Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Digital persuasion and the dark places of democracy

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  • Sacha,

    The Cadwalladr talk is brilliant, eh. Let's hope there is a lot of media attention on masters Topham and Guerin before both the local body elections this year and the national ones next year.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    It’s astonishing that with what we know, and have known about the big social media platforms, since for ages now, that such large numbers of people continue to use Facebook accounts . It beggars belief. There must also be something in the water.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    Yeah, it's really good. I was interested to see a tweet by her that she had to get past a longtime crippling anxiety about public speaking to do it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to steven crawford,

    And yet, it's wrapped into our lives. It's a way I can tell people when I've written something like the above, it's my connection to decades' worth of friends, it's how everyone gets everyone else to come to their damn gigs ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I know, and it’s a depressing state of affairs. It’s similar to how shopping malls privatised public meeting places and displaced the town squares. once upon a time, people would have looked at Public Address system to see what you had written here. I did. Accurately, I still do:-)

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth,

    Something I have been banging on about for some time: if there's a case for public service broadcasting (and there obviously is, because we still, just, have it in NZ), then a case can be made for public service social media (PSSM). Something with the functions of Facebook, but that plays by the rules we set, not the rules set by some billionaire in the US.

    If Facebook and others want to play in our market, then they should have to play by our rules. We urgently need to set down what those are, and then get them implemented.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Gareth,

    If Facebook and others want to play in our market, then they should have to play by our rules. We urgently need to set down what those are, and then get them implemented.

    And there’s part of the problem. We don’t like rules and regulations that impede our freedoms of expresion. Facebook has the ability to remind us of a warped parallel universe distorted version of that. We are dependent on Facebook. They are perversely joined to the workings of our democracy. Parasitic, isn’t too strong a word.

    Fuck Facebook!

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to steven crawford,

    people would have looked at Public Address system to see what you had written here. I did. Accurately, I still do:-)

    I saw it in a tweet.

    And yet, it’s wrapped into our lives. It’s a way I can tell people when I’ve written something like the above, it’s my connection to decades’ worth of friends, it’s how everyone gets everyone else to come to their damn gigs

    Yes, it was a very fast way to organize a group of people when I was doing stuff for Uber drivers. But it was also not a very good way of organizing them for that purpose, considering the pages were perused by Uber staff and the police at will. It's very existence stifled all attempts to build anything else. It gave a rapid sense of engagement, without any commitment to real engagement. It enabled people to feel that they were a part of something whilst being actually powerless and ineffective and unheard, and spied upon by their oppressors and the authorities.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10629 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    working on contract for Darth Vader is just a hell of a career opportunity.

    Well he did used to be a white knight, until he fell in that volcano and had to don that breathing apparatus that makes that creepy noise...still...he was a whitey knighty, maybe he'll reinvent himself... oh thats right, once the Dark Lord has a hold over you the only way out is death, no cake. ;-))

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1881 posts Report Reply

  • Katita,

    I just finished reading Roger McNamee's Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe .
    Some of it wasn't new news ... other parts were horrifying. Enough so that I've changed my FB and Google habits and used McNamee's excellent bibliography to create myself a very long reading list. I found McNamee's description of the evolution from Silicon Valley 'hippy' hackers (think Steve Jobs) to Libertarian (and NZ citizen Peter Theil) particularly chilling. No prizes for guessing where Topham Guerin fit on that continuum.
    Thanks for writing about this Russell, if Jacinda and the Coalition govt decide to take on the tech monopolies as part of a global crackdown, then I think we're in for some interesting times indeed (provided we can unclog our newsfeeds long enough to find out about them).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 65 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to steven crawford,

    Well, yes, indeed... ;-)

    Other forms of media have been around long enough for fairly robust rules/codes to have evolved covering their actions - but Facebook and the other new media haven't, and have done their best to resist any form of regulation, anywhere.

    I don't see applying codes of conduct, or setting and enforcing rules regarding transparency in election advertising would cause much fuss, because we accept them everywhere else.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Carole Cadwalladr's account of doing the talk and what happened afterwards – including the angry reaction of Facebook executives – is an excellent read.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22744 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Gareth,

    we accept them everywhere else

    Doesnt mean the perpetrators will accept them tho'. Unless penalties of some kind are enforced and I mean drastically. But their malfeasance helps the power possessors (I dont know what to call them) maintain their positions, so I dont see that happening any time soon. The best hope is brave people like Carole Cadwalladr continue to take them on and many follow in their footsteps.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1881 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Debates on policyere where?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Very interesting to see the NZ connection, young Kiwis bored and in need of a challenge beating a path to London and all that.

    The campaign to make No Deal/Crash Out/WTO Brexit a popular option has been interesting to watch - loads of people are now convinced that they specifically voted for WTO Brexit, despite it not being a thing in 16 or even 17. The marketers / consultants hired by whomever have been very good at finding new slogans to reinforce that.

    I went canvassing over the weekend out in the Home Counties, to help a mate and it was very interesting to see how the strong Conservative voters (as identified by our systems) we spoke to are very angry if Leave leaning, at the party, leadership and everything. Whilst they're gagging for a No Deal, they're also seemingly, like many people Leave or Remain also desperating seeking someone who will take control and march us to a defined direction, even if that happens to be Remain. Anything to escape the current mess.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1019 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    Is this a new development in politics? We’ve had very bad things happen in the past without social media.

    Since Nov 2016 • 344 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Neil,

    Maybe a new development in politics, but not for humanity, and that is where the problem is our selves. Even tho the current High Priest Dorsey dresses like a monk, and his predecessor The Zuck thought youth conquers all. Their humanity seems to have got lost along the way, or were the pieces of silver to tempting.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1881 posts Report Reply

  • EliotBlennerhassett,

    Just a plug for another person who writes about this sort of stuff:

    Zeynep Tufekci https://www.nytimes.com/column/zeynep-tufekci

    From her latest piece - "There is no longer such a thing as individually “opting out” of our privacy-compromised world. "

    Christhcurch • Since Jan 2010 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Topham and Guerin, both young men making their way in the booming industry of digital persuasion, may not feel that they’re doing anything wrong here; that it’s all in the game, that working on contract for Darth Vader is just a hell of a career opportunity. But the rest of us might feel that the material involvement of politically-connected New Zealanders in such a deceptive and deeply cynical covert politics project brings things a little too close for comfort.

    War profiteers don’t always deal in bombs and bullets. If we’re going to keep up with the times, disinformation and hacking count as methods of warfare these days.

    It seems worth noting that earlier this year, Facebook deliberately broke a ProPublica tool that let everyone see how ads were being targeted. The Guardian’s appeal for its own readers to help its journalists understand what’s actually going on by screenshotting any dodgy ads they may come across seems an inadequate form of oversight, but it’s all we’ve got.

    I sometimes wonder if Mark Zuckerburg is a useful idiot for his financial backer Peter Thiel. The former doesn’t give a Zuck about weaponised info at best, the latter openly revels in it.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to steven crawford,

    I know, and it’s a depressing state of affairs. It’s similar to how shopping malls privatised public meeting places and displaced the town squares. once upon a time, people would have looked at Public Address system to see what you had written here. I did. Accurately, I still do:-)

    Now, it seems, the shopping mall has peaked, if it's not in decline.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I would like to see the NZ police issue a warrant for the arrest of Mark Zuckerburg in relation to the Christchurch shooting video and seek his extradition.

    NZ is a serious country with a proper rule of law so the US courts would have to hear the case and Zuckerburg would have to take it seriously.

    Not that I think we'd ever be able to extradite him here on a charge of abetting terror. But to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, it would be great to get him into a courthouse and make him deny it.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2210 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Now, it seems, the shopping mall has peaked, if it’s not in decline.

    Online shopping?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Local Government Facebook page. Radio New Zealand has a Facebook page, which if I visit, puts massive pressure on me to submit to having a Facebook account.

    I’m not going to sign up to Facebook again, because last time I signed up to Facebook, I had to go and google how to get released. It wasn't easy, and they still own my rolodex.

    Any community organisation that sets up a Facebook page, is by default, endorsing Facebook.

    No sorry, I mean they handed their integrity over to that multi national corporation.

    Greenpeace has a Facebook page.

    Amnesty International. has a Facebook page.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4294 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to andin,

    Maybe a new development in politics, but not for humanity, and that is where the problem is our selves.

    Yes, is social media just giving us what we already have been doing just in another guise or does social media tap into something in us that has been hitherto latent.

    Social media certainly provides something we have not had before in our social history - an instant audience, or the impression of one at least, anytime one wants.

    Some things might be very difficult to combat. Misrepresentation is extremely easy on Twitter, deliberately taking things out of context would be very difficult to police. Then again if people don’t want to check for context then they’re already on board with the message.

    Since Nov 2016 • 344 posts Report Reply

  • SHG,

    If you're onboard the podcast train, these episodes of Sam Harris's pod are must-listen on this subject.

    #71 - WHAT IS TECHNOLOGY DOING TO US?
    A Conversation with Tristan Harris
    https://samharris.org/podcasts/what-is-technology-doing-to-us/

    #145 - THE INFORMATION WAR
    A Conversation with Renée DiResta
    https://samharris.org/podcasts/145-information-war/

    #152 - THE TROUBLE WITH FACEBOOK
    A Conversation with Roger McNamee
    https://samharris.org/podcasts/152-trouble-facebook/

    nup • Since Oct 2010 • 77 posts Report Reply

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