Over the course of the last few months, there has been a rightful focus on the effects of social media and information gatekeeping occurring down political lines.
The issue tends to lie in the debate over free speech in the public or private sector. In the public square, we understand clearly just where we stand when it comes to the First Amendment. Any of us can stand before a city council meeting and have our opinions heard.
But what happens when someone like Facebook or Twitter, through their terms of service, technically owns everything that you think that you’re publicly publishing? They can then choose to say, “no, we only wish to publish the content you create that we agree with”. Worse still, in those same “terms and conditions”, you have given these social media companies unfettered leeway to study your browsing habits and your interests in detail, then selling that information to advertisers so that they can better target you. This is your profile, your personality that Facebook and Twitter and others are harvesting and then selling…all while telling you what you can and cannot stay on their platform.
Scarier still: This selective editing is going to warp coming elections, possibly to the tune of about 12 million votes.
Dr. Robert Epstein, the senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and a panelist on Breitbart News’ “Masters of the Universe” town hall on Internet freedom, joined SiriusXM hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak on Thursday’s Breitbart News Tonight to warn of technology firms’ growing political power.
Epstein pointed to Google’s dominance of the Internet search market.
“As it happens, 90 percent of search around the world is conducted on just one search engine,” noted Epstein. “There’s never been a precedent for anything like this, ever. You’ve got one company that’s controlling search around the world.”
Epstein added, “That’s a power to shift opinions that’s in the hands of a handful of people in one particular town in Northern California, affecting people around the world, with no way to counteract what they’re doing, with no competitors out there.”
And the numbers are even more outrageous:
He mentioned a result from a study he conducted: “I calculate that these companies will be able to shift upwards of 12 million votes in November with no one knowing that they’re doing so … and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.”
Epstein went on, “If on election day of 2016, if Mark Zuckerberg had chosen to send out what we call a ‘targeted message,’ a message saying, ‘Go out and vote,’ that went only to supporters of Hillary Clinton, no one would have known that was being done. No one would have known that the message was going only to supporters of Hillary Clinton, and it would have given her an additional 450,000 votes.”
If we don’t soon wrangle social media, social media will be wrangling us.