Elections, not Zuckerberg

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Mark Zuckerberg seems no better and no worse than any other business owner/billionaire these days. His company makes huge profits and he still needs ever more to satisfy himself and his stockholders. This is our brand of capitalism and Zuckerberg is certainly not any more greedy than anyone else. I am not going back into the now-distant past to talk about whether he became sole owner of Facebook by trickery and theft of intellectual property. That has already been adjudicated and now is a matter for Zuckerberg’s conscience.

There are at least two different points being argued at the same time and they do connect, but they are not the same issue. One argument says here is a company that is owned by one man. It has a huge presence on the internet which gives Mark Zuckerberg a disproportionate influence over internet users. So the argument here is that Zuckerberg’s company needs some regulation.

But that depends on whether we are talking about consumerism or elections. Unlike Cambridge Analytica Mark Zuckerberg, I’m thinking, did not intend to influence a US election any more than he intended to make identity theft a more common type of crime. He did intend to use what all websites use and what Bruce Schneier, writing at cnn.com yesterday morning (March 26, 2018) called “surveillance capitalism.”

Facebook users are not that naïve. We know that, although Facebook has gotten quite picky about what privacy level we want for things we post, they still allow all kinds of other apps and sites to collect our data and that of our friends. How many times have you given up your contacts to gain quick access to a site? The problem is that this allows someone like Cambridge Analytica, an organization that has only a fiduciary relationship with Facebook to mine data that Facebook supposedly protects but actually makes accessible to all who pay to advertise on the platform.

Since our entire culture centers around making money, having money, making more money and stockpiling as much money as you can and since every company has the same goals – profit- it is hard to fault Zuckerberg for being a successful businessman. If no one ever used this data to spy, to meddle in an election(/s), then we would not be having this discussion right now.

We are at a time when meddling in American elections seems to be the project of the moment for way too many people and at least one nation. I am not talking about voter fraud. I do not think we the people are even on the list of election tinkerers. Are both the GOP and the Dems using the internet to feed false information to people who use social media? I don’t think so. Were those who stole data under false pretenses and used it to fix (or try to fix) an election only trying to stop Hillary, or did they only wish to elect Trump – or would they have tried to throw the election to any candidate on the right. It seems that the election of 2016 was very important to an awful lot of people, and that they were are all working for the right.

Regardless of who Cambridge Analytica was working for, or whether or not Putin had people trying to fix the election, or even if Hillary and the Dems were trying to fix the election against Bernie Sanders, clearly we must protect our elections from any kind of meddling. Free and fair elections are the basis of our democracy/republic. Given what we can see about the lack of any reliable privacy on the internet and the modern tendency to push media into our communities that offers partisan propaganda, but likes to pretend that it is offering unbiased facts, obviously, some real effort and study needs to be dedicated to protecting our “free and fair” elections. Since some people feel that all is fair in politics and elections this effort cannot be delayed. We have another election coming up. We have elections all the time.

It is disingenuous to try to make Mark Zuckerberg the scapegoat for what is happening with our elections. Perhaps this is more Conservative razzle-dazzle to distract everyone from noticing that most of the election meddling was done on behalf of the GOP and Donald Trump. Zuckerberg just uses the same “surveillance capitalism” that all sites use on the web (although it is possible he pioneered some of the methodologies currently in use). These tactics are invasive and annoying and they make hacking the web a gamble with a big payoff.

We do need some oversight on the internet or the internet will become so crime-ridden that it will be shunned by people who cannot take risks with their data or their money. And this very model of “surveillance capitalism” is used on all social media but Facebook has the biggest treasure trove of personal information. Can Facebook be fixed? Will we like it to death?

It also feels as if some people are feeling personally vindictive towards Mark Zuckerberg and some professional jealousy may be increasing their desires to force him to answer to Congress and take him down a peg or two. We need to keep our eye on the main focus here and that is to guarantee that our elections are free and fair. If we have to rein in capitalism on the internet, are we willing to do that at a time when our government is busily overturning all the regulations that are now in place? What we need most of all is a new government.

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