In an age of digital consumerism, algorithms are everything for giant social media and software-as-a-service (SAAS) firms.
I, admittedly, have several integrated robot assistants on some of the more technical computer systems I use. Instead of using Google for help on certain apps or integrations, I @mention my robot assistants and ask them. I added a new integrated robot just last night. About five minutes after it’s integration, ‘it’ sent me an instant message, asking if ‘it’ could introduce itself to the rest of my team, and that ‘it’ would keep it brief.
Welcome to the 21st century, everybody.
While this can enhance digital efficiency, we’ve already surrendered to the great robotic takeover of the beauty of the Internet. The Internet once allowed free completely biased or unbiased thought: liberal, conservative or alternatively based. Censorship, political correctness, media bias, and trending patterns have all shaped what page actually pulls for us, and which computer learns more about who we are.
Most computer developers or designers would refer to this as a ‘crawl’… in which search engines find, archive, digest learn from all the available information out there. We’ve reached a new age within the robotic algorithmic age, however. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Youtube and major media conglomerates all now profit from any information used, misused or pushed through their platforms to their consumers.
In a wild theory – if Tim Cook of Apple, & Jeff Bezos of Amazon (bought Washington Post in 2013 for a meager $250M) – wanted to push ideology down your throat, they are already in your pocket.
Let’s take the story ‘Hillary Clinton For President’ written by the editorial board of the Washington Post, pushed as the top story on every iPhone in America on Oct 13, 2017. Let’s also take the 400,000 robots purged from Twitter, who posted 4 million total tweets with electoral thoughts pre-November on Donald Trump’s favorite social media platform, a platform where he absolutely dominated Clinton.
While I believe neither Trump or Clinton were responsible for this kind of pushed journalism, it shows the kind of political power that can be easily played.
Let’s blame robots for fake news, shall we? Here’s my logic: Dept. of Labor Statistics attributes every newspaper in America has lost more than half of it’s employees since 2001. We’re in an ever growing and changing market. If you are here reading this, you are proof of that. We’ve crossed over from words on paper, to articles that can be sent to you at the highest bid. Who, is doing the bidding?
Let’s cross over. Meet, Mr. Andres Sepulveda.
Mr. Sepulveda is serving a 10-year sentence for election rigging and hacking assistance for the leaders of Nicaragua, Colombia, Costa Rice, El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama; putting them into power.
Last but not least, the current President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto. Andres Sepulveda was a master of robotic assistants: to change, alter and push ideology to the masses.
“With a budget of $600,000, the Peña Nieto job was by far his most complex. He led a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices…” –Bloomberg Weekly
In the age of the ‘Fake News’ it’s easy to mistake which firms are providing critical and truthful information and which firms are pushing biased stories for a quick gut reaction from the American public. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube have all recently joined the ‘movement’ and started curbing information; making what they believe to be ‘credible’ or ‘anti-[insert buzz word here]’ a new top priority.
I’m in no way condoning that fake news, or fake news for profit, is a good idea. I’m stating that I think it has opened up the doors for a new monster to involve itself: what we deem to be credible, and of interest to our customers based on our priorities.
For the first time in human history, human emotion, connection, and interaction is somewhat retail-able, and we are all being sold as slaves to advertisers. If you don’t believe me, go look at how Facebook has labeled your political preferences for advertisers. It’s underneath your settings. While would never condone a lack of capitalism in advertising or in published media, I do believe algorithmic pushed journalism may be the death of free speech in America.
We live in a time where you can be purged from Twitter (see Milo Yiannopoulos), or; have your Youtube channel deleted (see Danney Williams), or even the hundreds of people completely blacked off the map by Google for violating the terms of Pixel phones.
Most Americans view themselves as loyal consumers by the major media conglomerates where they believe the ideals of truth and accurate representation will organically represent itself to the masses. I am here to tell you, as a semi-nerd, it is not. Every algorithm is meticulously created, and its morality is left to its creator.
We live in a time where our First Amendment rights are always applicable on American soil, just not on the American Internet.
We live in a time where entire movements, campaigns, and digital correspondence can be altered by the highest bidder. Free speech is a loaded gun, and it’s pointed at our heads whenever we get on the World Wide Web.
We live in a world without a works-cited page, without a true online megaphone in a free speech zone, where algorithms can carefully cultivate and perceive who we are and what we want to see.
We live in a world where Facebook has hired the likeness of Snopes and WashPost to ‘fact-check’ stories to deem them truthful or not. [I’ll save Snopes for another time]. Facebook also recently removed a robot army following USA Today. When the fake accounts were removed, over 5,000,000 ‘likes’ disappeared from the media outlet’s page and following.
Mashal Khan’s ghost is a reminder of the haunting age that we live in. His Facebook posts were deemed as ‘blasphemous’ and he was attacked by a mob in Pakistan, tortured, and killed in the streets. Mashal didn’t know how to use Facebook. His picture was stolen, a false profile was created, and his ideology was not his own. While algorithms and robots were not to blame, free speech and ideals online (even false ones) were to blame, and cost him his life. Rest in peace, Mashal.
We live in a censored world.
We have already given up our freedoms to religion, speech and freedom of the press.
We watched as a robotic army took over the first Amendment to the Constitution, and we’ve done nothing to stop it…