Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed there has been tampering with that pesky algorithm we blame when we are not seeing what we want on the platform, or if we’re seeing things we do not want to see.
In her report to the US Senate Commerce subcommittee, the former Facebook product manager said the popular social media platform manipulates the mysterious algorithm that lives within the app, to the shock of everyone and anyone on social media.
Digital media practitioners were silent on the issue.
Let us talk about algorithm. I am truly astonished at people saying that this is a shock to them, then in the same breath click Lazada, Zalora or Shopee with the intention of buying (add to cart) things that show up later on their YouTube.
Let’s get this out of the way. This trend is called remarketing. This is when marketers use the algorithm of your behavior to remind you or “retarget” you when you are looking at something on a public website, like YouTube.
You’ve shown interest in a product that you clicked to see and added to your cart, so this is just a reminder that hey, you liked this product, and maaaaaybe you may like these other products, too.
I will bet anyone on Facebook has experienced it. I will bet there is an ad as well that has something to do with something you clicked on.
OMG, THEY ARE LISTENING!
Well, yes. They always have been. They just do it much better now. So how is this free speech or freedom online? It seems, as Haugen said, your choices are pretty much predetermined in a way. The algorithm brings you towards situations that will likely cause conflict or challenge you to think outside of your own echo chamber.
So how does this encourage the idea of free will or free discourse? Is there a possibility that ALL our discussions online have been predetermined to either those we want to have, or pushed to those conversations we DO NOT WANT to have? Based on the Haugen’s account, does Facebook want us to have a discourse just based on things that irk us? That we cannot have a discussion on things we WANT to talk about, hence creating a weird echo chamber that either reflects what we want to hear or hate to hear?
I’ll give you a tip: there is a way to change your algorithm and “beat the system,” so to speak, for what you see to be exactly just what you want to see. There is a “hide” button or even a “snooze” button that can be used to “clean up” your feed. In the worst of the worst situations, you can even “block” and unfriend people if they really annoy you. The things you do not want to see or that you know in your gut is wrong, you can actually keep off your feed.
But then, even if there is nothing as this is YOUR feed, are YOU now creating your own echo chamber in which you do not see anything but things that make you happy? Is the whole freedom of discourse skewed to your opinion? Or are you actually practicing your freedom of choice? Being able to customize your feed, or being fed certain things, are these not trying to make sure you get what you want on your feed, so as to ensure you stay on the platform?
If customization makes you free to do what you want in your semi-personal space online, do you only put what you want in there? I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.