Facebook's Insidious Influence on Low-Information Voters

Republicans and others bemoan the fact that low-info, no-info, and wrong-info voters put Democrats into power.  They are right.  Blame these people.

"Narrowcasting" is a word used to describe the delivery of news, sliced and diced, edited, and censored, to people based on individualized data about the issues that appeal to them.  The Obama campaign used narrowcasting to pitch ads and messages to its followers.  Data is accumulated on every American, and messages are shaped to influence each of their views and votes.  Since many of these appeals are sent via the internet or mail pieces, there is no telling the veracity of what is being fed to the gullible across America.

One of the Facebook founders, Chris Hughes, volunteered to work in the 2008 Obama campaign and worked his magic to help elect Obama.  But the role of Facebook itself in influencing America has been woefully underestimated.  Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times reports on “How Facebook Is Changing The Way Its Users Consume Journalism”:

Many of the people who read this article will do so because Greg Marra, 26, a Facebook engineer, calculated that it was the kind of thing they might enjoy.

Mr. Marra’s team designs the code that drives Facebook’s News Feed — the stream of updates, photographs, videos and stories that users see. He is also fast becoming one of the most influential people in the news business.

Facebook now has a fifth of the world — about 1.3 billion people — logging on at least monthly. It drives up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites, according to figures from the analytics company SimpleReach. On mobile devices, the fastest-growing source of readers, the percentage is even higher, SimpleReach says, and continues to increase.

Though other services, like Twitter and Google News, can also exert a large influence, Facebook is at the forefront of a fundamental change in how people consume journalism. Most readers now come to it not through the print editions of newspapers and magazines or their home pages online, but through social media and search engines driven by an algorithm, a mathematical formula that predicts what users might want to read.

It is a world of fragments, filtered by code and delivered on demand. For news organizations, said Cory Haik, senior editor for digital news at The Washington Post, the shift represents “the great unbundling” of journalism. Just as the music industry has moved largely from selling albums to songs bought instantly online, publishers are increasingly reaching readers through individual pieces rather than complete editions of newspapers or magazines. A publication’s home page, said Edward Kim, a co-founder of SimpleReach, will soon be important more as an advertisement of its brand than as a destination for readers.

“People won’t type in WashingtonPost.com anymore,” Ms. Haik said. “It’s search and social.”

The shift raises questions about the ability of computers to curate news, a role traditionally played by editors. It also has broader implications for the way people consume information, and thus how they see the world.

(snip)

In Facebook’s work on its users’ news feeds, Mr. Marra said, “we’re saying, ‘We think that of all the stuff you’ve connected yourself to, this is the stuff you’d be most interested in reading.’ ”

Roughly once a week, he and his team of about 16 adjust the complex computer code that decides what to show a user when he or she first logs on to Facebook. The code is based on “thousands and thousands” of metrics, Mr. Marra said, including what device a user is on, how many comments or likes a story has received and how long readers spend on an article.

Facebook users are having their pre-existing views reinforced by reliance on Facebook for their news.  Since many of these people are younger and often more likely to watch MSNBC, The Daily Show, and other purveyors of the liberal party line, the echo-chamber effect is exacerbated.  They are having blinders put on against the reality of the world.  Propaganda becomes news.  George Orwell lives.

This is one reason – and a big one – why we have Democrats wielding power.  And it is a problem we will have for years to come.

Republicans and others bemoan the fact that low-info, no-info, and wrong-info voters put Democrats into power.  They are right.  Blame these people.

"Narrowcasting" is a word used to describe the delivery of news, sliced and diced, edited, and censored, to people based on individualized data about the issues that appeal to them.  The Obama campaign used narrowcasting to pitch ads and messages to its followers.  Data is accumulated on every American, and messages are shaped to influence each of their views and votes.  Since many of these appeals are sent via the internet or mail pieces, there is no telling the veracity of what is being fed to the gullible across America.

One of the Facebook founders, Chris Hughes, volunteered to work in the 2008 Obama campaign and worked his magic to help elect Obama.  But the role of Facebook itself in influencing America has been woefully underestimated.  Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times reports on “How Facebook Is Changing The Way Its Users Consume Journalism”:

Many of the people who read this article will do so because Greg Marra, 26, a Facebook engineer, calculated that it was the kind of thing they might enjoy.

Mr. Marra’s team designs the code that drives Facebook’s News Feed — the stream of updates, photographs, videos and stories that users see. He is also fast becoming one of the most influential people in the news business.

Facebook now has a fifth of the world — about 1.3 billion people — logging on at least monthly. It drives up to 20 percent of traffic to news sites, according to figures from the analytics company SimpleReach. On mobile devices, the fastest-growing source of readers, the percentage is even higher, SimpleReach says, and continues to increase.

Though other services, like Twitter and Google News, can also exert a large influence, Facebook is at the forefront of a fundamental change in how people consume journalism. Most readers now come to it not through the print editions of newspapers and magazines or their home pages online, but through social media and search engines driven by an algorithm, a mathematical formula that predicts what users might want to read.

It is a world of fragments, filtered by code and delivered on demand. For news organizations, said Cory Haik, senior editor for digital news at The Washington Post, the shift represents “the great unbundling” of journalism. Just as the music industry has moved largely from selling albums to songs bought instantly online, publishers are increasingly reaching readers through individual pieces rather than complete editions of newspapers or magazines. A publication’s home page, said Edward Kim, a co-founder of SimpleReach, will soon be important more as an advertisement of its brand than as a destination for readers.

“People won’t type in WashingtonPost.com anymore,” Ms. Haik said. “It’s search and social.”

The shift raises questions about the ability of computers to curate news, a role traditionally played by editors. It also has broader implications for the way people consume information, and thus how they see the world.

(snip)

In Facebook’s work on its users’ news feeds, Mr. Marra said, “we’re saying, ‘We think that of all the stuff you’ve connected yourself to, this is the stuff you’d be most interested in reading.’ ”

Roughly once a week, he and his team of about 16 adjust the complex computer code that decides what to show a user when he or she first logs on to Facebook. The code is based on “thousands and thousands” of metrics, Mr. Marra said, including what device a user is on, how many comments or likes a story has received and how long readers spend on an article.

Facebook users are having their pre-existing views reinforced by reliance on Facebook for their news.  Since many of these people are younger and often more likely to watch MSNBC, The Daily Show, and other purveyors of the liberal party line, the echo-chamber effect is exacerbated.  They are having blinders put on against the reality of the world.  Propaganda becomes news.  George Orwell lives.

This is one reason – and a big one – why we have Democrats wielding power.  And it is a problem we will have for years to come.