by Susan Duclos, All News Pipeline:
A set of articles caught my eye this morning, where we see from industry insiders exactly how “Silicon Valley” has not only taken over journalism, but how the methods being utilized by both Google and Facebook which mimics the methods used on smartphones to addict users, dubbed “brain hacking” is not only unethical, but is also dangerous to public health, with one insider stating “I invested early in Google and Facebook and regret it. I helped create a monster.”
In one long, but worthy read over at The Atlantic, the former editor for New Republic, gives an eye-opening description of what exactly went wrong in the world of journalism, where news outlets have come to “unhealthily depend on the big tech companies,” where truth and actual reporting of the news has been sacrificed into desperation in “a mad, shameless chase to gain clicks through Facebook,” and “a relentless effort to game Google’s algorithms.”
What makes these deals so terrible is the capriciousness of the tech companies. Quickly moving in a radically different direction may be great for their bottom line, but it is detrimental to the media companies that rely on the platforms. Facebook will decide that its users prefer video to words, or ideologically pleasing propaganda to more-objective accounts of events—and so it will de-emphasize the written word or hard news in its users’ feeds. When it makes shifts like this, or when Google tweaks its algorithm, the web traffic flowing to a given media outlet may plummet, with rippling revenue ramifications. The problem isn’t just financial vulnerability, however. It’s also the way tech companies dictate the patterns of work; the way their influence can affect the ethos of an entire profession, lowering standards of quality and eroding ethical protections.
The whole piece is well worth the time it takes to read to understand why journalism has become on of the most distrusted institutions in American today.
That is only one piece of the puzzle though, as we see another even more disturbing article at USA Today, where an industry insider, Roger McNamee, who “invested in Google and Facebook years before their first revenue and profited enormously,” and who was an early adviser to Facebook’s team, but now says “I am terrified by the damage being done by these Internet monopolies.”
McNamee explains how both Google and Facebook deliberately “exploit human nature,” to create “addictive behaviors that compel consumers to check for new messages, respond to notifications, and seek validation from technologies whose only goal is to generate profits for their owners.”
How does this work? A 2013 study found that average consumers check their smartphones 150 times a day. And that number has probably grown. People spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook. Other social apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter combine to take up still more time. Those companies maintain a profile on every user, which grows every time you like, share, search, shop or post a photo. Google also is analyzing credit card records of millions of people.
As a result, the big Internet companies know more about you than you know about yourself, which gives them huge power to influence you, to persuade you to do things that serve their economic interests. Facebook, Google and others compete for each consumer’s attention, reinforcing biases and reducing the diversity of ideas to which each is exposed. The degree of harm grows over time.
Before going on to McNamee’s subsequent points, his assertion above is clearly seen in the latest Google scandal, where an engineer at the company created a memo about Googles claim of “diversity” yet they punish any disagreement with their interpretation of diversity. After the memo written by this employee hit all the headlines because he spoke about Google’s refusal to allow “viewpoint diversity,” on the topic of jobs better suited to women and to men, and why, social justice warriors at Google and throughout the liberal media went insane, accusing him of being “anti-diversity,” sexist, and the other predictable labels slapped on anyone that doesn’t conform to their “group-think.”
Proof that Google has no room for diversity of opinion, came swiftly as they immediately fired the employee for daring state his own opinion, to which some law experts say was an illegal move, with Glenn Reynolds, a Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law, saying “I look forward to the lawsuit and its accompanying discovery.”
Breitbart published some internal discussions, showing that Google management blacklists anyone that dares think differently than the “diversity” social justice warriors within Google’s management teams, with screen shots showing that in some cases other employees demand that anyone that showed support for the man that wrote the initial memo should be disciplined or terminated. (See those internal discussions here)
Back to McNamee:
Consider a recent story from Australia, where someone at Facebook told advertisers that they had the ability to target teens who were sad or depressed, which made them more susceptible to advertising. In the United States, Facebook once demonstrated its ability to make users happier or sadder by manipulating their news feed. While it did not turn either capability into a product, the fact remains that Facebook influences the emotional state of users every moment of every day. Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris calls this “brain hacking.”
That link to brain hacking took us to a CBS News article from other industry insiders, published In June 2017, where a former Google product manager Tristan Harris explains “Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked,” calling the methods they use “brain hacking.”
Have you ever wondered if all those people you see staring intently at their smartphones — nearly everywhere, and at all times — are addicted to them? According to a former Google product manager you are about to hear from, Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked. As we first reported in April, he is one of the few tech insiders to publicly acknowledge that the companies responsible for programming your phones are working hard to get you and your family to feel the need to check in constantly. Some programmers call it “brain hacking” and the tech world would probably prefer you didn’t hear about it. But Tristan Harris openly questions the long-term consequences of it all and we think it’s worth putting down your phone to listen.
That piece is also well worth reading as they talk to a number of tech insiders from a variety of industries, showing exactly how each individual online is being targeted by organizations like Facebook and Google, literally “programming people,” not just applications.
McNamee concludes with the following:
Incentives being what they are, we cannot expect Internet monopolies to police themselves. There is little government regulation and no appetite to change that. If we want to stop brain hacking, consumers will have to force changes at Facebook and Google.
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