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Brodie Farquhar: Critical thinking about your Facebook feed

Allow me to address a truly frightening Ted Talk I just watched, called “Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy,” by British journalist Carole Cadwalladr, at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=facebook%27s+role+in+brexit+%E2%80%94+and+the+threat+to+democracy.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with America, or Colorado, or Steamboat? Plenty, if you have a Facebook account or wear a MAGA hat.

Cadwalladr relates how the day after the Brexit vote in 2016, the Observer newspaper sent her to South Wales to find out why that region had the highest vote for leaving the European Union of any area in Great Britain.

She was perplexed by what she found — a community that had been devastated decades before by the closure of mines and mills, now on the rebound with gleaming, modern facilities (a college, sports center, new rail lines) all funded by the EU. She found a young man in front of the sports center, who proudly told her he voted to leave because the EU had done nothing for him. Further, locals said they were tired of the immigrant invasion of their town, which amounted to a handful.

Yes, right-wing tabloid printed stories in favor of Brexit, but there was something more at work: Facebook feeds, engineered by Cambridge Analytica to push ads and alarming stories about immigrants to British voters with Facebook pages. Brexit was passed by less than 1% of the vote.

Cadwalladr discovered that there’s no record of what information or misinformation was fed to Facebook viewers, no record or limits on what can be spent on Facebook political ads and that Facebook executives have continually refused to testify before Parliament or EU to provide answers.

If you have a Facebook account, you may have been manipulated and lied to. Who benefited: Nigel Farage —a Brexit leader and darling of Steamboat Institute — and Donald Trump.

The thing about Facebook feeds is you get what you like. A Trump supporter’s feed is going to be wildly different than mine, a progressive liberal. That means that a Trump supporter and myself might have something in common — we may have been manipulated in the past and could be again in the future, or right now. We just don’t know, and Mark Zuckerberg ain’t talking, aside from platitudes about doing better.

Be skeptical of Facebook.

Sincerely,

Brodie Farquhar

Hayden


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