Una Mullally: Are Facebook and Twitter manipulating our opinions?
Tech giants operate with dichotomy of total control and hands-off attitude
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters in California last week. Photograph: Facebook
What would make you boycott a company? Poor work practices being exposed? Criminality? Nefarious activity? General ethical concerns? The United States Senate intelligence committee hearings last week with legal representative of Google, Facebook and Twitter continued the revelations about the damning involvement of what is in effect Russian cyber warfare in the 2016 US presidential election. These revelations can be added to a feeling of growing unease regarding how social media and tech companies operate.
The ineptitude of social media platforms in dealing with the manipulation of information and spreading of propaganda at crucial political moments is terrifying. The internet adage goes that if you’re not paying for something, you are the product. At what point will people begin to remove themselves wholesale from social-media platforms in the wake of such revelations? Are we satisfied with the addictive treats and avenues for communication and procrastination these platforms provide us with, as they profit not just from regular users, but also, it seems, from those seeking to damage western democracy?