences of people with only knowing a portion of the data. In fact, by that time, a manager Antonio García-Martínez, accused the company of lying about its ability to influence people based on the data it collects. Interestingly, before the present scandal, Facebook had signed an agreement with the FTC in 2011 due to the alleged use of users’ private data for commercial purposes.

But nobody wanted to listen at the time. An irony of life and destiny, now under the less intelligent and more incapable and given to show business and scandals of US administrations, all these dark details of the mega company are coming to the light. The investigation of Robert Mueller, Special Counsel of the United States to investigate the case of the Russian collusion in the elections has given not with a Russian but with a British company that precisely detailed 50 million profiles to tip the balance in favor of President Donald Trump in the 2016 elections.

It could have been you or me, who opened the door of the White House for the blond from New York. However, a smoke screen was launched by the federal investigation agencies, making people believe that there were failures of the company of Intel or of any other technological company that allowed the Russian meddling. But no, it has been the president's own campaign team who hired a company like Cambridge Analytics for such sordid motives.

The other curious part of the case is that precisely the British company knew of the power of Facebook to spread false news and make rumors true. The skillful campaign advisers used all the information compiled by Cambridge and its study of profiles to trace the strategy that in the end gave Donald Trump the victory in the elections, a man who blatantly has a policy of fighting "fake news", incongruent right?

At the time Chamath Palihapitiya’s Mea Culpa, nobody processed the information he was offering at the Stanford Business Graduate School. During his speech, he stressed several times that social networks programmed people’s brain. "Although they do not realize it, they are being programmed," he said. But nobody understood, nobody could see what maybe Palihapitiya already knew. The fact that a company like Cambridge had programmed the brain of 50 million people to elect "great" Donny Trump is disturbing; and it's not a conspiracy theory that we are referring to, just by reading the press cables and statements from several former Facebook executives we can see what was coming. Who leaves a million-dollar job overnight and does a public apology? I think nobody unless the water is boiling and the fear to be punished makes the conscious restless.

Another who tried to escape before the house burned to ashes was Alex Stamos, Facebook’s director of Security and Data Protection. However, Stamos received pretexts to hinder his departure from the company. To have an idea, Stamos supposedly started his exit from the company in December 2017 but will be formally out on August this year to avoid a negative effect on the public perception of the company. Stamos, who established a reputation since his Yahoo years, had repeatedly disagreed with the company’s top management. According to several sources, including the New York Times, Stamos disagreed with the way in which the company revealed, or not, the ability to influence political choices, the ease with which false news can be disseminated and the negative effects of an advertising tool capable of micro-segregating millions of people.

The New York Times once said that Stamos caused internal annoyance by pushing towards a much more aggressive way of investigating and revealing Facebook’s role in distributing fake news and misinformation by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States. Now is evident why Stamos wanted to be out.

When Palihapitiya made his revelations, he questioned and invited those present to ask why there were investors willing to inject money to useless and idiots companies when in reality that money could be invested in mitigating the effects of climate change and find cures to diseases until today intractable. Today we know the answers, more when people like Andrew Bosworth reveals the Machiavellian thinking of many Facebook managers to continuously make money.