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Facebook and Me

Last week I watched the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack,” which told the story of how a British company, Cambridge Anilitica, used online profiles of millions of people to manipulate not only the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election, but the outcome of the UK’s Brexit vote.

The Great Hack didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already suspect, but it did bring home the enormity of the operation, and the lengths people will go, for the purpose of making money. Facebook was the main tool they used, and their strategy was alarmingly simple.

Through online profiles they sought out people who were undecided, and lived in key states and areas, and bombarded them with advertising, and fake news.

It has been obvious to me for some time now that if I buy something online, or even simply research something, I am immediately swamped with ads for that same item. It becomes clear that my online data is being collected by someone, or someone’s robot.

It is one thing however to have someone sell you a product that you may or may not want, but another to be able to buy the outcome of a democratic election. It is alarming to say the least.

The first knee jerk reaction is to say, screw Facebook, I’ll remove myself. But in my case that would hurt me more than it would them. I have spent many years building an online presence. This blog has been here since 2005, that represents hundreds of hours writing.

I left the bike business 26 years ago and at times it feels like I am still selling the bikes I built, and in a way I am. But not for the purpose of making money, don’t expect to. I do it for the personal satisfaction of knowing I built a worthwhile product that people still enjoy.

I would hate for this Facebook group to disappear, and If anyone does decide to leave, I hope they will still follow this blog and stay in touch. The Dave Moulton Bike FB page is an example what Facebook claims was their original intention. To bring people together.

The page does just that, there is never a political or a hateful comment, just people sharing a common interest.

Shame on you Mark Zuckerberg for allowing a wonderful idea to be used in this manner. I hope when you get to be my age you can say you left the World a better place than when you came into it.


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Reader Comments (11)

I have serious doubts that the U.S. election and Brexit were manipulated. But the manipulators have been out in full force to try and reverse those choices.

July 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

John - Oh yes, the elections here in the US were certainly manipulated, and the one in the UK probably was, but that's not actually anything new. Public opinion has always been manipulated - since the first newspapers, at least. This time the difference was that overseas agents were able to make an attempt to manipulate public opinion on a vast scale. How successful they were is open to debate. My personal opinion is that they were not as big a factor as people think. The manipulators are usually our own home-grown media outlets (who are in turn affected by their advertisers). If you believe that massive news corporations are selflessly trying to aid our democracy, I have a bridge in New York to sell you.

The real issue is that it is very hard for people to form measured opinions on most of the issues that will be decided by the results of elections. So they rely on a few wedge issues that are easier to form an opinion on, and it's simpler for entities (foreign or domestic) to deepen the division in the electorate, using these wedges.

As to Facebook - the onus for controlling what information is shared and mined lies with the users. They give Facebook their information. That's a choice and if they're not okay with that, they can delete their data and leave Facebook. I did. My choice was based less on the data I shared, because I shared very little, but more because I realized that Facebook offered me very little. I don't really want to know what my family and friends are doing on a regular basis - I prefer to catch up when I actually meet them.

July 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYohann M

Don't dismiss populism. The elites resent the peanut gallery chiming in when they get pissed off enough to vote. But all the popular social media platforms are owned and policed by the Left, so take Facebook and Google results with a grain of salt.

However, I really wanted to see Dave's take on Brexit. I left the UK in the mid-fifties when Britain was still Great. Dave left in the late 70s as I recall, when the decline of British industry had begun, Britain was no longer Great and had joined the EU. My feeling is that Brexit was partly belated reaction to unrestricted immigration, but it was too late.The average Brit longed for when the UK was a big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond, the EU. What's your opinion, Dave?

July 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

I have a facebook page John Crump athlete. I am also on Google, I set these up so my Grandkids can see what I did when young. I am very tired and disgusted by politics and the constant bias by the left. I left England age 23 in 1957 mainly because I could see that if I stayed, I would end up like most of my mates, working in an office or factory and not able to make my own choices in life. I went through background and medical checks and there was a limit on people let into America. I also had to have a sponsor to guarantee that I had a place to live and job. The town I lived in and grew up in Yardley a suburb of Birmingham is vastly different now and I am very sad to see what has happened to the country that I still love. In the 1950s we did some Jamaican bus drivers etc but nothing like it is now, In fact, staying at a hotel in London it was very hard to believe that we were not in a foreign country NOT BLOODY ENGLAND I am a US Citizen now, one reason I did this is, so I can vote against the things that I do not agree with. But with the left bias, I am afraid this country will end up as the UK is now.

July 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Sp = Analytica

Also as of when is your blog a Facebook group?

July 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSpiller of Society

John B - Actually, if you consider what exactly Google, Facebook and other tech companies are doing, you'll see that they are basically conservative, capitalist entities. Sure, they make a noise about inclusiveness and minority rights, but they really don't censor more than any conservative organization and even when they do, the decisions are usually fiscally driven.

All groups want free speech for some things and censorship for others. The 'right' hates it when people criticize US policies, for example. If you think about it, criticizing the system we have is one of the steps in trying to improve the Union (if your ideas are actually good). The 'left' hates if when people show prejudice against minority groups - so they then show prejudice against the people they consider to be prejudiced. Strange!

Anyway, while the government should not have prejudicial policies of any kind, the freedom of speech and expression allows all Americans to be as personally prejudiced as they want.

John Crump - If you think that the 'left' is solely responsible for bias, you've got some serious blinders on, man.

July 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYohann M

My conservative blinders are on all the time Yohann M and will continue to be on as long as I live. Look around what do you see you happy or not?

July 31, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

John - I'm happy most of the time, thanks for asking. :) I enjoy my job, the people around me, the society I'm in. Changes will happen, that's life. I don't whine about it being better in the past because while that may have been true for me, it may not have been so for others. I enjoy my local society more when everyone is doing better and is more happy than they were.

And Dave - I am sorry for bringing politics into your blog, especially as you mentioned that politics was not a part of your Facebook group.

July 31, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYohann M

I tried to watch The Great Hack on Netflix a couple of times. But try as I might, all I could see was suspicion cast on the 2016 election outcome and other anti-Trump and anti-Republican innuendos. I was hoping for an unbiased look at personal data gathering, but all I saw was thinly veiled propaganda. At least I only lost 15 minutes I'll never get back.

August 5, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Propaganda works as proven by those who brag about having conservative blinders on and are proud of their inability to face facts.


August 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Pre-Brexit: British Pound =$1.55

Post Brexit: BP = $1.22

U.K. Economy Shrinks for First Time Since 2012 as Brexit Worries Take Toll

The U.K. seems increasingly likely to crash out of the EU. Consequently
Britain would face gridlock at ports; shortages of medicine, fuel and food; and a hard border with Ireland if it left the European Union with no deal, according to a leaked government document.

Will these trends lead to a happier country?

August 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJack

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