In Surveillance Capitalism social media is weaponized to produce substantial behavioral modifications at scale. A simple feature on Facebook like the Facebook Groups recommendation is supposed to improve engagement, but what if it could hurt democracy?
Yesterday there was an Anti-mask Protest in Montreal just at a time when cases of Covid-19 are rising again. If social media can trigger anti-government protests and civil unrest at scale, what does it mean for the world and how algorithms are changing human behavior? It’s an experiment in social contagion and ideological cybersecurity vulnerability.
While Donald Trump is one of the global elite, part of his propaganda has been that he would “drain the swamp” and take on the 1%. Of course this would be pretty crazy, since he belongs to the same group.
QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media.
Several thousand people gathered Saturday in downtown Montreal to hear speeches from conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine activists, in one of the largest demonstrations to date against the Quebec government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most popular symbols at the protest — be it on t-shirts, placards or flags — belonged to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory started in the United States that claims a satanic, pedophile cabal secretly controls the U.S. government, if not the entire world.
Clearly Facebook’s algorithm is doing more experiments on us. With predictive analytics it knows your profile and your vulnerabilities. If AI is weaponized against us, we are little more than drones in a thought control experiment. Think about that for a second.
QAnon is the perfect example. Such a group can enable Donald Trump to win another election.
QAnon believers have speculated that this fight will lead to a day of reckoning where prominent people such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be arrested and executed. In some sense by weaponizing Facebook groups it’s very easy to “create” movements like QAnon and exaggerate the Black Lives Matter protests.
Sure QAnon was once a fringe phenomenon — the kind most people could safely ignore. But in recent months, it’s gone mainstream. Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have been flooded with QAnon-related false information about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter protests and the 2020 election.
So why has it gone mainstream now? It’s an an election-weaponized movement, and AI on Facebook is very easy to manipulate. The American public appears now totally vulnerable to thought control via algorithms. For further understanding: The Social Dilemma.
Conditioning via algorithms is the sort of thing you would expect to witness on a planet that has just invented Surveillance Capitalism. Even weak AI can be very dangerous in the manipulation of people, from app addiction to the gradual modification of human behavior.
QAnon in many ways is a form of anti-government uprising and the kind of dissent Russia, Iran, North Korea and China would stoke in the West. Facebook’s group recommendation is particularly liable since Facebook itself has some two billion global users. Yet Facebook and algorithms have continued to go unregulated during the last decade with no end in sight.
In 2020 surveillance capitalism has gone from predictive analytics profiling of users to more extreme behavior modification. It knows your social circle, your beliefs and what beliefs you could be vulnerable to, including how sustainable you are to conspiracy theories.
QAnon’s origins are also mysterious. In October 2017, an anonymous user put a series of posts on the message board 4chan. The user signed off as “Q” and claimed to have a level of US security approval known as “Q clearance”.
The amount of traffic to mainstream social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube has exploded since 2017. And indications are the numbers have gone up further during the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid-19 and special interests groups have like-boosted movements like QAnon and Black Lives Matter in order to shape democracy to their own ends. In an era of algorithms, mobile addicted people are a bit like drones.
We can be free as individuals, believing we have perfect liberty. Yet at scale, behavior modification is taking place using AI and thus we are not actually free. Movements like QAnon are a great example. When they hit a critical mass they take on a life of their own in a new era of civil unrest, protests and anti-police and anti-government ideology.
It’s ironic that this hasn’t carried over to anti-technology company sentiment, since they are the ones most involved in how we are today manipulated.
QAnon (on Wiki here) shows how the internet is creating new bubbles of reality, mass echo bubbles that can impact real world events. It demonstrates how social media has been weaponized to create more civil and social unrest in America in 2020 and in other countries as well. Given that the world’s financial elite have profited from Covid-19, why would Donald Trump take the coronavirus seriously?
The movement has been festering on the fringes of right wing internet communities for years, but its visibility has exploded in recent months amid the social unrest and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
We have to consider August, 2020 as the likely peak of the movement — although this is not clear as algorithmic conversion is now taking place at scale as we head into the final weeks to the U.S. 2020 election.
What is clear is that Surveillance Capitalism has given rise to a new kind of ideological terror backed by AI. AI is not just good for humanity. QAnon has its roots in previously established conspiracy theories, some relatively new and some a millennium old.
But in a world where you can be converted by AI due to your mobile addiction and the friends you have, nobody is entirely invulnerable to the kind of behavior modification taking place at scale today.