Paraphrasing from the movie Apollo 13, “America, we have a problem.” Google, Facebook, Twitter, and the titans of the interwebs and social media are profiting from what is bad in the world.
A Jewish heritage museum has accused Google of profiting from Holocaust denial because it is paying to prevent a neo-Nazi website from appearing as the top result for “did the Holocaust happen.”
Google, Facebook, and others profit from such misinformation, have done so for years, are doing so now, and in the era of fake news and fake outrage, are likely to continue to profit for years on the growing trend toward misinformation unless something is done to stop it.
- A totalitarian government which forbids unapproved information
- A responsible media which corrects itself in the name of humanity
Don’t hold your breath for what’s behind door #2, Monte. Capitalism prevails, but with exceptions that all too often mirror totalitarian governments. Remember, this is 2016 and if you don’t think we’re headed in that direction, just remember this. North Carolina no longer is considered a democracy.
The information superhighway was considered a panacea of free flowing news, information, and entertainment without borders. Instead, it has become the misinformation superhighway which spreads lies, falsehoods, hatred, and contains all the most heinous portions of mankind.
That colorful, playful Google logo that fronts the world’s most used search engine and the world’s most used applications? Behind the logo is a company that profits from all that is wrong with the world, and when challenged to be more responsive and responsible, simply points to an algorithm which runs the show without human intervention.
Google’s search algorithm appears to be systematically promoting information that is either false or slanted with an extreme rightwing bias on subjects as varied as climate change and homosexuality.
In other words, Google and Facebook and other media giants, profit from those who manipulate their search engine results and news selections.
Google’s search engine prominently suggests neo-Nazi websites and antisemitic writing, the Guardian has uncovered a dozen additional examples of biased search results
Where do people get their news in the 21st century? It’s from Google and Facebook, Twitter and others. Last night on CNN I heard a guest try to explain Donald Trump’s foreign policy based upon Trump’s Twitter tweets. Tweets are 140 characters. What does that tell you about how information is transmitted these days.
Facebook has faced significant backlash for its role in enabling widespread dissemination of misinformation, and data scientists and communication experts have argued that rightwing groups have found creative ways to manipulate social media trends and search algorithms.
This problem is everywhere and it’s growing rapidly; to the point that more than half of Americans cannot tell fake news from real news (although 25-percent of Americans believe in aliens who may be walking among us). The Apartheid Channel’s motto is ‘Fair and balanced’ but numerous surveys point out their viewers are less informed than people who don’t watch news at all.
I don’t have a solution, but I see solutions developing, and most are variants on tribalism. For example, we use Apple products and the ecosystem because the company’s products– though more expensive than competitors, are higher quality and require less effort to use and maintain; a plus for those with higher education and more disposable income. That’s the premium tribe.
I also see tribes forming over politics and religion in ways that did not exist– they have always existed, but not so prominently and not which such rabid fervor and not with their own highly public platforms– just a few generations ago.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social network outlets have prospered thanks to such misinformation manipulation and it could reach a point where so-called democratic countries, and those like the U.S.– representative republics— are reduced to a near totalitarian state merely to maintain order. Or, put another way, a curated society where we don’t choose the form of curation.
Unfortunately, we live in a somewhat free society which allows for such extremes and I fear it will get worse before it gets better. All that brings up an interesting point, too. Is it the message? Or, the messenger? Apple provides– along with many other technology companies– the products that can be used for the good of humanity. And can be used for the worst of humanity. Is Apple responsible because it profits by selling bullets to both sides in the war?
Google profits. Apple profits. Facebook profits. Do those profits also demand responsibility to help curtail what is wrong with the world? Yes. Rich people and rich companies give humanitarian aide and help the impoverished. Today we have a world of people who are impoverished from a blight of misinformation. That needs to change. And change will come, but one of two ways. Totalitarianism. Or, responsibility.