I will be using this post about the Cambridge Analytica case as an excuse to return from my den. 🙂
This controversial case was documented on the 19th March 2018, thanks to a recording published by Channel 4. The publishing of this case has been the strongest reputation attack to the giant social network Facebook since its creation. Here it is the recording:
Cambridge Analytica, an organisation that is loosely related to the University of Cambridge, is based in London. Its main goal is to analyse the data to generate branding and political campaigns, in order to “alter the behaviour of the audience”.
That’s why this company has gathered data from 50 million Facebook user profiles with the aim of generating fake contents, blogs, recordings, … Everything that was required to target certain Facebook users which could have their thoughts manipulated.
How did that happen?
- Robert Mercer is a billionaire who invested $15 million in Cambridge Analytica.
- Steve Bannon, who was one of the closest advisors to Donald Trump, led Cambridge Analytica’s strategy.
- Cambridge University lecturer Aleksandr Kogan created a Facebook app which consisted of a personality test in 2013. This app could gather data from the user who had accepted to give its information to the app, as well as the data of the user’s friend network. This is the reason why only 265,000 people were needed to complete the test in order to gather around 50 million users’ data.
- Christopher Wylie has been the main whistleblower of the case. Christopher, as a chief data scientist in Cambridge Analytica, has told in several interviews that the organisation’s actions had a great impact in the success chances of Donald Trump’s campaign and Brexit.
Is this case different from others?
It is not impossible to do what Cambridge Analytica did. In fact, it is a well-known technique in social media marketing (thanks for your teachings, Miguel!). Nevertheless, the main difference in this case is that marketers use Facebook to try to change their customers’ minds with the aim of buying a product, not to manipulate their political thoughts with fake content.
And that’s why Facebook couldn’t do nothing but to clarify its Terms and Conditions – because their business model in digital marketing is entirely based on handing useful data from users to businesses.
The reactions were quite interesting to follow. The next day, Facebook’s stock value fell a 6.76%, and the decrease of the value has prolonged during the month, with a slight rise which happened the 29th March. This trend gives an idea about the conditions that must be fulfilled to break the economic stability of the GAFA group (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), which are largely sustained in intangible assets and the trust placed on them.
Additionally, because of this controversy a movement called #deleteFacebook has started, which aims to make Facebook users delete their accounts. The movement, led by Elon Musk, has achieved some followers, but Facebook is still a “Too big to fail” agent in the social media market to make it vanish suddenly.
In a nutshell…
There are few things I take from this case:
- As a society, we are not still conscious that we, the users, are Facebook’s product – not the other way.
- Facebook’s contents should be restricted, prohibiting advertising posts that display political content.
- Finally, Facebook should try to develop a better filter to distinguish fake posts from those which aren’t.