Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Crisis of the Digital Commons and Algorithmic Truths



The Crisis of the Digital Commons and Algorithmic Truths*
Majia H. Nadesan
October 4, 2017

Allegations of election interference by “Russian” and other special interests have problematized the legitimacy of the democratic process in the US. An internal review conducted by Facebook concluded that Russia spent approximately $100,000 on 3,000 Facebook ads designed to promote “divisive messages” in the months before and after last year’s U.S. presidential election compared to the estimated $300 million spent by US election campaigns (see Ingram for discussion).[i]

Press coverage indicates that the pages masqueraded as local content while they “expressed extreme views on both sides of the US political and social spectrum, espousing radical ideas that demonized opposing viewpoints.”[ii]

There is now a concerted effort to “reign” in the web, particularly social media sites such as Facebook. Today in The Wall Street Journal (Oct 4, 2017 p. A7) a full-page ad appears outlining Facebook’s response to the crisis in a list of “immediate actions” being adopted to prevent election interference. Here are the steps in the sequence itemized in the ad:

1. Making advertisement more transparent

2. Strengthening our ad policies and enforcement

3. Investing in security

4. Sharing the ads we’ve found with Congress

5. Continuing our internal investigation

6. Fighting threats across the Internet

7. Expanding our partnerships with election commissions

8. Supporting elections globally

9. Building civic engagement tools


While efforts to make advertising more transparent, support elections globally, and build and promote civic engagement tools are to be applauded, items 3 and 6 raise important questions about free speech in the digital commons.

The "digital commons," once conceived in utopic terms, has become transformed in the public imagination into a lawless space requiring the forced imposition of order. Indeed, Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the social media political landscape as the “wild, wild West,” raising the specter of legislation that mandates online censorship.

Facebook’s item 3, “investing in security,” stipulates that “we will more than double the team working to prevent election interference on Facebook and develop new technologies dedicated to security and safety.” New technologies dedicated to security and safety include new algorithms that will censor content before its posted.

Facebook has already launched algorithms aimed at identifying “terrorist” activity.[iii]  Facebook is a privatized space that has the legal right to censor content, facing only the dis-satisfaction of its users. The privatization of the commons allows for centralized decision making over the nature and conduct of its inhabitants....

I have seen the new technologies of control in operation at my personal blog, which has apparently been blacklisted with other left leaning sites, as documented empirically by the World Socialist Web Site:
World Socialist Web Site. (2017, August 25). An open letter to Google: Stop the censorship of the Internet! Stop the political blacklisting of the World Socialist Web Site! 25 August 2017 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/25/pers-a25.html
I’ve seen my blog site traffic drop tremendously unless regular readers share links to my content. I’m outraged that my site, like many other left-leaning sites, is censored by a new technology of control that decides what is truth and what is not with no public accountability because so much of the Internet is privatized space. 

I investigated censorship against my blog experimentally with a recent entry on “nuclear governmentality,” a theoretical concept I developed extending analyses of the logics of rule that govern relations among nation states and shapes measurement and valuation of the vitalities of domestic populations.

Despite my well-cited research on “governmentality,” my blog post on the subject (Nuclear Governmentality) is de-listed from Google search results. This de-listing is glaring because no one else has put those words together.  However, while my personal blog is censored, my posted content on nuclear governmentality at Academia.edu ( https://www.academia.edu/34696982/Introduction_to_Nuclear_Governmentality ) does get listed as a search result across all my devices (as the 6th result as of October 4, 2017).

I posted my work on nuclear governmentality at Academia.edu after I realized my blog content would be excluded from Google search results (despite being a Google blog). I also tried to break the censorship by using Google Plus to publicly recognize my post nuclear governmentality, but this move disappointed because although I could see my public endorsement on my desktop computer, it was NOT listed as a search result on my office computer, my classroom computer, or even on my apple phone. I guess Google has a special result just for me alone and just on my desktop computer where I work the most - my public endorsements!

The truths that Google's algorithm prefers are those produced by established political, corporate, academic and media authorities.  

Google's algorithm represents TRUTH in relation to a content's PROXIMITY TO THE CENTERS OF INSTITUTIONAL POWER

According to Google, when I speak as an academic at Academia.Edu, I speak truth. When I speak at my Google blog, I speak untruth.

Yet, my blog is the data dump for my empirical, qualitative analyses published in my academic work. The arguments are the same across venues, but one site is afforded truth value, while the other is denied it.

*Warning! You are reading censored content and probably are now subject to internet tracking surveillance but please consider SHARING THIS CONTENT.


REFERENCES

[i] David Ingram (2017, September 21). Facebook to overhaul political ads after threat of U.S. regulation. Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-ceo/facebook-to-overhaul-political-ads-after-threat-of-u-s-regulation-idUSKCN1BW2S9

[ii] Wells, Georgia (2017, October 4). Extreme Facebook ads persisted. The Wall Street Journal, B1, B5.

[iii] Sam Schechner. (2017, June 15). Facebook Boosts AI to Block Terrorist Propaganda. The Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-boosts-a-i-to-block-terrorist-propaganda-1497546000

7 comments:

  1. The Republican PACs spend billions, manipilating elections on the web and everywhere else, in everyway possible. Even funding kkk and neo-nazi websites.

    The corporate demomcrats feed the media as a rightist party, posing as a centrist party.

    There were probably bankers, russians, crooked oligarchs and other foreign spooks playing games and encoraged to do so.

    All along, the repugs and corporate dems, co-opt as scape goats honest- poitical discourse and, the ghoulies of their creation. The ghoulies that they used for their dirty tricks to subvert democracy so disingenuously.

    They cry foul, and play good cop bad cop, seemingly stabbing their minions in the back. They think its just hunk-dory . Makes me wanna vomit pea soup all over the crooked-rigged electronic voting booths. Isn't american stalinism wonderful!

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  2. The Trump Trolls and Conspiracy troll minions obsess about Las Vegas, while Fukushima burns

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  3. So many people, have so much respect for you Majia. You are a refreshing Maestro of enlightenment, in a desert of repression and ignorance.

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  4. I cannot stand, to go to enenews anymore. Republican propaganist , talkin about hillary. As if anyone gives a crap about hillary anymore. Ass rimming ai bots. No real commentators . Que lostima

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  5. Resident Evil

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/06/the-resident-evil/

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  6. This Stupid and Crazy Man is an incompetent lunatic. He needs to be removed from office.
    https://t.co/IDRVbKwqJL

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  7. UPDATE: My blog post on Nuclear Governmentality now appears visible in search results. It seems my campaign to render visible was successful.

    ReplyDelete