<<I can't decide if I want to be politically neutral or get into politics. Politics motivated me to start this but the truth is that it should be used by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
If I was going to be political I would say:>>
The 2016 election was massively influenced by two things:
- "Fake News" sites. These sites existed as a way to earn a little $$ by showing ads. People - unaffilliated with news - created the sites with any content they thought would drive clicks. Along with the content, the sites showed ads. Sites were promoted on facebook, driving traffic, meaning ads were shown and $$ went into the owners pockets. The goal was only to get clicks - nothing more - so whatever made people click was "better". Turns out that crazy political stories made people click. By gaming the system of "how to get people to click" on facebook & other social networks, site owners could make a few bucks selling those ad impressions. But along the way, actual people were actually influenced in their thinking - and voting.
- Cambridge Analytica and its methods. Read this article, but here's a summary: CA has been collecting personality profile data about people on facebook for years. CA's information is not anonymous - it's specific to you, using your name - and it describes what motivates you, emotionally. In addition, they know what your political views are. So they're able to cross-reference these two things and come up with ad targeting methods that go way beyond what we use in commerce - like this:
- Definitely gonna vote Hillary? CA just tries to get you to not go to the polls, using messages designed to appeal to you emotionally. For example if you're kind of neurotic, the message may be, "Hillary's emails - there's no telling what other stupid things she could do to get us into trouble". If you value honesty it's "Hillary lied about her emails." Etc.
- Definitely gonna vote Trump? CA tries to get you to definitely go to the polls, again based on your emotions.
- Somewhere in the middle? CA tries to influence your actual views. Maybe you care about gun rights and family - one ad might show a father & son hunting together, while the other might show a father defending his son from an intruder.
I'm 100% in support of people voting for their candidate of choice, whomever that may be. But to pretend that our election wasn't influenced by those two things is ridiculous.
In democracy, one person gets one vote. But, some people have a greater ability to influence than others do. People who express ideas that resonate with society have often been lifted up to leadership positions, but one of the promises of the internet is that "the little guy" can also reach a wide audience. In theory this creates a level playing field where everyone has a chance to gain the influence he or she desires.
But in reality, some people are using technology to automate their voices. Read this article about a retiree who "tweets more than 1000 times a day using 'schedulers' that work through stacks of his own pre-written posts in repetitive loops". They're creating data to game the algorithms that rule our society - each post, each like, each link is a data point, indicating that the content is valuable. One in four presidential debate tweets came from a bot.
The bots and the fake news are teaching the algorithms what's important, and the algorithms are feeding it to us.
Users - people, you & me - cannot change the algorithms. Nor can we ban the bots, or the fake news (though we can educate ourselves to recognize this type of content when we see it). Our government is not protecting us from this.
Make no mistake: this is what it looks like when artificial intelligence takes control of a population. It's not the sci-fi idea of robots shooting us with phasers - it's algorithms, and the people who control them, manipulating our lives and worlds enough to convince us to behave in a certain way.
We must resist this, we must protect ourselves, and we must fight back. But the only way we can directly hit these algorithms is by generating our own bot-like data: meaningless, misdirecting data that dilutes the usefulness of the data these organizations are already collecting. That will neutralize the algorithms, leaving them powerless.