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The Problem Is Us, Not Social Media

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on April 17, 2018 05:13

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Technology has revolutionised the way we do politics, and we are also to create an environment for free speech and informed exchange of ideas to flourish.

Not a long time ago, Barack Obama rolled out a political campaign tapping the emerging social media as a resource. It was 2008. His “hopey changey” message flooded the airwaves and the internet thanks to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – three major social media platforms people used to share his speeches. 

He did it again in 2012 in his re-election and applied a more sophisticated data crunching for targeted advertising.

Learning from the communication strategy of Obama and the Democrats, Donald Trump and the Republicans did catch up with the trend in 2016. Only this time, employing unconventional tactics of data harvesting used for disinformation and circulation of propaganda materials online. The Conservatives won. Of course, probably with the help of the Russians and Cambridge Analytica.

The Philippines had also learned about the latest trend in the same year: using social media to spread propaganda, lies and intrigues. By employing the Russian and Chinese playbook of hiring hundreds of online trolls, and with the help of Cambridge Analytica, Rodrigo Duterte won. The Internet became the battlefield in the war between good and evil, truth and falsehood, facts and alternative facts and decency in speech and hatred.

It is an interesting coincidence that both heads of government accused legitimate media organizations of being “fake news,” a term invented with the intent to cover up their mess. They call honest, factual and professional journalism fake, and falsehood truth. Well, it is not surprising since they had similar campaign techniques.  

After two days of enquiry on Capitol Hill last week on the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal, Mark Zuckerberg emerged unscathed, and with more money. Other than some hilarious memes that went viral, the hearing accomplished nothing but a musing on the “inevitability of regulation,” and politicians hoping Facebook’s CEO would provide them with the promised answers in the future. The whole affair only showed the level of knowledge Capitol Hill politicians possessed when it comes to tech issues.

Facebook is a social media behemoth connecting over 2 billion users across the globe including individuals, small businesses and civil society organizations relying on the app for social connections and market reach. Regulating the company is not only inevitable but necessary to keep our democracy and to protect free speech.

Zuckerberg must clean up his social media app and prevent those with evil intent from stealing private data for spreading lies that tear down the fabric of our society.

Social media, with the aim to connect peoples and communities together, is a promising tool to foster and enhance democracy where opinions are informed, based on accurate information and balance analysis.

What we got instead is a tool of which the sole purpose is monetization, strengthening corporate greed, eroding social cohesiveness and weakening democracy. We are seeing only the proverbial tip of the iceberg about how businesses and political campaigns harvest and use personal information. The problem lies not so much on technology, but on the people using it.

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on April 17, 2018 05:13

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