I am not a ‘Facebook’ fan. I have not signed up to this allegedly all-conquering Soshiall-Meejah giant, and I have no intention of doing so in the future. Anyone else can do as they wish; but for me, Facebook has always been a site for ‘wannabees’ who need to verify or indeed justify their very existence by a series of ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ whose ‘clicks’ on their page bring them great joy. Speaking for myself, I know who my friends are; and I firmly believe that the last thing any of my acquaintances wish to know is what I am buying, or watching, or indeed publicising.
But I tend to give, to either individuals or giant digital businesses; the benefit of the doubt when it comes to motives, or indeed motivations. If your main motivation is profit and shareholder value or dividends; I say ‘good luck, mate’. But when a sector of that digital business, believed by its users to be totally impartial because of it’s generation by a computer-based algorithm; turns out to be less than that lauded ‘impartiality’ because of human interference: I and indeed many like me tend towards extreme annoyance.
Allow me to explain. When a computer user clicks on to the BBC website, or indeed when he views or listens to the news programmes that National Broadcaster puts onto the airwaves, we automatically collate it’s content by means of an inbuilt ‘bullshit content’ meter. We know that any comment, or slant placed upon news items, will be towards favouring the Labour Left or Liberal points of view; whether the subject is ‘Climate Change’ or the Welsh Assembly; and indeed anything in between. We know that the news read out has been through the BBC ‘slant-o-meter’, and any person of even moderate intelligence knows how to mentally filter out the ‘bullshit’ and digest what is real, discarding that which is, literally, crap. So, turning to Facebook, one of the star turns of the Facebook website is the ‘Trending’ news sector, which supposedly picked out news stories because they were ‘trending’ or being viewed by multiple viewers across the digital world. ‘Trending’ may be a political story, or even a picture of a wide-eyed and cute kitten, but the way in which the story or item was chosen was supposed to be by an algorithm, generating a list of stories which according to the ‘COMPUTER’, were more important or were gaining a high readership.
So imagine the surprise of the Gizmodo team when they were contacted by several former Facebook contractors, who alleged that the ‘trending’ news list was actually ‘curated’ and that the list was actively suppressing conservative news items because of political bias.
“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”
So 1.51 Billion users are signed on Facebook. Take a conservative assessment of those people who use Facebook for news selection of, say, 15%, which works out to 226 million people. You then must see the problem; if that many people are being led down a path that they believe is uncontaminated by human bias; how many of those people are unaware that they are the focus of a tiny group of people whose views are diametrically opposed to their own natural inclinations?
And I say that you can be both paranoid; and have people out to get you?