Ex Human

Robert Epstein and Eli Pariser

Robert Epstein and Eli Pariser

*Well, I just caught this article a couple days after writing this post: “Subverting Illusions: Julian Assange and the Value of WikiLeaks” by Norman Solomon. Julian said what I said but so much better because he knows so much better. I’ll toss in an excerpt from Normon’s article at the bottom of this post.

Search engine bias could sway elections, new research suggests | Toronto Star.

An excerpt from the above linked-to article by Ben Spurr follows:

In a tight election campaign there’s no telling what will separate the winners from the losers on voting day. A key policy announcement, an embarrassing gaffe or an impressive debate performance can end up making all the difference.

But according to a new U.S. study, there’s an untapped force that has the potential to be just as decisive as any of those: Internet search rankings…

It determined that if search rankings were manipulated to allow a preferred candidate to dominate the top results, it could shift voting preferences of undecided voters by at least 20 per cent…

Epstein, who in previous writings has criticized Google’s reach in other areas of society, warned that unless steps are taken to reduce search engines’ potential influence, elections risk being manipulated and becoming “meaningless.”

The Star quotes another expert, Conrad Winn, who says that the study is valid but to not panic since there’s “countless sources of information” out there, suggesting that Google is merely one of many. I wonder whether that makes sense. I find myself Googling information from “countless sources of information.” You can’t get around Google. I have tried other search engines, but they just don’t pan out. I hate Google, the way I hate Microsoft and the way I hate, now, WordPress. But these are behemoths. Try avoiding them. And it’s interesting to note that Hollywood/Pentagon/CIA gave a nod to the power of the search engine in a recently well-received movie, “Ex Machina.” (It was a great flick by the way, but it was meager.) Not just any source can double as a brain, Can it? It might be sci-fi, but the basic idea, which is powerful enough to serve as a plausible story-line about a search engine becoming self-aware, is correct that a powerful search engine is… powerful.)

Winn said that “the likelihood is very low” of a search engine swaying an election, but he didn’t factor into his assessment (for our consumption) that a lot of other sources won’t be good. The likelihood of the average person getting distorted reality from the internet, in my view, is very high. Most people – excluding those involved in specialized fields in which, for the most part, information they find is defined as good or bad according to the parameters of the knowledge represented in the field they are in – don’t ‘actively’ learn. That includes professionals. Part of the problem is habit. Part of the problem is that work culture mitigates against focussing on things. Barbaric work culture drains us, which impacts our ability to focus and persist. And Western propaganda is highly sophisticated. It includes, as one would expect, the notion that capitalism is the true religion. One shows one’s devotion by working for enough money to spend enough to have all the things that advertizers say we want. And, People have to choose to care. Caring means knowing. If people just don’t care, tired and distracted or not, they won’t bother paying close attention. They won’t bother engaging in active learning. And they won’t know, although you’ll rarely get them to admit that. Those are the plugged in ones, a la The Matrix, that those who resist brainwashing can’t help. They view ‘us’ as the enemy.

“It would be one thing if all this customization was just about targeted advertizing. But personalization isn’t just shaping what we buy. For a quickly rising percentage of us, personalized news feeds like Facebook are becoming a primary news source – 36 percent of Americans under thirty get their news through social networking sites. And Facebook’s popularity is skyrocketing worldwide, with nearly a million more people joining each day. As founder Mark Zuckerberg likes to brag, Facebook may be the biggest source of news in the world (at least for some definitions of “news”). -page 8 of “The Filter Bubble – How The New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read And How We Think” by Eli Pariser

Indeed. But if mentally lazy people want to learn about the world around them from Facebook, that doesn’t mean that they won’t, when stumped about something they find there, turn to Google. And these tax evading companies, I might add, are coming from the same neoliberal place. Run from the bear and bump into the lion and you still end up in darkness.

My online response to the above linked-to article follows:

Why not? It fits right in with other tactics that the 1% and it’s tools, including fake leftwing assets, use. You have dark money and money equals free speech legislation, voter suppression tactics that brazenly stand on the lie that voting fraud is rampant when in fact it’s almost non existent. The fraud is being perpetrated by the state in the service of the 1%. Then you have the phenomenon of gatekeeping. You find gatekeepers everywhere, including organizations that wouldn’t tolerate their presence if they were aware of it. Gatekeepers are those with the ‘right’ political views, which, in a gangster corporatocracy, boil down to agreeing with whatever the powerful say and do, regardless. Gatekeepers (appointed and self-appointed, found in every stratum of society) will hinder, in big and small ways, those who they decide (usually in isolation) possess the ‘wrong’ political views. Your barista can be cold to you if he (or…) thinks you’re too commie. That’s a small, but real, hindrance. It drains you of energy.

Take discussions attached to articles in your daily or some news and information website. Just by limiting discussion, the site’s management and/or gatekeepers can manipulate opinion. I just now wanted to revisit a discussion (Consortium News, a great resource whose operator is fixated on ‘neocons’ [as opposed to rightwingers], probably because the narrative he wishes to push is that the Democrats are more chaste than the Republicans). The site carries articles by one Graham E. Fuller (http://bit.ly/1MwMSMQ) who another poster warned us about. I followed his link to the Corbett Report (http://bit.ly/1hHlP4v), which was challenged by someone else, who I could ‘not’ respond to because this relatively fresh discussion had been stopped.

We’ve all been there.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

From “Subverting Illusions: Julian Assange And The Value Of Wikileaks,” by Normon Solomon, the following:

The extent of their relentless commitments to anti-democratic greed has been brilliantly deconstructed in Assange’s 2014 book “When Google Met WikiLeaks.”

“Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower,” Assange wrote. “As Google’s search and internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population, rapidly dominating the mobile phone market and racing to extend internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the internet for many people. Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history.”

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3 Responses to Ex Human

  1. I use https://startpage.com/ and if I don’t find what I’m looking for and must use Google, I use the secure one: https://www.google.com/. I also use other privacy tools and don’t accept any cookies except the ones I have to use in order to go to a particular website. Then I delete them after using the sites with cookies.

    • Arrby says:

      Very good. I know I could do more, but don’t really know exactly what I’m doing. Like most people, I probably don’t want to do anything, inadvertently, to hinder my access to whatever sites I’m interested in. Which isn’t to say that I’m completely stupid. I do maintenance. And when I have a problem, I can usually fix it simply because I go to others, online, who know how to fix problems and/or provide tools.

      • I use Firefox as my browser and it’s very easy to add the websites that I use frequently to the “exceptions” list. I have found that both twitter and yahoo need to be added and then deleted after using their sites as they keep on tracking you even after logging out.

        I highly recommend Ghostery and Privacy Badger. You’ll be amazed on how many websites having tracking software on them.

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