In case you’ve been cooped up raging against the news over COVID-19. Here’s something that you might have missed. The Guardian published a fantastic whistleblower account of Facebook’s inability to properly police it’s own policies.
You can read it here. Sophie Zhang was a low level employee who’s job it was to police fake engagement on the site. Essentially when someone tries to boost their own profile through getting fake likes to game the algorithm. She was let go under less than auspicious circumstances as outlined in the article.
Her story highlights what is going to be a defining geopolitical issue for the 21st Century in my opinion. Those who grew up in the Cold War, will understand the proxy wars that happened, as the United States and the USSR encouraged coups and small wars to ensure satellite control over third world countries.
Social media has opened up this state of affairs to another level. Only this time anyone can do it. Imagine being able to encourage a general strike, or public support for or against a position, or the election of a favourable government, all from the comfort of your laptop? Where this was the stuff of James Bond and spy movies. It’s now a reality, and the realm of private interests.
The article itself outlines that Facebook’s internal policies are centred around North America and Europe, against adversaries like Russia or China involvement. This of course leaves the door open to a multi-national perhaps using Facebook to encourage support and the election of a government in favour of resource extraction or diminished worker’s rights. It’s clear they won’t be on Facebook’s radar. Furthermore, as long as China doesn’t point the target at the west, chances are Facebook won’t mind if they take aim at Africa or any where else along their Silk Road initiative.
I’m hoping you’re starting to get a sense of how this is going to change the geopolitical world and global economy. Forget international norms or diplomacy, this is going to be a Wild West of manipulation on a scale we’ve never seen before. This begs the question is Facebook to blame?
I think the answer is yes and no. Facebook did create this new paradigm. However, they are one corporation. As much as we’d like to lay this problem at their feet, I don’t see them being able to do much. They don’t have the resources necessarily to police the entire world. So what to do? Break them up.
It is clear the age of unfettered capitalism in the tech sector must come to an end. Enforcing anti-monopoly laws for the Google, Facebook and Amazons of the world will help foster competition. Competition will mean that one entity cannot have a monopoly on global conversation and trends. Lawmakers need to take a giant leap into the 21st Century and see the problems we face now are real and not imagined. This isn’t fantasy it’s real. Encouraging that these tech conglomerates are unable to maintain monopolies over competition will go a long way in ensuring a freer and more democratic global world.