Billions of people around the globe enjoy the benefits of social media every day by connecting with family and friends. Some also use the platform to share various viewpoints and connect with like-minded souls. Imagine, however, if your private conversations were being read and monitored by data-mining firms to influence global politics. Such thoughts may not be merely products of the imagination.
Facebook has recently attempted to clear its name of invading user privacy following scrutiny over the influence of third-party firms. Still recovering from the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, it appears Facebook just can’t resist the temptation to violate your privacy as it finds itself facing a second set of allegations – this time centered around the marketing firm Crimson Hexagon.
Stealing Your Data
The data-mining company Cambridge Analytica was part of a Russian operation that improperly accessed and sold the private information of tens of millions of clients, in order to influence worldwide elections.
The incident spurred congressional hearings in which Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned about Cambridge Analytica’s scam to sway voters. Legislators and Zuckerberg further discussed longstanding concerns from Americans about potential bias towards conservatives and various accounts of censorship, during which he denied the allegations.
Facebook has attempted to recover from the controversy through their recent initiative to provide “credible and independent research about the role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally,” as reported by Liberty Nation.
However, the initiative may prove unsatisfactory, as illustrated by a new report by the Associated Press alleging that another analytics firm with whom Facebook has partnered, Crimson Hexagon, is currently under investigation for how the company collects and shares user data. Crimson Hexagon is a Boston-based consumer insight company which monitors and interprets trends of customer behavior to enhance a product’s success.
The system is powered by artificial intelligence, which was sought by Zuckerberg to improve Facebook’s ability to stop illegal activities on the website by users, such as selling illicit drugs, as he stated during the congressional hearings. Artificial intelligence is much more efficient than human-based monitoring. However, concerns arose that Crimson Hexagon had inappropriately obtained private information, causing many consumers to grow weary of the potential intrusions from social media use.
Crimson Hexagon allegedly has clients from a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin. Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, said in a press release that they are taking the investigation seriously and do not permit developers to build surveillance tools from customer data.
Nevertheless, Facebook has announced that the investigation has not yet yielded evidence that Crimson Hexagon has inappropriately obtained user files. The Chief Technology Officer of Crimson Hexagon asserted that they abide entirely by the rules of social media, which aim to limit third-parties in their use of both public and private documents.
The recent incidents should come as no surprise. As part of its promise to promote democracy and credibility, Zuckerberg’s corporation partnered with the think tank Atlantic Council, which they claim has a stellar reputation for creating innovative solutions. The think tank is employed to release insights and updates on campaigns across the world. However, they frequently post articles from unreliable sources, such as the Xinhua News Agency, founded by the Communist Party of China and renowned for spreading propaganda, as detailed by the University of South Carolina.
While Zuckerberg may claim to value democracy,
LN’s Political Correspondent Graham Noble accounts that Facebook has created algorithms to filter news and viewpoints under the guise of protecting users from “hate speech” and other “offensive” or “unacceptable” behaviors.
Noble explains that, in reality, they have restricted reports and opinions from one end of the political spectrum to control public opinion and further a leftist agenda.
Facebook has evidently revealed its attempts to influence global politics, and they certainly have the platform to do so. In fact, social media sites have become the chief conduit through which news, entertainment, and even commerce flow to almost 70% of Americans.
With citizens obtaining the majority of their information from social media outlets, they may be vulnerable to political influence from the companies that now filter the majority of our news.
What are the thoughts of our readers? Do you believe such websites are attempting to influence worldwide elections?