How Big Tech Manipulates News

‘—What of Art?
– It is a malady.
— Love?
-An Illusion.
–Religion?
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
You are a sceptic.
Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
What are you?
To define is to limit.’

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Facebook is in the spotlight, and not for a good reason…again.

According to a recent report by The New York Times, Facebook hired a PR firm named Definers Public Affairs to distract from its criticisms.

From Bloomberg:

The newspaper [New York Times] said Definers tried to deflect criticism of Facebook by encouraging reporters to look into rivals like Google and to pursue stories about Soros stoking anti-Facebook backlash in Washington. Soros, 88, has been a frequent detractor of Facebook, calling it a “menace” earlier this year.

‘Facebook issued a lengthy rebuttal to the story Thursday, denying that it asked Definers to pay for or write articles on its behalf or pushed journalists to spread misinformation. Without naming Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust-survivor, the company said its actions weren’t aimed at fueling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Rather, it said it encouraged reporters to look into the funding of anti-Facebook groups, most notably Freedom From Facebook, “to demonstrate that it was not simply a spontaneous grassroots campaign, as it claimed, but supported by a well-known critic of our company.”

While the appearance of big tech companies has changed the web, these companies have now become so large that they have the ability to influence…and censor.

Facebook had been on an account-banning spree before the mid-term election. So far this year, it has banned 800 controversial pages with no real explanation.

Google has recently been on the limelight too.

It turns out Google has been planning to go back into the Chinese market with a search app. The project, called Dragonfly, would censor any pages that discuss topics deemed controversial, like human rights.

Battle of the Titans: Who wins when bitcoin and gold head-to-head…and how can you profit? Find out more here.

Also, a leaked presentation made by Google’s employees on censorship made it to Breitbart News recently. In the report, named ‘The Good Censor’, Google questions if they can both ‘protect free speech and police harmful content’.

Google admits that ‘censorship can give governments — and companies — the tools to limit the freedom of individuals.’

As you can see, the requests from governments to censor content from Google have shot up in recent years.


Government censorship allowed by Google

Source: Breitbart News

[Click to open in a new window]

As the presentation showed, tech companies are moving away from online free speech and swaying the balance towards moderation and censorship.


Tech firms moving away from free speech and towards censorship

Source: Breitbart News

[Click to open in a new window]

The danger of data

The truth is, that massive amount of data in one place is powerful.

And we can see the dangers of this in China’s recent experiment. In case you didn’t hear, China is experimenting with a new Social Credit program.

The difference of this from a regular financial credit system, ignoring the obvious privacy infringements, is that it adds a technology element to it.

That is, it not only looks at rating you in your ‘real world’ life, but also in your virtual life. Everything you say or do in person, and online, will be graded. Even who your friends are on social media, or what your neighbours think of you.

The goal is to have a file for each citizen, and to give them a score to reflect how trustworthy the government thinks you truly are.

The guiding principle is: ‘Once untrustworthy, always restricted.’

Speeding or forgetting to make a payment could get you blacklisted.  It could influence where you live, if you can get credit, and even result in travel restrictions.

China is looking to roll this out soon, in 2020.

Big Tech is becoming a moderator and censor

But to be honest, there is something else that worries us about Big Tech. 

People have willingly given tech companies their data. They are using it to censor.

But they are also using it to classify you, to define who you are. All to sell you stuff and send you more relevant content. To personalise what you see.

And this is something that really concerns us.

You see, internet was supposed to expand people’s thoughts, broaden horizons and open up opportunities.

The reality has turned out to be much different.

The personalisation of news means that we automatically only see content that we have already expressed an interest in or searched for.

But this creates a very limited version of the internet. This gives you a very narrow view of the world, which is the opposite of what the internet was supposed to be.

I mean, you see this in Facebook quite clearly. You may have hundreds or thousands of friends, but you only see the feeds of a few of them, usually the ones you have the most contact with.

We’ve already written before how Sir Tim Berners Lee is on a crusade to change this.

This personalisation of news can make an investor’s ‘confirmation bias’ even worse. That is, searching for or interpreting information in a way that supports what we already believe.

It could reinforce your belief that the market will keep going up — or that it will crash.

And you can see how this could be a danger to your wealth.

Best,

Selva Freigedo,
Editor, Markets & Money


Selva Freigedo is an analyst with a background in financial economics. Born and raised in Argentina, she has also lived in Brazil, the US and Spain. She has seen economic troubles firsthand, from economic booms to collapses and the ravaging effects of hyperinflation, high unemployment, deposit freezes and debt default. Selva now writes from her vantage point here in Australia. She is lead Editor at the daily e-letter Markets & Money. And every week, she goes through each report and research note produced by our global network of trusted advisors to find the best investment opportunities for you in Australia and overseas. She packages these opportunities for you in Global Investor.


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