Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Ever Again?

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“I don’t have to tell you that there is this dark undertow which is connecting us all globally and it is flowing via the [social media] technology platforms. And that is why I am here — to address you directly, the gods of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey. Because you set out to connect people and you are refusing to acknowledge that this same technology is now driving us apart. And what you don’t seem to understand is that this is bigger than you, and it’s bigger than any of us. And it is not about left or right, or leave or remain, or Trump or not. It’s about whether it’s actually possible to have a free and fair election ever again. And so my question to you is: is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you? — as the handmaidens to authoritarianism? And my question to everyone else is: is this what we want? To sit back and play with our phones as this darkness falls?”

From the TED talk on April 2019 by Carole Cadwaller, the investigative journalist who exposed the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cadwaller accused Facebook and other social media companies of damaging democracy by spreading hateful, divisive lies in darkness paid for by illegal cash for millions of dollars worth of ads. Working with a whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica, Cadwaller learned that the data mining company gathered information on millions of people and manipulated their behavior (i.e., their voting) in the U.S. to impact the 2016 presidential election and in the UK to influence the Brexit vote. The quotation that appears above is featured in the Netflix documentary The Great Hack that focuses on how users of social media apps do not have the right to their own data that is being collected every second that they are online. In this context, consumers themselves (or, more precisely, their data) are the commodity; social media companies sell that data to any company that wants to use it — and, as in the case of two important national elections — the data was used to manipulate the voter’s behavior. How Orwellian.

The entire lecture can be seen by searching for “Facebook’s Role In Brexit — and the Threat to Democracy” on YouTube.

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