How Facebook Could Become The Shadow Government

June 11, 2014 in Daily Bulletin

Facebook – and most web 2.0 sites – could yield undue political influence if they so chose writes Jonathan Zittrain:

  • Facebook cooperated with researchers in an experiment where certain users were notified that their friends had voted. Those that did were 0.39% more likely to vote.
  • That seems like a tiny amount but in 2000 George W. Bush won Florida by 0.01% of the vote.
  • Facebook could, theoretically, identify a closely fought race where it has a preferred candidate. It could then find users that are likely to vote for their candidate (based on the wealth of data that Facebook has on each of its users) and then encourage them to vote.
  • This is known as digital gerrymandering. And as companies increasingly seek to personalize their pages for users, more and more companies have the option to engage in it.
  • We wouldn’t even necessarily know about it since we don’t know if what we see is any different from what other users see.
  • The web giants have shown that they’re not afraid to use their online presence to influence politics. In 2012 major tech sites blacked out their pages to protest against legislation popularly known as SOPA. The legislation did not pass.
  • In fact, such digital gerrymandering is actually completely within the scope set by most sites’ user agreements.

Read more about a proposed solution to this problem, and other details over here.

Source: New Republic

Via: Marginal Revolution