Predictive technology is exploding, in stealth, across the virtual landscape. The arrival of Big Data initiatives by government, as well as a massive industry of data brokers is not only putting privacy at risk, but is offering those with access to the information unprecedented ways to manage the lives of everyday citizens.
The viral story of Facebook using their algorithms to go beyond surveillance and actually manipulate the emotions of users as a type of psychology experiment has caused consternation among anyone who might have had illusions of social media privacy, or beneficent intentions of offering free peer-to-peer communication.
Twitter is the latest to seek new ways to utilize its massive database of public information. It has granted MIT’s Media Lab $10 million to analyze all communications beginning with the very first post in 2006.
It isn’t specified exactly what the focus of the research will be, but there are some indications that it will be an attempt to further highlight budding social movements in order to potentially counter them with propaganda.
One major theme the lab will explore: the tendency of social media to be better at generating negative energy than positive energy. “It’s better at disrupting or stopping things, or having your voice heard,” says Roy. “It’s harder to harness that into sustained change. It’s not like there’s a silver bullet in technology, but there may be tools that can start to get beyond that disruptive potential.” He also says the lab could build tools for journalists that would help them monitor trends in media as a way to inform their coverage. (Source) [emphasis added]
That same Bloomberg article also mentions Reddit and Wikipedia as two more targets for such research.
The language highlighted above is troubling, as it seems to have a preconception that certain types of communication can be inherently disruptive. Disruptive to what? Stopping what?
We in the so-called alternative media (it’s the dominant one now, by the way) know how powerful social sharing is as a counterweight to the government/corporate media which is in the business of selling us their expanding web of documented lies.
Meanwhile, the writing on the wall continues to become more pronounced that free expression is seen as a serious liability to those at the top of each pyramid of social control.
- We know that Obama’s information czar, Cass Sunstein, has sought to “cognitively infiltrate” anti-government groups. (Source)
- We know that David Cameron recently suggested that non-violent conspiracy theories = terrorism. (Source)
- Supposedly democratic South Korea has just declared war on “rumors” in social media. (Source)
- NYPD has a social media unit to investigate communications for potential criminality. (Source)
- Britain has pushed for social media blackouts during times of civil unrest. (Source)
- Amazon wants to record your purchases before you actually make them. (Source)
- Facebook is getting into healthcare. (Source)
- Twitter already has researched a program called ChatterGrabber that would capture and analyze Tweets for health risks.
- Embedded in Obamacare is a plan to intervene in public health based on predictive models. (Source)
- New Smartphone apps are being developed to target potential mental health disorders. (Source)
And of course all of this is under the watchful eye of the surveillance borg of the NSA and its global partners … which include supposedly private companies interested purely in providing the best possible service to their customers.
Amid moderate public pushback to the surveillance state, new legislation has already been jammed through – it is being called a Global Patriot Act. Apparently, an Ebola scare, every other virus of the week, plus the threat of your neighbor shifting their allegiance to ISIS ensures that people will now accept this pervasive tracking as a “necessary evil” . . . instead of what was formerly just evil.
Modern communications have laid bare our private lives in unprecedented ways and we are just beginning to see the ramifications of our inherent naivete to believe that those in positions of power could never be so manipulative. Social engineers have been given a treasure trove of tools to commence the final lockdown. Where we go from here depends on our own awareness, and our own creativity to circumvent or do away with these systems altogether. There have been promising developments arising with mesh networks for communications, alternatives to Facebook like Ello, as well as other ways to decentralize telecom.
Much work remains to be done … the urgency to find solutions has never been greater.
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