The decision of the founder of Facebook to work with the US authorities on the hunting of Russian hackers is a turning point in the policy of the largest social medium on the planet. Perhaps it is the moment that officially enters the political arena.
There are two things that have been commonplace for White House occupants for centuries: a long tour in all the American states before the elections and a proclamation to the American people after their election. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, did both.
In the last year he visits all the American states, taking pictures with farmers, workers, priests and even addicted people in a personal "election campaign" without any opponents. And then, it was time to turn Urbi et Orbi to the two billion "believers" who keep active Facebook accounts.
The reason was that the known social medium allowed the publication of paid Ads by Russian users, supposedly aimed at influencing the outcome of the US elections. Although initially Facebook reported that it had not identified any suspicious action, when the pressures began to rise, Zuckerberg said in his "statement" that he would provide data to a congressional committee for about 3,000 related Ads posted on his pages. Of course, as the researcher and journalist Max Blumenthal explained, this "treasure" turned out to be coal too.
Among the advertisements included hundreds of irrelevant issues (even simple pictures with puppies), while 65% of the messages were uploaded after the US presidential elections, so, apparently, they would not had been able to influence the final result. So, the big news was not the content of the Ads, but the fact that Zuckerberg agreed to cooperate with the US authorities by offering information of Facebook users - a policy immediately followed by Google and Twitter.
For many, the informal proclamation was an expression of "subjugation" to the US deep state, and especially to the reborn camp of neoconservatives, who, led by Hillary Clinton, have launched a new witch hunt against Moscow. For others, it was just a compromise move that proved that Zuckerberg can "swim" comfortably into the deep waters of the American political scene.
In any case, the incident once again brought to light the terrifying power that Facebook has acquired in the already oligopolistic market of social media. "Facebook users could outnumber Christians before the end of the year" CNBC stated a few days ago - a peculiar way indeed to explain that soon one-third of the world's inhabitants will use Zuckerberg's platform at least once a month.
The case of the Russian Ads, however, has triggered an even more interesting debate. Most of those who criticized Zuckerberg's decision accused him of interfering in the operation of the algorithms that determine which news, Ads, and friend's messages will be viewed by each user on his "wall". This view, however, implies that algorithms consist a kind of objective (and mostly apolitical) mechanism.
In a sense, as writer Franklin Foer explained in his new book, "World Without Mind," the myth of the objective algorithm is the contemporary expression of a technocratic concept, first appeared in 18th century Europe by writers such as Henri de Saint-Simon.
Known as the Utopian precursor of "scientific socialism," Saint-Simon envisioned a society in which the interests of the corrupt old regime and the chaos that the power of "mob" might bring to the society, would give their place to a body of technocrats engineers who would regulate the functioning of society exclusively with scientific criteria. Instead of philosophers in politics, or, philosophical politicians, the new vision foresaw positions only for engineers.
The seemingly neutral algorithms of present era, Franklin Foer argues, come to replace the Utopia and the myth of the first technocrats. In fact, as he explains quite thoroughly, each algorithm hides enormous amounts of politics and political economy too, depending on the aspirations of its creators.
Perhaps the next US president will be elected by an algorithm - that of Mark Zuckerberg.
Article by Aris Chatzistefanou, translated from the original source: