February 27, 2017

11 Responses to “Facebook”

  1. Nick Barnes Says:


  2. Lionel Smith Says:

    This is a must read for all those aghast at the results of recent a referendum and elections:

    Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Thanks, Lionel.

      Facebook was the key to the entire campaign, Wigmore explained. A Facebook ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.”

  3. Lionel, I read that too, a couple of days back. Not sure quite what to make of it as there were certainly other factors involved in the referendum and campaigns. For example, with our election there was the influence campaign coming out of the Kremlin, voter suppression, etc..

    It reminds me a bit of the “magic” that Karl Rove has taken credit for, going off of what people purchase (e.g., rifles and pickups) to figuring out what their politics are most likely to be to calling them up on election day to get the vote out.

    I did a quick search, and this is what I found regarding Rove:

    For the 2000 election, Rove and Mehlman began developing… a database… conducted a survey of, say, 5,000 people in each state. The survey revealed which voters were for Bush or leaned toward him… It asked about attitudes toward the war on terror, education policy, tax cuts. [They] matched those people with a voter file, … all the data with 107 other identifying features from each voter’s consumer history, obtained from consumer data mining companies and direct marketing vendors….

    Now Rove and Mehlman knew that if a voter drove a Mercury, subscribed to a hunting magazine, and belonged to a church, he or she was open to voting Republican…. Rather than sending out paid volunteers [they] would ask a Bush volunteer who is Hispanic and active in the Boy Scouts to pay a personal call on a prospect who was also Hispanic and active in the Boy Scouts.

    Can Karl Rove Pull It Off?NewsMax | 8.29.06 | By Ronald Kessler

    (The link is to Free Republic rather than News Max. I found the original News Max article but somehow forgot to change the link.)

    Did Rove actually swing the election that way? Honestly don’t know, but it does trouble me that with enough data and the ability to tailor ads to the individual, someone with enough money probably will be able to do that sort of thing in the future even if they aren’t able to do it now.

  4. Lionel Smith Says:


    As it happens during the early 1990s I was looking into AI and about the same time began my wanderings on the Internet. ISTR studies back then on the way in which media items could be streamlined to suit particular individuals. Those with narrow interests would only elect to receive those articles pertinent to those interests. I understood then how dangerous this could be, serendipity dead with a growing number of ‘Walking Brain Dead’. The denial echo chamber on climate change is one result of this.

    I have seen another aspect of this process of dumbing down with the slow but accelerating denuding of library bookshelves of books which can inform rather than entertain – the move with that latter to movie DVDs where books once stood. This process has been exacerbated by a unwillingness by local authorities (I am UK based) to provide the funds to run libraries in a manner which is helpful, i.e. the running by volunteers is all very well but when carrying out research the interface with a knowledgeable librarian was an essential time saver. The cutting back of public sector funding, across all sectors is another mechanism to ensure local authorities have little choice but to trim budgets.

    This is another obscene aspect of the growing wealth gap, a gap that has widen faster with each successive decade.

    Back a few decades when an undergrad I often borrowed library books to help support my studies as a supplement to the college library. I would not be able to do that now. I now have to buy books in areas of interest, the scope of which you may be surprised at.

    As for ‘stealing elections’, there have been other methods used besides propaganda and targeted canvassing and Greg Palast has studied and written much on vote rigging as have others:

    “How the 2004 Presidential ‘Election’ Was Stolen by George W. Bush” by Eric Zuesse.

    What is beyond clear is that our electoral systems, across the globe, are not fit for purpose.

    • Personally, I think the voter suppression during this last election (in my view, Palast, who you cite, dealt with a major piece of it) was more significant than other factors in determining the outcome.

      I also believe that at least with respect to the presidential election, what we just experienced was a perfect storm. We had widespread voter suppression (largely due to the recent gutting of the Voter’s Rights Act by the Supreme Court under John Roberts), the weaponized intelligence released through Wikileaks, Comey’s interference during the last eleven days of the election with the discovery of more Clinton emails, and the fake news stories showing being promoted by Facebook and twitter bots. I suspect that every one of these had to be in play for Trump to win. Just three states, sufficient to swing the electoral outcome, were themselves decided by combined 80,000 votes.

      And now we have Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, in a position that has been critical in defending voter rights in the past, but who himself has been major force in voter suppression in the past. In what is likely to be a sign of things to come, under his guidance, the Justice Department just withdrew from a voter suppression case in Texas.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        Agree about suppression. They couldn’t even get all the ballots counted in the swing states – even after they sued to have recounts!

        Hundreds of thousands of ballots (likely Clinton votes, btw, based on precinct ) just blithely deemed unusable (supposed over- or under- votes which could be easily corrected by a human), collected, destroyed. These were states where Trump margin of victory was tiny.

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