So there we are …
To the extent that intolerance and hatred cause such damage on social networks, Quebec’s prime minister is forced to take a public outing to sound the alarm.
To illustrate that the “hypothetical feared” multiplies insults and threats on his Facebook page. And they dread those leaving positive comments.
We are talking about the man who is perhaps the most popular prime minister in Canada today.
So the problem is not François Legault.
The problem is Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook Big Head.
The problem is that this thirty-year-old billionaire always preferred to turn a blind eye to this difficult situation.
Oh, he does interact sometimes. But every time, it’s because he knows he has no other choice. Usually due to a scandal that stirs public opinion.
Then tighten the screw a little. But that is not enough to make a real difference.
This is what the digital giant just did in Canada, by the way.
Its Canadian envoy, Kevin Chan, appeared on March 29 before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa. On that very morning, duty He published an interview in which he talked about a recent change in the network’s algorithm. The goal is to narrow “access to controversial groups and your uninformed friends who are members of them.”
Let us summarize this public outing in three words: decorate windows.
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This is because Facebook’s business model relies on extracting data from its users, which generates massive revenue. The more data the network consumes, the more it pays.
So user interaction needs to be pushed to the limit. And what better way to achieve this than exasperation. Anger. the fear. hatred. All this is full of misinformation.
We have entered a “era of surveillance capitalism,” explains Shoshana Zuboff in a book of the same name, recently translated into French (which should quickly be on François Legault’s famous reading list).
This is perhaps the expert who has described this harmful mechanism best so far.
She teaches at Harvard Business School and for several years clearly watched the game of digital giants.
Asking someone to “put up content is like asking coal mine operators to get rid of coal containers because they’re so dirty,” as I wrote recently in The New York Times.
For Facebook, moderation doesn’t taste better.
Last fall, The New Yorker This was explained clearly in a report entitled Why can’t Facebook fix itself? The journalist interviewed several former employees, including content moderators, who said they were required to do housework … halfway!
Consequently, users who generate a large amount of engagement actually have absolute mandate … until massive media controversy forces the company to spread.
On Facebook, “Nobody wants to look in the mirror and say to themselves, ‘I’m making a lot of money by objectively giving dangerous people a huge loudspeaker,’ ” one of them said.
And all in all, we often find ways to convince ourselves, on Facebook, that hateful comments aren’t that much, think about it.
For example, if someone wrote “Kill LGBT” (the acronym used to describe LGBT people) without referring to a specific person, they will not be touched. The report reveals that network officials believe that “LGBT is a concept.”
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So there we are.
So much so that, as François Legault denounced, the elected officials abandoned public service, believing the situation to be untenable.
So much so, that threatening incidents targeting Justin Trudeau and his ministers in Ottawa are increasing. There were 276 between January and October 2020, recently revealed by our journalists Joel Dennis Belavance and Melanie Marquez. It is very annoying.
Obviously, this is only the beginning. On the web, extremism continues on a daily basis.
The focus is on Facebook, because with its 24 million users in Canada, it is a juggernaut of disproportionate influence. But he is not the only one who feeds the beast.
To say that we naively believed, ten years ago, that social networks would contribute to the spread of democracy in the world.
The opposite happens.
Mark Zuckerberg is indifferent to Quebec’s prime minister. On the one hand, he has been very concerned in recent years about the fate of demagogic politicians such as Donald Trump (even crossing the line and closing it) and Jair Bolsonaro. Or even far-right political parties like Britain First, which have managed to spread their hatred with impunity in the UK for so long.
Their fantasies, on social networks, are literally turning gold.
However, our governments seem to have had enough.
They promise that they will soon dare to engage with the digital giants, hoping to get rid of their toxins.
It won’t be easy.
It’s David versus Goliath.
But this battle is decisive and we will have every advantage to confidently support our elected officials. In the hope that the proud Goliath will finally be put in his place, as in the Bible.