Original video creator(s): Houseman - script writer, video maker
Creator's description: After all the shenanigans people have pulled, why do you continue to trust what you see on social media?
For most people, social media is a way to keep in touch with your friends and family members.
Perhaps you follow celebrities, artists, or entertainers that you like.
Maybe you dip your toe into the larger conversation and comment on, or debate, current events with hundreds of thousands of other people.
However you use social media, you should be aware that social media is also using you.
They collect data from you based on your browsing habits and interests, and then attempt to
persuade you with targeted ads that they think you'd like.
For most people this is nothing new. This is already well-documented and considered common knowledge.
But what eludes most people is that this persuasion isn't just limited to trying to get you to buy a new coffee maker, or a cute dress with pockets. This persuasion also targets your opinions, including your social and political beliefs.
If you think spanking your children is wrong, social media probably played a part in that.
If you like or dislike any given politician, social media probably had a hand in that too.
If you consider yourself pro or -anti any issue, it's likely that something you saw on the internet influenced your beliefs.
People understand this to an extent, but they think it's something that happens to other people. They don't really take it to heart. What I mean is, You've heard of reports about, say, Russian bots or paid teams of users that go out on Twitter and try to influence people with their organized disinformation camapgins, right?
How can you be sure that the viewpoints you're exposed to are authentic? How can you be sure that these bots and these disinformation campaigns aren't affecting you?
Let's consider a hypothetical.
Let's say that Twitter, or Facebook, or Reddit or whatever, were owned by Russia. By China. By North Korea. Would you still use those services? Probably not, right, because you know that they would heavily censor or manipulate information so that you see what they want you to see, right? You can easily see how that could happen. These countries do not have free speech, they are under no requirement to allow you to say whatever you want to say, and you can predict by the way they treat their own citizens, the way in which they're willing to treat you.
If you say something on Putin's Facebook that he doesn't like, he could simply delete it, or suppress it, so that nobody else ever sees that post. He can manipulate search results and ads in order to try and influence you into thinking what he wants you to think. You'll see what people have to say about an current events issue, and everyone, coincidentally, will be in complete agreement with the Russian, state-controlled, journalists.
So obviously, you wouldn't trust anything you read on Putin's Facebook.
Now, what assurance can you give me that this same thing isn't happening on American Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.
Are there any laws that prevent such a thing from happening?
No, there aren't. In America, we have freedom of speech. We don't need the government to give us permission about what we can or can't say, nor can they control it. These are private companies, and they can set their own rules about what speech they allow.
This also means, that these private companies are free to suppress or manipulate speech however they want. They can suppress all Democrat opinions and promote Republican ones to the front page, or vice versa. And no one can do anything about it.
So you're really trusting in the CEOs of these companies, that they aren't biased, and aren't using their power to sway public opinion. How much do you know and trust the CEOs of Twitter, Youtube, Google, Reddit, or Facebook? What do they believe in? What are their princples? Who did they vote for? What causes do they support, and what are they against? What assurance can they give us that they aren't already suppressing things they don't like?
Have you ever thought about how valuable these social networks are?
Think about how many eyeballs they get, daily.
Think about how many advertisements are served each minute.
Think about how many purchaces that leads to.
Think about how every company has an account on all of these social media sites.
Think about how valuable all of that is, and what someone would pay for just a small piece of it.
If a company had control of social media, they would be bigger than coca-cola.
If a political candidate had control of social media, their victory would be assured.
Do you think people aren't already trying, or that they haven't already succeeded in getting a piece of this power?
What stands between this immensely valuable resource, and the evildoers who would misuse it?
A CEO? The same CEO who is behoden to their shareholders to turn a profit? Do you trust in this CEO's integrity, that they'd turn down a big sack of cash from a politician, activist, or foreign agent?
Let's talk about how this is done. You probably already know about bots, a bunch of automated users that post the same few messages all over the place. You might have seen one of their messages without being aware of it, but these are easy to expose and quick to be deleted.
You can also buy opinions. You can hire people to create accounts and just advocate for, or argue against, a cause. You can buy moderator positions for influential communities and suppress speech that you don't like. That person who's trolling you on Twitter might have been paid to do so. That meme you liked could have been created by a campaign manager's intern.
Let's talk about something that happens at a higher level, search results. You probably know by now that companies like Google and Twitter manipulate their search results. For twitter, certain hashtags start to gain traction, but then they seemingly disappear, and they don't show up on the "trending" tab. For Google, you might search for "Immigrant violence", and be shown only instances of "anti-Immigrant violence" instead, whereas on another search engine the results will be completely different.
They're not directly censoring the content that they don't want you to see, which is to say, they're not deleting the content. They're just supressing it, making hard for you to find what you're looking for.
This is devious, because the content is still there, and the creator might have his or her own limited fanbase that they can interact with, but it's not advertised and promoted like the rest. You might have to find it by a direct link, rather than through the site's exploration features.
They might say that the content "violates guidelines" or contains terms that aren't "advertiser friendly", or that it's attracting "negative attention", or they might slap a "fact check" label on it, or whatever other excuse they want to give. I'm sure that China gives similar excuses.
Lastly, let's talk about a devious little trick that anyone could do. Have you heard about COINTELPRO? The Counter Intelligence Program? It was a series of illegal FBI operations conducted against citizens of the United States, meant to destroy and discret groups that they didn't like. These were political organizations and social movements, most notably the civil rights movment and Martin Luther King Jr himself. Besides actual assassinations, they conducted psychological warfare in order to discredit these groups, including forged documents, false reports in the media, and wrongful imprisionment.
If they could have used Twitter back in the 1960s, they would have.
One of the things the FBI did was create a "coloring book", and then claim it came from the Black Panthers.
The FBI then used their own creation to demonstrate criminal and horrible the Black Panthers were. It showed them teaching their children to kill white men and police officers, both depicted as pigs. It tried to paint them as a group of racist, murderous terrorists, even the children.
Let's just assume that FBI, the CIA, the three-letter agencies, aren't doing this today with groups that they disapprove of, and want to discredit.
Now, what's to stop me from doing the same thing? What's to stop me from pretending to be a member of a group that I disagree with. What's to stop me from misrepresenting, or flat-out lying about their beliefs in order to make the opposition look bad? And what's to stop a bad journalist from quoting my tweets in an article and exposing them to a wider audience, as if I were representative of the entire movement? This is especially effective for movements that don't have a organizational structure and clear leaders and spokesmen that can disavow the content.
But even with organizations that do, it doesn't matter, a lie can get half-way around the world before the truth puts on it's shoes. By the time an article is retracted or a correction is made, the public, who already saw the headline on social media, has already been convinced. The lie has won. The lie will influence how the public behaves, including how they vote.
So, how do you know all this isn't happening, right now?
How do you know you haven't been influenced by it?
When you see the your political or ideological opposites spouting crazy conspiracy theories, are those authentic?
When you see people advocate for a social issue, how many of those people are getting paid?
When you see a funny meme about a controversial issue, who made it?
When your opinions just coincidentally agree with all of the top buisinesses and media organizations in the country, maybe it's time to stop and reflect.