The Political Power of Social Media
5 March 2017
Social media is increasingly important as it replaces mainstream media and mixes personal interaction with news and information. It is dollar driven but also personal, so that we identify ourselves and our values. Those who communicate with us individually do so with personal or mutual interest, but those who do mass communication do so for financial or political interest. Since those at the big end who harvest the data are able to match the personal with the financial and political, it gives them immense power. At the little end getting someone to click on something can give you a lot of money that you would not have had, so a gimmick or a headline that makes people click on something is a trick to be striven for, without necessarily thinking through the consequences.
To illustrate this important thesis, I offer this article from The Saturday Paper, which is its later part suggests that fake news was merely headlines that would get clicks to make money and that Trump was used as he would make people click. The fact that this favoured his campaign was an incidental to the primary object of the fake news creators, who merely wanted the royalties from making people click. The idea that the tiny fractions of a cent per click on a website can create a President of the USA shows how far our decisions and lives are at the mercy of the short-term profit motive.
The power of collected data is that it allows the correlation of people interests, values and core values. Knowing what people believe, what is important to them and having access to them either through friends, honest communications or disguised communication gives the ability to change large sections of the populations values and actions, which gives a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘Manufacturing Consent’. This is very significant for the nature and use of power.
Marx said that power was control of the means of production. In nominal democracies power will become control of the means of information. This is frightening stuff. It was in the Guardian. Read on if you missed it.