Non Productivity

Facebook’s Role in Brexit: Carole Cadwalladr at TED

Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist in the UK, presented her research and conclusions on how Facebook contributed to Brexit during a talk at TED Vancouver in April 2019. Spoiler: negatively.

From the TED talk transcript, here’s what Carole said:

[3:42] And this entire referendum took place in darkness, because it took place on Facebook. And what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook, because only you see your news feed, and then it vanishes, so it’s impossible to research anything. So we have no idea who saw what ads or what impact they had, or what data was used to target these people. Or even who placed the ads, or how much money was spent, or even what nationality they were. 

[04:16] But Facebook does. Facebook has these answers, and it’s refused to give them to us. Our parliament has asked Mark Zuckerberg multiple times to come to Britain and to give us these answers. And every single time, he’s refused. And you have to wonder why. Because what I and other journalists have uncovered is that multiple crimes took place during the referendum. And they took place on Facebook. 

[04:48] It’s because in Britain, we limit the amount of money that you can spend in an election. And it’s because in the 19th century, people would walk around with literally wheelbarrows of cash and just buy voters. So we passed these strict laws to stop that from happening. But those laws don’t work anymore. This referendum took place almost entirely online. And you can spend any amount of money on Facebook or on Google or on YouTube ads and nobody will know, because they’re black boxes. And this is what happened. 

[05:22] We’ve actually got no idea of the full extent of it. But we do know that in the last days before the Brexit vote, the official “Vote Leave” campaign laundered nearly three quarters of a million pounds through another campaign entity that our electoral commission has ruled was illegal, and it’s referred it to the police

In her article about the talk, Carole says:

I did tell them that they had facilitated multiple crimes in the EU referendum. That as things stood, I didn’t think it was possible to have free and fair elections ever again. That liberal democracy was broken. And they had broke it.

Carole finishes with:

The world needs all kinds of brains. But in the situation we are in, with the dangers we face, it’s not these kinds of brains. These are brilliant men. They have created platforms of unimaginable complexity. But if they’re not sick to their stomach about what has happened in Myanmar or overwhelmed by guilt about how their platforms were used by Russian intelligence to subvert their own country’s democracy, or sickened by their own role in what happened in New Zealand, they’re not fit to hold these jobs or wield this unimaginable power.

I walked among the tech gods last week. I don’t think they set out to enable massacres to be live-streamed. Or massive electoral fraud in a once-in-a-lifetime, knife-edge vote. But they did. If they don’t feel guilt, shame and remorse, if they don’t have a burning desire to make amends, their boards, shareholders, investors, employees and family members need to get them out.

Categories: Non Productivity