How did Sean Parker influence Facebook

Social media - Facebook - the monster in my network

They want to be visionaries, prophets, world changers. It doesn't go below that. You are shooting convertibles on Mars, looking for the immortality formula and want to defeat hunger, wars, energy crises and fear of the future with smart software. Politics? Privacy? Regulation? Legal proceedings? For the tech billionaires with the God complex, that was just a nuisance of little things. Interfering noises on the way to digital Arcadia. The bosses of Facebook and Twitter, including those of Amazon, Google and Apple, are doing nothing less than reprogramming the world - under their terms of use. The “super power of technology”, tweeted Silicon Valley financier Marc Andreessen, “upgraded us as creators, builders, inventors, designers, artists, producers”.

Suddenly, however, the superheroes from Silicon Valley sound completely different. Contrite. Pensive. Full of shame. Something has turned. The pressure grew for months. The social media companies in particular had tacitly accepted fake news and propaganda to generate traffic and hid behind nebulous, self-made “community standards”, criticized politicians, media and customers.

The trail leads to Trump's election campaign team

The allegations themselves remained vague for a long time. Now they are concrete. There are names and there are numbers. Perhaps the most impressive, published this weekend by the British Observer and the New York Times: 50 million.

The data analysis company Cambridge Analytica is said to have tapped the Facebook profiles of 50 million American users without their permission. From this, models were developed to influence the voting decisions of these 50 million Americans via posts, fake news and personalized election advertising - in the summer of 2016, in the middle of the presidential election campaign. And yes, Cambridge Analytica was closely linked to the election campaign team of candidate Donald Trump and was co-founded by his right-wing national adviser Steve Bannon. And the company is very active in representing Russian interests in the West.

In the end, Donald Trump was actually US President, and the Russians smirked.

The manipulation machine

How much data Cambridge Analytica has legally tapped, how much it has illegally hoarded and sold, what responsibility lies with the data octopus Facebook - all of this will now be clarified by investigative committees. But one thing is already certain: This type of manipulation can only be so successful because social media opens the door to it.

It turns out that the dopamine-fueled appetizer culture, which only lurks for the next kick and the next pseudo reward, produces a state of consciousness that prevents depth and rationality. It rewards excitement with attention and promotes parallel worlds, escalation, provocation and aggressiveness. Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Co. have technically enriched the world, but distorted the social fabric beyond recognition. “It used to be said: My opinion counts as much as your opinion,” says British entertainer Ricky Gervais - “today, my opinion counts as much as your facts. This is nonsense. But it's all about popularity and confirmation. "

“Facebook is a technology company, not a media company”: But founding father Mark Zuckerberg himself knows that the boundaries in his giant corporation are fluid. Source: AP

For years, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has denied responsibility for what 2.13 billion Facebook customers were doing on his servers. His mantra: “Facebook is a technology company, not a media company.” Technical platform: yes. Contribution to content: no. “We provide tools. We don't create content. ”This is not a semantic triviality. Media companies are subject to much stricter requirements than networks. Recent studies show that 44 percent of all Americans obtain their information exclusively via Facebook.

Now there are increasing signs of a cultural change at the powerful company in Menlo Park. Recently, even before the Cambridge Analytica affair was published, several former Facebook executives have been unusually submissive and self-critical. There is no longer any trace of the almost obsessively optimistic mix of hippie indulgence and iron belief in technology. It seems to be dawning on you what monster you have created. What power the algorithms have.

"You don't notice, but you are literally programmed on Facebook": Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook manager. Source: Chamath Palihapitiya

He feels a "deep guilt," said Chamath Palihapitiya, manager responsible for Facebook user growth from 2007 to 2011, in a lecture at Stanford Business School. He helped create tools that "destroy the social fabric of our society". "You don't notice, but you are literally programmed on Facebook," he said. He is now frightened by how much “intellectual independence” Facebook users are losing. “That was not our intention. But I think in the depths of our consciousness we sensed that something bad could happen. ”The emotional consequences of the feedback loop culture revolving around itself are not an American or a Russian problem. “It's a global problem.” He forbids his own children to do this “shit”.

He lies awake at night and thinks about how much hardship his work has brought, said another former Facebook person in charge of the Reuters agency. “A lot of former employees are appalled by this thing that Facebook has become.” Even on the company's own blog, Product Manager Samidh Chakrabarti recently wrote unusually frankly: “I wish I could guarantee that the positive things overlay the negative, but I can't . ”He admits that it wasn't until 2016 that it dawned on Facebook that it was being misused as a manipulative propaganda tool. But shortly before Donald Trump's election as US president, Zuckerberg had turned off. Manipulated Facebook? Millions of fake news? With us? "A pretty crazy idea."

Did Facebook underestimate Russian hackers?

Is the current contrition a ploy to take the pressure off the group? Warm words with a fearful look at EU authorities, competition watchdogs and media critics for fear of the advertising business? Or real regret for the spirits that they called - and that they can no longer get rid of? Is it really credible that Facebook underestimated how much it was instrumentalized by Russian hackers to influence the US elections?

There is also hectic regret on Twitter. Boss Jack Dorsey practices self-criticism. "We're not proud of the way people took advantage of our service or our inability to take action quickly enough," he tweeted. He wants to improve the "culture of debate". Zuckerberg even wrote in a statement that he apologized for the fact that his work had been used “to separate people instead of bringing them together”. Because that is and will remain the business model of the social media world: Bringing as many people as possible into contact with advertising. A quarter of the world's population is on Facebook.

“God knows what this does in our children's brains”: Sean Parker, ex-Facebook president. Source: AP

Still. The younger ones are already leaving the nonsense booth in droves. Only a quarter of twelve to 19 year olds use Facebook regularly. In 2016 it was 43 percent. The points of criticism: too overloaded, annoying advertising, non-transparent deletion criteria, too many teachers and parents.

Ex-Facebook-President Sean Parker is now also dreading the consequences of the network for the social fabric, this toxic cycle of popularity and popular opinions. The “social confirmation machine” was made to “psychologically exploit human vulnerability”, criticized Parker - through a system of artificial confirmation through hearts, likes and thumbs up. "God knows what that does in our children's brains."

Scientists already know the answer: It is devastating. Author Manfred Spitzer quotes in his recently published book "Loneliness - the unrecognized disease" from a meta-study with data from more than 13,000 students. Result: empathy - i.e. the ability to introduce oneself into the ways of thinking of others - decreases. Real community loses value. The gift of taking other people's perspectives withers. Loneliness increases. Facebook is speeding up this process. 100 digital friends do not replace a real one. So it's about more than manipulative power through political propaganda. It's about the state of the human soul itself.

Up to $ 2 trillion in fines

The biggest problem, as former Facebook manager Antonio Garcia Martínez once said, is "that so many people in the tech scene have no sense of what is right and what is wrong". The long-term goal of Facebook, for example, is to radically replace states and societies with a new digital home. The top priority in Zuckerberg's “church” is the “hack”. The four letters stand for “opening up a system and changing it according to your own ideas”.

Even a little contrition does not change this credo. It is in the nature of Facebook not to allow others to manipulate it. The reason, however, is neither political idealism nor democracy or even philanthropy. The reason is that in the worldview of Zuckerberg's empire there should only be one who holds the power to manipulate in his hands. And that is Facebook itself.

How long it will stay that way, however, is questionable. The US trade regulator FTC is examining whether Facebook has violated a 2011 data protection agreement. According to the FTC, a violation can be punished with up to 40,000 US dollars per individual case. For “negligent handling of user data” in 50 million cases, Facebook may face a fine of 2 trillion US dollars. Donald Trump's election campaign could cost the global corporation of Mark Zuckerberg its existence.

By Imre Grimm / RND