The average American will spend two hours today on social media. The average teenager trounces this number with NINE hours. That’s longer than an average school day.
Only 5 percent of Americans were using Facebook back in 2005. Today, that number is over 70 percent. Roughly 50 percent of all millennials say they get their news exclusively from Facebook and Twitter. These numbers are huge. Facebook is DOMINATING news, and it’s threatening to eventually render the legacy media outlets obsolete in the very near future.
Now, knowing all these facts and figures, what would you say if I told you there have been people leveraging this power to manipulate the way you think and vote? A political data firm hired by President Trump’s election campaign, called Cambridge Analytica, did just that.
How did they do it? I gotta tell you, this would have made even George Orwell cringe. The process is called Psychometrics, and it involves mapping a Facebook user's personality by analyzing the things you look at and the posts you like. This information was then used to, in the words of the firm's co-founder, “to fight a culture war in America.”
In the end, over 50 million people were being manipulated.
In the end, over 50 million people were being manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. But maybe the worst part of all this is that it’s actually legal. Facebook users agree to this type of “research information” when they click the Terms of Service box after creating an account.
When this story broke, Facebook’s stock to a 7 percent loss. The New York Times wrote multiple damaging articles, and the pile-on has even included a #DeleteFacebook campaign on social media.
Facebook has responded by condemning Cambridge Analytica and revoking their access. That’s kind of interesting given Facebook’s track record here. The Obama campaign basically did the exact same thing back in 2012, but both Facebook and the media had a much different response to it back then.
In fact, in an article on June 20, 2013, the New York Times wrote a praise-filled puff piece on how the Obama campaign harvested Facebook data to manipulate the 2012 election. The only problem is they didn’t use the word “manipulate” like they're doing today. Back when Obama was doing this, it was called, “technologically advanced formulas for reaching voters.”
They were on our side.
Carol Davidson, the former director of integration and media analytics for Obama For America called it “sucking out the whole social graph.” Whatever name you want to put on it, Facebook --- like the New York Times --- apparently didn’t see anything wrong with this when it was being done by Obama. According to Davidson, when Facebook found out the Obama campaign was doing this, they were surprised BUT... “they were on our side.”
Facebook is a private company and can do what they want, but we’re now entering a time when the primary source of our information --- in this case, social media --- is being manipulated and used to direct us down a certain path. The Democrats did it in 2012, and now the Republicans did it in 2016. Imagine how this evolves in just a few years.