The Targeted Citizen

This chapter starts off by by explaining how social media works. Social media, when you share a post, will have a pool of friends to which the post will be sent to. The WMDs know how long people tend to look at your post, if they will share your post, how many likes your friend distributes to your posts. The WMDs know all this and take it into account. Because it has this huge pool of knowledge, the WMDs tend to steer the user of social media in a direction. It will only send them things that captivate their gaze. Social media uses all of this to keep you staring at their device. The longer you stare at their device, the more they can sell the viewer. She talks about how Facebook can play the political game and steer people in a direction based on what content it throws the viewer. The “I Voted” button was huge. FB made it so millions of Americans voted creating these huge pools of data. They talked about how Solomon Messing tweaked the algorithms to send 2 million more politically engaged people a higher proportion of hard news. Instead of friendly funny videos, these viewers got got hard news. Their was a 3% spike in voter participation. These algorithms have a very clear result on our behavior. People will be steered to vote more, they can be steered to many other things. This can impact people in the worst ways as well, keeping them encapsulated in bubbles. If they think a certain way, to keep them locked into that thought process instead of the algorithms picking up if someone is distressed and sending them good videos that will make them laugh or will help them out. People can stay off of social media but to make things better, these algorithms should pick up on peoples’ behaviour but in a way that would help them. If the algorithms pick up that the person would cause harm to themselves or others, to send that individual, videos that would motivate them to do different. Not more extreme and more extreme every time. This would make things fair. Biggest takeaway is that these algorithms suck! They are good at selling but not good for us. They don’t help us as people in any way. These WMDs need to be transparent. The chapter talked about how Republicans still believed a wide spread lie that President Obama is a Muslim because of microtargeting. This is not the way these companies should be acting.

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