mfioretti: eco chamber*

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  1. Facebook has turned into a toxic commodity since Mr Trump was elected. Big Tech is the new big tobacco in Washington. It is not a question of whether the regulatory backlash will come, but when and how.

    Mr Zuckerberg bears responsibility for this. Having denied Facebook’s “filter bubble” played any role in Mr Trump’s victory — or Russia’s part in helping clinch it — Mr Zuckerberg is the primary target of the Democratic backlash. He is now asking America to believe that he can turn Facebook’s news feed from an echo chamber into a public square. Revenue growth is no longer the priority. “None of that matters if our services are used in a way that doesn’t bring people closer together,” he says.

    How will Mr Zuckerberg arrange this Kumbaya conversion? By boosting the community ties that only Facebook can offer. Readers will forgive me if I take another lie down. Mr Zuckerberg suffers from two delusions common to America’s new economy elites. They think they are nice people — indeed, most of them are. Mr Zuckerberg seems to be, too. But they tend to cloak their self-interest in righteous language. Talking about values has the collateral benefit of avoiding talking about wealth. If the rich are giving their money away to good causes, such as inner city schools and research into diseases, we should not dwell on taxes. Mr Zuckerberg is not funding any private wars in Africa. He is a good person. The fact that his company pays barely any tax is therefore irrelevant.

    The second liberal delusion is to believe they have a truer grasp of people’s interests than voters themselves. In some cases that might be true. It is hard to see how abolishing health subsidies will help people who live in “flyover” America. But here is the crux. It does not matter how many times Mr Zuckerberg invokes the magic of online communities. They cannot substitute for the real ones that have gone missing. Bowling online together is no cure for bowling offline alone.

    The next time Mr Zuckerberg wants to showcase Facebook, he should invest some of his money in an actual place. It should be far away from any of America’s booming cities — say Youngstown, Ohio. For the price of a couple of days’ Facebook revenues, he could train thousands of people. He might even fund a newspaper to make up for social media’s destruction of local journalism. The effect could be electrifying. Such an example would bring a couple more benefits. First, it would demonstrate that Mr Zuckerberg can listen, rather than pretending to. Second, people will want to drop round to his place for dinner.
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  2. The bubble filter demonstrates the internet as shifting from a tool of global connectivity to individual disconnect; personal opinion becomes fossilised while public discourse withers away. Without meaningful public discourse, the internet exposes us to competing opinions only through (often anonymous) trolling. This is dangerous. With little to no space for productive debate, ideological conflicts are carried out institutionally – as evinced by the onslaught of fake news accusations that characterised the final American presidential debate.

    When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a civil manner.

    As a product of the neoliberal project, the bubble filter caters to our perceived demands for constant personalised stimulation and to the commodification of the digital experience. We find ourselves further removed from neighbours to whom we occupy distant ideological worlds; we cease to understand each other as we increasingly lack basic exposure to each other. When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a civil manner. This situation has the potential to normalise extreme polarity and reactionary populism. Left without public forums to negotiate competing worldviews and engage with each other, we should not be surprised if ideological conflicts start to increasingly escalate in violent ways.
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  3. Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year. We found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.
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  4. Una gamma di fornitori sempre più ampia. Della pratica Repubblica ne ha già parlato nel 2013, quando Facebook ha lanciato Categorie Partner, il servizio con cui Mark Zuckerberg ha messo a disposizione dei propri inserzionisti queste notizie raccolte da aziende terze, in modo da garantire la pubblicità giusta alla persona giusta. Ma, se inizialmente il sistema era attivo solo negli Stati Uniti, oggi è disponibile anche in Francia, Germania e Regno Unito. Mentre i fornitori della rete in blu si sono moltiplicati fino a includere: Acxiom, Experian, Greater Data, Epsilon, Quantium, TransUnion, WPP e Oracle data cloud. Quest'ultimo, in particolare, ha un ruolo di primo piano nel settore grazie all'acquisizione nel 2014 sia di BlueKai, piattaforma basata sul cloud che permette alle società di personalizzare le campagne di marketing online, offline e su mobile, sia di Datalogix, che aggrega e fornisce informazioni relative a oltre due trilioni di spesa dei consumatori di 1500 partner commerciali, tra cui Visa, Mastercard e TiVo.

    LEGGI: Svelato il codice etico. Così Facebook sceglie i post da cancellare

    Diffile uscirne. Per comprendere meglio quali siano esattamente le informazioni che il social di Menlo Park compra da queste aziende, il sito di giornalismo investigativo ha scaricato una lista di 29mila categorie che Facebook fornisce agli inserzionisti pubblicitari. La scoperta: di queste 29mila, 600 sono riconducibili a dati forniti da terzi e si tratta per lo più di notizie finanziarie. Nessuna di queste categorie, però, risulta presente tra le "Preferenze relative alle inserzioni": la pagina che Facebook ci mette a disposizione per capire quali informazioni influenzano gli spot che vediamo in bacheca e controllarli. "Non sono onesti", ha commentato Jeffrey Chester, direttore esecutivo del Center for Digital Democracy. "Le persone dovrebbero poter aver accesso a questo pacchetto". Inoltre, i giornalisti di ProPubblica hanno messo in evidenza che è difficilissimo uscire fuori da questa forma di profilazione. Per esempio, stando alla loro indagine, impedire a Oracle data cloud di fornire i nostri dati a Facebook richiede ai consumatori statunitensi di spedire via posta una richiesta scritta, con la copia di un documento rilasciato dalle autorità, al responsabile della privacy di Oracle.
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  5. Can outside sources verify what God believes to be holy? Can anyone verify God’s existence? Can anyone think of more hypothetical questions like this to underscore the point?

    As religious leaders expressed their concerns to The Literalist, The Literalist in turn became increasingly worried about Facebook deciding what is “fake” and “real” news. So The Literalist sent a short note to Facebook headquarters reading, “Now, don’t take this literally, but The Literalist encourages you to let users use reason when it comes to fake news. Satire included.”
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  6. Now what can be done? Certainly the explanation for Trump’s rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch less television and fewer videos—and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
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  7. With increased political polarization, amplified by homophily — our preference to connect to people like us — and algorithmic recommender systems, we’re effectively constructing our own realities.

    Two years ago I wrote about how social networks helped Israelis and Palestinians build a form of personalized propaganda during the last Israel-Gaza war. The shape of conversations and responses to events typically looked something like the graph below, where one frame of the story tends to stay on only one side of the graph, while a completely different take spreads on the other.
    Typical Polarized Social Networked Space for Information Spreading about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

    In the cases that I was investigating, neither side of the graph’s frame was false per se. Rather, each carefully crafted story on either side omitted important detail and context. When this happens constantly, on a daily basis, it systematically and deeply affects people’s perception of what is real.
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  8. In 2008, Facebook joined the political bandwagon. In 2012, it co-sponsored with NBC a Republican primary debate two days before the New Hampshire primary. Facebook created a page on which the public could post questions. Facebook also produced a widget through which people could pose questions to the candidates during the debate. Producers selected a handful to ask the candidates.

    On August 6, Facebook and Fox News will again let the public pose questions to the presidential hopefuls. As in the 2008 YouTube debates, the public can post a video question to the Fox News Facebook page. Unlike in 2008, if the public visits the page, they can’t view the questions submitted – they simply go into a black box.

    My research on the CNN/YouTube primary debates in 2007 showed that CNN did not pick the questions that best represented the public’s concerns.

    The video questions posted to YouTube were primarily issue-related and asked many more questions about education and good governance than were selected by CNN. The public also posted far fewer “strategic questions” than were actually aired during the debates.

    Strategic questions are ones that focus on who is ahead or behind in the polls or how they will try to beat their opponents. My research suggests that the public is more interested in issues than strategy – at least when they have the opportunity to ask the candidates a question.

    Because Fox News is not sharing the videos with the public for Thursday’s debate, we have no way to compare how different the public’s agenda is compared with those of journalists this time around.

    In the age of mass media, we saw citizens rather than journalists ask questions during the Town Hall-style debates that were introduced for the first time in the 1992 presidential general election debate between Bill Clinton, George H W Bush and Ross Perot.

    In the age of social media, we see the public getting to ask more questions, but journalists still control the agenda.
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  9. On November 7, 2016, the day before the US election, I compared the number of social media followers, website performance, and Google search statistics of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I was shocked when the data revealed the extent of Trump’s popularity. He had more followers across all social platforms and his posts had much higher engagement rates. I noticed that the second most popular article shared on social media in the last six months with words “Donald Trump” in the headline, “Why I’m Voting For Donald Trump”, had been shared 1.5 million times. Yet that story never made it into my Facebook newsfeed. I asked many of my liberal New York friends, and they all said they never seen it.
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