James O’Brien Hears How Facebook Algorithms Are Affecting Our Political Beliefs

12 December 2017, 14:00

This fascinating call explains how our very own Facebook algorithms are presenting an “augmented” reality of the world and influencing our political viewpoint.

Dan from Leicester’s chat with James O’Brien left the LBC presenter reeling.

He got in touch after one of Facebook’s earliest executives said the social network is “destroying how society works”.

Chamath Palihapitiya admitted that he now feels “tremendous guilt” about his work at the social media giant.

During a captivating call to LBC, Dan explained how a Facebook newsfeed once displayed content in chronological order, so you’d see what ever was posted most recently first.

However, he went on to say how this was no longer the case - and now your feed shows posts in the order in which the algorithm thinks you might like to see it.

It means the order is set out based on other content that you’ve liked, commented or shared on.

Dan explained: “What happens when Facebook shows you things you might like to see is that your reality becomes slightly tweaked, slightly curated and slightly augmented.

“If you flirt a bit with the EDL, like your friend, then your Facebook feed is going to become more and more concentrated with that stuff.”

Facebook
Picture: PA

He continued: “Brexit is a great barometer of this. It seems Brexiteers and Remainers are speaking two entirely different languages.

“They’ve been convinced by two completely different realities, it’s kind of like reverse gas-lighting.

“Instead of making you doubt your reality it convinces you of a reality that is not true.

“So in my reality a Brexiteer is a really rare thing, and when they pop up on my Facebook feed I don’t know what to do with them and I don’t understand their frame of reference.”

“The problem is,” Dan added, “this data is for sale.

“That’s where Facebook starts to rip society apart because you can buy this data and you can target these people to fill their feed with stuff that makes them act in a way you want them to act.”

James O'Brien
Picture: LBC

The conversation left James staggered as he highlighted such a tool would have much more influence than a conventional newspaper.

The LBC presenter said: “It is much worse than what the newspapers do because a newspaper, although it might exercise a malign and often dishonest influence over a population, it’s not as immersive as social media or Facebook is.”

Dan agreed, as he continued: “If I know that I can target the feeds of 20,000 really, really cheesed off east coast English fishermen and I can tell them that if they vote in a certain way in the referendum that their fishing industry will be saved - that’s really useful to me.”

Watch the call that left James O’Brien reeling in full above.

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