Obama AND Trump Insiders Blow Whistle, Reveal Facebook ALLOWED Them BOTH to Spy on You

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A high-ranking staffer from the Obama campaign in 2012 has come forward with massive revelations exposing an alleged partisan bias on Facebook’s behalf which paved the way for special privileges granted to the Obama campaign by the social media giant—up to and including the Obama campaign receiving millions of people’s information from Facebook.

Carol Davidsen worked as the media director at Obama for America during the re-election campaign in 2012. She was responsible for maintaining a relationship with potential voters and she used Facebook to do it. However, it wasn’t just creating a page and attracting followers, Davidsen was given inside access because Facebook favored Obama which allowed the campaign to receive unprecedented data on millions of users.

“Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,” wrote Davidsen.

To be clear, this was not some tool that everyone had. Facebook specifically granted the Obama administration access because, according to Davidsen, Facebook was “on our side.”

Facebook was such a fan of the Obama administration that they had no problem actually admitted to granting this access.

“They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Davidsen tweeted.

“I worked on all of the data integration projects at [Obama for America]. This was the only one that felt creepy, even though we played by the rules, and didn’t do anything I felt was ugly, with the data,” stated Davidsen of her role on the campaign and how insidious it was.

What makes this revelation so bombshell is that it exposes hypocrisy on so many levels, especially given the recent uproar over Cambridge Analytica and their mining of information for the Trump campaign.

As Civic Hall reports, the New York Times and The Observer of London made big waves Saturday with a front-page story adding more details to what is known about data-firm Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 election, revealing with the help of whistleblower and former CA employee Christopher Wylie that the company “harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.”

The mainstream media pushed this story as if it revealed some data breach inside Facebook. But that is not at all what it was. It was all legal and available for anyone with a checkbook big enough to fund it.

As usual with tech and politics, bad reporting combined with weak technical literacy among politicians is confusing matters (though of course I’m all for Zuck being asked questions by Congress). As Facebook VP and general counsel Paul Grewal explained in a company blog post late Friday, this was not a data leak or breach. In fact, as has been previously reported a year ago by The Intercept’s Mattathias Schwartz, an academic researcher at Cambridge University named Aleksandr Kogan had developed a Facebook app that promised users a personality profile in exchange for their taking a quiz and allowing the app—like tens of thousands of other Facebook apps—to access private information from their profiles and that of their friends. To reach a large number, he paid American taskers on Mechanical Turk a $1 or $2 to download the app and take his survey, and from a seed group of nearly 300,000 was able to access personal data of what The Intercept said was 30 million American Facebook users. OK, so they were off by 20 million.

What this reveals is not some leak or breach, but rather the true purpose of Facebook’s existence—a tool of the corporate state to know everything about you, “legally.” As Snowden noted over the weekend, Facebook is a surveillance program simply disguised as “social media.”

Through a series of deceptive prompts, both the Obama and the Trump campaign waged data wars against Facebook users.

As the Mail explains, it happens like this:

To do so, they were prompted to agree to grant the campaign permission to access their Facebook friends list, photos and other personal information.
Another prompt, which most people also agreed to, asked for them to grant access to their news feed.
Through these prompts, the campaign had access to millions of people, and their interests, and friends – who they could note down as potential donors, unregistered voters and persuadable votes – to target in specific campaigns.
One staffer said that once a supporter signed up through Facebook, it would take them mere seconds to go through their friends’ lists, match them with votes lists, and then they would go through photos – trying to weed out old girlfriends and college friends who could share their political beliefs.
The campaign reportedly mined data from 15 million Facebook users, which triggered alarms at the social media giant, but the company always decided that the campaign had not violated its privacy and data rules.

What’s more, it also reveals that both parties are so blinded by their pied pipers that they only care about this massive surveillance apparatus if “the other guy” is using it.

Even Davidsen noted this bipartisan exploitation of the masses, pointing out that Facebook definitely has friends on both sides.

“I am also 100% positive that Facebook activity recruits and staffs people that are on the other side,” she wrote.

To those who’ve been following the Free Thought Project over the years, you’ll know that no matter what party is in power, the same insidious tactics are used against all Americans for the benefit of the establishment.

Sadly, however, these recent revelations that both Trump and Obama carried out very similar behind the scenes data collections on millions of Americans will simply be used as political fodder between the left and the right.

While the future of social media may seem bleak on the side of Facebook, there is also amazing news on the side of innovation and free thought. To those who’ve been paying attention, they saw the problem presented by so many people using a similar system that is ultimately controlled by those who have an interest in mining your data for profit, controlling the political narrative, and essentially creating a personal database on billions of people, the likes of which corrupt governments salivate over.

Instead of trying to change the system of Facebook from within, several individuals came together to build a new system—which showed the obsolescence of the old. Thus, Steemit was born. If you’d like to know more about this amazing platform, check it out here.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/obama-campaign-trump-whistleblowers-facebook/

‘It’s a Movie Script’: FBI Insiders Reportedly Expose ‘Official’ Vegas Narrative as Entirely False

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Damning information has allegedly been reported by FBI insiders who claim that the “official” narrative about the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history is a fiction, perpetuated by law enforcement to keep Americans ignorant as to what really happened in Vegas.

The report comes from True Pundit who claims to have been contacted by several FBI insiders and high-ranking intelligence officials who are making the bombshell claims.

“It’s a movie script that was written after the shooting to rewrite what really happened,” one FBI agent said, according to the media outlet. “The investigation is an entirely different story that we are not allowed to talk about. If we do and get caught, we get fired and probably charged (criminally).”

According to the report, the entire premise of the shooting—as in Stephen Paddock acted alone—is completely false.

As True Pundit reports, after months of corporate-infused spin by MGM Resorts and outright lies from officials in the FBI and the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, federal agents and intelligence officials are spilling the beans about what really happened on and before the Oct. 1 massacre.

According to the FBI officials, as reported by True Pundit, the following jaw-dropping cover-ups:

  • When FBI brass was provided with forensic evidence of multiple gunmen, they told agents to stand down and focus on Paddock only. Even a key internal audio captured by a hotel guest of multiple rifles firing from Mandalay Bay went ignored, covered up.
  • When FBI brass was provided the names of persons of interest who likely assisted Paddock, agents were instructed not to interview the individuals. One would-be target was never pursued despite pleadings from intelligence officials and agents that he was possibly the second shooter.
  • The FBI uncovered specific evidence showing that Paddock was anti-Trump and had an affiliation with ANTIFA, though it never was divulged to the public and agents did not follow such leads, per orders of their superiors.
  • When FBI brass was given evidence that the shooting was possibly linked to ANTIFA radicals working with an ISIS-linked terror faction — including the full identities of some of the suspects with ties to both radical groups and at or near Mandalay Bay the night of the deadly shooting — agents were never instructed to follow up on the investigation and pursue the suspects.
  • When intelligence officials approached the FBI and LVMPD with external evidence that Paddock was only one member of an organized terror cell — which included as many as five gunman who planned to fire from the Mandalay Bay suite — the compelling evidence was covered up. Never pursued.
  • When FBI brass was provided with forensic evidence that Paddock’s death was not a suicide, the intelligence was never pursued by the FBI and LVMPD. FBI sources said Paddock suffered two gunshots. His autopsy report only details a single bullet to the head. FBI sources maintain Paddock’s autopsy was doctored and is a fraud.
  • When an ISIS-linked “businessman” from Turkey was pinpointed in the investigation — and found to be residing near Las Vegas at the time of the shooting — FBI agents were not instructed to follow up and pursue intelligence leads showing possible links to the massacre.
  • FBI and intelligence officials believe Paddock and associates chose to strike the Las Vegas country music concert with over 22,000 people because they likely supported President Trump. FBI agents said they were instructed to keep that key motive quiet too.
  • When MGM refused to share cctv footage from Mandalay Bay, FBI agents were threatened by superiors that any whistle blowers divulging such revelations to the media would lose their jobs. The FBI still has never been provided all the camera footage from the Mandalay Bay, FBI agents said.
  • When FBI agents and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives informed FBI bosses that Paddock didn’t start buying dozens of guns until after Trump’s election, they were told to keep that fact quiet and shrouded.
  • When FBI agents followed up on an ABC News report that Paddock wired $100,000 to the Philippines shortly before the rampage they confirmed the report was untrue. Instead of disputing it, FBI bosses embraced the false story, saying it helped build the narrative the Bureau was constructing about Paddock. FBI agents believe the story was planted with ABC by their superiors.

While some of these points attempt to paint a partisan motive for this attack, it is important to remember that all sides would love to use Paddock to “blame the other guy” and this should not lead to the creation and hatred of stereotypes nor should it be used to divide Americans. If it turns out that Paddock was indeed anti-Trump, then this should not be used to demonize others who are also opposed to Trump.

Anything outside of a thorough investigation to seek the truth is an insult to the victims and their families. Those who would attempt to use this tragedy for personal or political gain are no better than those trying to cover up the truth.

According to True Pundit, Monday’s report is one of many they will be releasing that will contain all the information given to them by their FBI and intelligence sources.

As we’ve done throughout this campaign of misinformation and lies that is the Vegas Massacre, the Free Thought Project will continue to sift through all the evidence to find the truth.

Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/fbi-insiders-blow-whistle-vegas-narrative/

Former insiders launch awareness campaign to warn users about the addictive dangers of Facebook and Google


Image: Former insiders launch awareness campaign to warn users about the addictive dangers of Facebook and Google

(Natural News)
Former employees of Google and Facebook are campaigning to warn users about the addictive dangers posed by social media networks like Google and Facebook, according to a Daily Mail Online report.

Tristan Harris, who was a former in-house ethicist at Google, is leading the new group called the Center for Humane Technology which campaigns to raise awareness about the negative effects of smartphones and social media, especially to children and younger users. The group launched an awareness campaign called “The Truth About Tech.”

Together with the nonprofit media watchdog organization Common Sense Media, the group plans to lobby the U.S. government over tech addiction. Moreover, it is tackling an advertising campaign directed to 55,000 public schools in the U.S. to warn parents, students, and teachers over its concerns, which include the mental health effects of social media overuse, such as depression, stress, anxiety, self-image, and self-worth. The group also aims to address more broader problems that technology brings, such as its strong influence in relationships and people’s political beliefs.

Another former high profile figure of a technology company has expressed concerns over its products in December. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former executive of Facebook, also took a stand against the social media company that he helped to build. He said that Facebook is “ripping society.” Palihapitiya joined the company in 2007 and became its Vice President for user growth. He feels guilty for Facebook’s influence and manipulation to its users. Moreover, he advised users to pause from using social media. (Related: Social media mind games: Psychologist reveals Facebook’s manipulation tactics to keep you hooked (and what you can do about it).)

“We were on the inside. We know what the companies measure. We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works,” Harris told the New York Times, as cited by Daily Mail Online. “The largest supercomputers in the world are inside of two companies — Google and Facebook — and where are we pointing them? We’re pointing them at people’s brains, at children.”

Even Facebook itself has acknowledged that the site may negatively affect democracy through the spread of fake news. In fact, its executives said in a series of blog posts on January that it was “far too slow” in determining negative effects that occurred during the 2016 U.S. election. They cited Russian interference, “toxic discourse,” and the “dangerous consequences” of misinformation.

The hazards of social media

Social media has changed the way people communicate and interact with one another. However, it also has consequences that users encounter. Here are some of the dangers of social media use.

  • Mental health issues – Instagram is the most damaging social media platform on mental health, based on a survey of 1,500 teenagers and young adults by the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement (YHM) in the U.K. It was found to cause extreme anxiety and depression.
  • Compromised privacy – Whenever you go online, you compromise your privacy by disclosing your personal information.
  • Risks for the young and credulous – Young people use social media now more than ever in the past. In fact, approximately 91 percent of individuals aged 16 to 24 use the internet for social networking. Most of them share their personal information without second thoughts or knowing what harm it may bring them.

If you’d like to read more news stories and studies on technology, please go to Computing.news.

Sources include:

DailyMail.co.uk

GulfNews.com

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Source Article from http://www.naturalnews.com/2018-02-22-awareness-campaign-addictive-dangers-of-facebook-and-google.html

Why Are Insiders Bugging Out?

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The stories keep rolling in. Many of the elite are bugging out. Why?  Here is the latest group of insiders trying to bug out. What are they running from?

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Smartphone dystopia: ‘Our minds can be hijacked’ say tech insiders

    

Google, Twitter and Facebook workers who helped make technology so addictive are disconnecting themselves from the internet. Paul Lewis reports on the Silicon Valley refuseniks alarmed by a race for human attention

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

These refuseniks are rarely founders or chief executives, who have little incentive to deviate from the mantra that their companies are making the world a better place. Instead, they tend to have worked a rung or two down the corporate ladder: designers, engineers and product managers who, like Rosenstein, several years ago put in place the building blocks of a digital world from which they are now trying to disentangle themselves. “It is very common,” Rosenstein says, “for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences.”

Rosenstein, who also helped create Gchat during a stint at Google, and now leads a San Francisco-based company that improves office productivity, appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

But those concerns are trivial compared with the devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it.

Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.

In 2007, Rosenstein was one of a small group of Facebook employees who decided to create a path of least resistance – a single click – to “send little bits of positivity” across the platform. Facebook’s “like” feature was, Rosenstein says, “wildly” successful: engagement soared as people enjoyed the short-term boost they got from giving or receiving social affirmation, while Facebook harvested valuable data about the preferences of users that could be sold to advertisers. The idea was soon copied by Twitter, with its heart-shaped “likes” (previously star-shaped “favourites”), Instagram, and countless other apps and websites.

It was Rosenstein’s colleague, Leah Pearlman, then a product manager at Facebook and on the team that created the Facebook “like”, who announced the feature in a 2009 blogpost. Now 35 and an illustrator, Pearlman confirmed via email that she, too, has grown disaffected with Facebook “likes” and other addictive feedback loops. She has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed, and hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so that she doesn’t have to.

    

One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” Rosenstein says. It may or may not be relevant that Rosenstein, Pearlman and most of the tech insiders questioning today’s attention economy are in their 30s, members of the last generation that can remember a world in which telephones were plugged into walls.

It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned. They appear to be abiding by a Biggie Smalls lyric from their own youth about the perils of dealing crack cocaine: never get high on your own supply.

One morning in April this year, designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference centre on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products, on a course curated by conference organiser Nir Eyal.

Eyal, 39, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry, teaching techniques he developed by closely studying how the Silicon Valley giants operate.

“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.

He explains the subtle psychological tricks that can be used to make people develop habits, such as varying the rewards people receive to create “a craving”, or exploiting negative emotions that can act as “triggers”. “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation,” Eyal writes.

Attendees of the 2017 Habit Summit might have been surprised when Eyal walked on stage to announce that this year’s keynote speech was about “something a little different”. He wanted to address the growing concern that technological manipulation was somehow harmful or immoral. He told his audience that they should be careful not to abuse persuasive design, and wary of crossing a line into coercion.

But he was defensive of the techniques he teaches, and dismissive of those who compare tech addiction to drugs. “We’re not freebasing Facebook and injecting Instagram here,” he said. He flashed up a slide of a shelf filled with sugary baked goods. “Just as we shouldn’t blame the baker for making such delicious treats, we can’t blame tech makers for making their products so good we want to use them,” he said. “Of course that’s what tech companies will do. And frankly: do we want it any other way?”

Without irony, Eyal finished his talk with some personal tips for resisting the lure of technology. He told his audience he uses a Chrome extension, called DF YouTube, “which scrubs out a lot of those external triggers” he writes about in his book, and recommended an app called Pocket Points that “rewards you for staying off your phone when you need to focus”.

Finally, Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house an outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. “The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “We are in control.”

But are we? If the people who built these technologies are taking such radical steps to wean themselves free, can the rest of us reasonably be expected to exercise our free will?

Not according to Tristan Harris, a 33-year-old former Google employee turned vocal critic of the tech industry. “All of us are jacked into this system,” he says. “All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.”

Harris, who has been branded “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”, insists that billions of people have little choice over whether they use these now ubiquitous technologies, and are largely unaware of the invisible ways in which a small number of people in Silicon Valley are shaping their lives.

A graduate of Stanford University, Harris studied under BJ Fogg, a behavioural psychologist revered in tech circles for mastering the ways technological design can be used to persuade people. Many of his students, including Eyal, have gone on to prosperous careers in Silicon Valley.

Harris is the student who went rogue; a whistleblower of sorts, he is lifting the curtain on the vast powers accumulated by technology companies and the ways they are using that influence. “A handful of people, working at a handful of technology companies, through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today,” he said at a recent TED talk in Vancouver.

“I don’t know a more urgent problem than this,” Harris says. “It’s changing our democracy, and it’s changing our ability to have the conversations and relationships that we want with each other.” Harris went public – giving talks, writing papers, meeting lawmakers and campaigning for reform after three years struggling to effect change inside Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

It all began in 2013, when he was working as a product manager at Google, and circulated a thought-provoking memo, A Call To Minimise Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention, to 10 close colleagues. It struck a chord, spreading to some 5,000 Google employees, including senior executives who rewarded Harris with an impressive-sounding new job: he was to be Google’s in-house design ethicist and product philosopher.

Looking back, Harris sees that he was promoted into a marginal role. “I didn’t have a social support structure at all,” he says. Still, he adds: “I got to sit in a corner and think and read and understand.”

He explored how LinkedIn exploits a need for social reciprocity to widen its network; how YouTube and Netflix autoplay videos and next episodes, depriving users of a choice about whether or not they want to keep watching; how Snapchat created its addictive Snapstreaks feature, encouraging near-constant communication between its mostly teenage users.

The techniques these companies use are not always generic: they can be algorithmically tailored to each person. An internal Facebook report leaked this year, for example, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”. Such granular information, Harris adds, is “a perfect model of what buttons you can push in a particular person”.

Tech companies can exploit such vulnerabilities to keep people hooked; manipulating, for example, when people receive “likes” for their posts, ensuring they arrive when an individual is likely to feel vulnerable, or in need of approval, or maybe just bored. And the very same techniques can be sold to the highest bidder. “There’s no ethics,” he says. A company paying Facebook to use its levers of persuasion could be a car business targeting tailored advertisements to different types of users who want a new vehicle. Or it could be a Moscow-based troll farm seeking to turn voters in a swing county in Wisconsin.

Harris believes that tech companies never deliberately set out to make their products addictive. They were responding to the incentives of an advertising economy, experimenting with techniques that might capture people’s attention, even stumbling across highly effective design by accident.

A friend at Facebook told Harris that designers initially decided the notification icon, which alerts people to new activity such as “friend requests” or “likes”, should be blue. It fit Facebook’s style and, the thinking went, would appear “subtle and innocuous”. “But no one used it,” Harris says. “Then they switched it to red and of course everyone used it.”

    

That red icon is now everywhere. When smartphone users glance at their phones, dozens or hundreds of times a day, they are confronted with small red dots beside their apps, pleading to be tapped. “Red is a trigger colour,” Harris says. “That’s why it is used as an alarm signal.”

The most seductive design, Harris explains, exploits the same psychological susceptibility that makes gambling so compulsive: variable rewards. When we tap those apps with red icons, we don’t know whether we’ll discover an interesting email, an avalanche of “likes”, or nothing at all. It is the possibility of disappointment that makes it so compulsive.

It’s this that explains how the pull-to-refresh mechanism, whereby users swipe down, pause and wait to see what content appears, rapidly became one of the most addictive and ubiquitous design features in modern technology. “Each time you’re swiping down, it’s like a slot machine,” Harris says. “You don’t know what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s a beautiful photo. Sometimes it’s just an ad.”

The designer who created the pull-to-refresh mechanism, first used to update Twitter feeds, is Loren Brichter, widely admired in the app-building community for his sleek and intuitive designs.

Now 32, Brichter says he never intended the design to be addictive – but would not dispute the slot machine comparison. “I agree 100%,” he says. “I have two kids now and I regret every minute that I’m not paying attention to them because my smartphone has sucked me in.”

Brichter created the feature in 2009 for Tweetie, his startup, mainly because he could not find anywhere to fit the “refresh” button on his app. Holding and dragging down the feed to update seemed at the time nothing more than a “cute and clever” fix. Twitter acquired Tweetie the following year, integrating pull-to-refresh into its own app.

Since then the design has become one of the most widely emulated features in apps; the downward-pull action is, for hundreds of millions of people, as intuitive as scratching an itch.

Brichter says he is puzzled by the longevity of the feature. In an era of push notification technology, apps can automatically update content without being nudged by the user. “It could easily retire,” he says. Instead it appears to serve a psychological function: after all, slot machines would be far less addictive if gamblers didn’t get to pull the lever themselves. Brichter prefers another comparison: that it is like the redundant “close door” button in some elevators with automatically closing doors. “People just like to push it.”

All of which has left Brichter, who has put his design work on the backburner while he focuses on building a house in New Jersey, questioning his legacy. “I’ve spent many hours and weeks and months and years thinking about whether anything I’ve done has made a net positive impact on society or humanity at all,” he says. He has blocked certain websites, turned off push notifications, restricted his use of the Telegram app to message only with his wife and two close friends, and tried to wean himself off Twitter. “I still waste time on it,” he confesses, “just reading stupid news I already know about.” He charges his phone in the kitchen, plugging it in at 7pm and not touching it until the next morning.

“Smartphones are useful tools,” he says. “But they’re addictive. Pull-to-refresh is addictive. Twitter is addictive. These are not good things. When I was working on them, it was not something I was mature enough to think about. I’m not saying I’m mature now, but I’m a little bit more mature, and I regret the downsides.”

Not everyone in his field appears racked with guilt. The two inventors listed on Apple’s patent for “managing notification connections and displaying icon badges” are Justin Santamaria and Chris Marcellino. Both were in their early 20s when they were hired by Apple to work on the iPhone. As engineers, they worked on the behind-the-scenes plumbing for push-notification technology, introduced in 2009 to enable real-time alerts and updates to hundreds of thousands of third-party app developers. It was a revolutionary change, providing the infrastructure for so many experiences that now form a part of people’s daily lives, from ordering an Uber to making a Skype call to receiving breaking news updates.

But notification technology also enabled a hundred unsolicited interruptions into millions of lives, accelerating the arms race for people’s attention. Santamaria, 36, who now runs a startup after a stint as the head of mobile at Airbnb, says the technology he developed at Apple was not “inherently good or bad”. “This is a larger discussion for society,” he says. “Is it OK to shut off my phone when I leave work? Is it OK if I don’t get right back to you? Is it OK that I’m not ‘liking’ everything that goes through my Instagram screen?”

His then colleague, Marcellino, agrees. “Honestly, at no point was I sitting there thinking: let’s hook people,” he says. “It was all about the positives: these apps connect people, they have all these uses – ESPN telling you the game has ended, or WhatsApp giving you a message for free from your family member in Iran who doesn’t have a message plan.”

A few years ago Marcellino, 33, left the Bay Area, and is now in the final stages of retraining to be a neurosurgeon. He stresses he is no expert on addiction, but says he has picked up enough in his medical training to know that technologies can affect the same neurological pathways as gambling and drug use. “These are the same circuits that make people seek out food, comfort, heat, sex,” he says.

All of it, he says, is reward-based behaviour that activates the brain’s dopamine pathways. He sometimes finds himself clicking on the red icons beside his apps “to make them go away”, but is conflicted about the ethics of exploiting people’s psychological vulnerabilities. “It is not inherently evil to bring people back to your product,” he says. “It’s capitalism.”

That, perhaps, is the problem. Roger McNamee, a venture capitalist who benefited from hugely profitable investments in Google and Facebook, has grown disenchanted with both companies, arguing that their early missions have been distorted by the fortunes they have been able to earn through advertising.

He identifies the advent of the smartphone as a turning point, raising the stakes in an arms race for people’s attention. “Facebook and Google assert with merit that they are giving users what they want,” McNamee says. “The same can be said about tobacco companies and drug dealers.”

That would be a remarkable assertion for any early investor in Silicon Valley’s most profitable behemoths. But McNamee, 61, is more than an arms-length money man. Once an adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, 10 years ago McNamee introduced the Facebook CEO to his friend, Sheryl Sandberg, then a Google executive who had overseen the company’s advertising efforts. Sandberg, of course, became chief operating officer at Facebook, transforming the social network into another advertising heavyweight.

McNamee chooses his words carefully. “The people who run Facebook and Google are good people, whose well-intentioned strategies have led to horrific unintended consequences,” he says. “The problem is that there is nothing the companies can do to address the harm unless they abandon their current advertising models.”

But how can Google and Facebook be forced to abandon the business models that have transformed them into two of the most profitable companies on the planet?

McNamee believes the companies he invested in should be subjected to greater regulation, including new anti-monopoly rules. In Washington, there is growing appetite, on both sides of the political divide, to rein in Silicon Valley. But McNamee worries the behemoths he helped build may already be too big to curtail. “The EU recently penalised Google $2.42bn for anti-monopoly violations, and Google’s shareholders just shrugged,” he says.

Rosenstein, the Facebook “like” co-creator, believes there may be a case for state regulation of “psychologically manipulative advertising”, saying the moral impetus is comparable to taking action against fossil fuel or tobacco companies. “If we only care about profit maximisation,” he says, “we will go rapidly into dystopia.”

James Williams does not believe talk of dystopia is far-fetched. The ex-Google strategist who built the metrics system for the company’s global search advertising business, he has had a front-row view of an industry he describes as the “largest, most standardised and most centralised form of attentional control in human history”.

Williams, 35, left Google last year, and is on the cusp of completing a PhD at Oxford University exploring the ethics of persuasive design. It is a journey that has led him to question whether democracy can survive the new technological age.

He says his epiphany came a few years ago, when he noticed he was surrounded by technology that was inhibiting him from concentrating on the things he wanted to focus on. “It was that kind of individual, existential realisation: what’s going on?” he says. “Isn’t technology supposed to be doing the complete opposite of this?”

That discomfort was compounded during a moment at work, when he glanced at one of Google’s dashboards, a multicoloured display showing how much of people’s attention the company had commandeered for advertisers. “I realised: this is literally a million people that we’ve sort of nudged or persuaded to do this thing that they weren’t going to otherwise do,” he recalls.

He embarked on several years of independent research, much of it conducted while working part-time at Google. About 18 months in, he saw the Google memo circulated by Harris and the pair became allies, struggling to bring about change from within.

Williams and Harris left Google around the same time, and co-founded an advocacy group, Time Well Spent, that seeks to build public momentum for a change in the way big tech companies think about design. Williams finds it hard to comprehend why this issue is not on the front page of every newspaper every day.

Eighty-seven percent of people wake up and go to sleep with their smartphones,” he says. The entire world now has a new prism through which to understand politics, and Williams worries the consequences are profound.

The same forces that led tech firms to hook users with design tricks, he says, also encourage those companies to depict the world in a way that makes for compulsive, irresistible viewing. “The attention economy incentivises the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.”

That means privileging what is sensational over what is nuanced, appealing to emotion, anger and outrage. The news media is increasingly working in service to tech companies, Williams adds, and must play by the rules of the attention economy to “sensationalise, bait and entertain in order to survive”.

    

In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning electoral victory, many were quick to question the role of so-called “fake news” on Facebook, Russian-created Twitter bots or the data-centric targeting efforts that companies such as Cambridge Analytica used to sway voters. But Williams sees those factors as symptoms of a deeper problem.

It is not just shady or bad actors who were exploiting the internet to change public opinion. The attention economy itself is set up to promote a phenomenon like Trump, who is masterly at grabbing and retaining the attention of supporters and critics alike, often by exploiting or creating outrage.

Williams was making this case before the president was elected. In a blog published a month before the US election, Williams sounded the alarm bell on an issue he argued was a “far more consequential question” than whether Trump reached the White House. The reality TV star’s campaign, he said, had heralded a watershed in which “the new, digitally supercharged dynamics of the attention economy have finally crossed a threshold and become manifest in the political realm”.

Williams saw a similar dynamic unfold months earlier, during the Brexit campaign, when the attention economy appeared to him biased in favour of the emotional, identity-based case for the UK leaving the European Union. He stresses these dynamics are by no means isolated to the political right: they also play a role, he believes, in the unexpected popularity of leftwing politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, and the frequent outbreaks of internet outrage over issues that ignite fury among progressives.

All of which, Williams says, is not only distorting the way we view politics but, over time, may be changing the way we think, making us less rational and more impulsive. “We’ve habituated ourselves into a perpetual cognitive style of outrage, by internalising the dynamics of the medium,” he says.

It is against this political backdrop that Williams argues the fixation in recent years with the surveillance state fictionalised by George Orwell may have been misplaced. It was another English science fiction writer, Aldous Huxley, who provided the more prescient observation when he warned that Orwellian-style coercion was less of a threat to democracy than the more subtle power of psychological manipulation, and “man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”.

Since the US election, Williams has explored another dimension to today’s brave new world. If the attention economy erodes our ability to remember, to reason, to make decisions for ourselves – faculties that are essential to self-governance – what hope is there for democracy itself?

“The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will,” he says. “If politics is an expression of our human will, on individual and collective levels, then the attention economy is directly undermining the assumptions that democracy rests on.” If Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are gradually chipping away at our ability to control our own minds, could there come a point, I ask, at which democracy no longer functions?

“Will we be able to recognise it, if and when it happens?” Williams replies. “And if we can’t, then how do we know it hasn’t happened already?”

Source Article from https://www.sott.net/article/364411-Smartphone-dystopia-Our-minds-can-be-hijacked-say-tech-insiders

Our Minds Can Be Hijacked: The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia






Our Minds Can Be Hijacked: The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia


October 6th, 2017

Via: Guardian:

There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention�, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,� Rosenstein says. “All of the time.�

Related: Inside the Rehab Saving Young Men from Their Internet Addiction















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Source Article from http://www.cryptogon.com/?p=51767

Google insiders warn "outright censorship" of the internet is Google’s top priority… and everyone has been intimidated into silence

Image: Google insiders warn “outright censorship” of the internet is Google’s top priority… and everyone has been intimidated into silenceImage: Google insiders warn “outright censorship” of the internet is Google’s top priority… and everyone has been intimidated into silence

(Natural News)
If the right to bear arms is the most important right outlined in the United States Constitution, then the freedom of speech is a close second. The Founding Fathers understood better than anyone that those who are in positions of power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree, and that tyranny will come to America unless those with authority are restrained. One way we restrain these authoritarian figures (namely the politicians in Washington DC) is by practicing our First Amendment rights to speak about, praise or criticize the direction in which the country is going. The freedom of speech allows us to hold politicians accountable, elect leaders that will govern in our best interests, and expel those who don’t. Without the ability to speak freely and openly, none of this is possible.

Currently, and sadly, the freedom of speech is under attack in America. The mainstream media, Hollywood and leftists on college campuses across the country have been the main culprits of the assault on free speech, however recently it has also been undermined on the Internet. More and more frequently, stories are emerging of conservative voices being suppressed or even silenced by various social media websites, search engines, and even Google.

Recently, a Google employee who goes by the alias “Hal” spoke to Breitbart News about the political bias that allegedly runs rampant throughout the company. Hal’s interview with Breitbart is the first in a series entitled “Rebels of Google,” which will be published in full within the next few days.

In the interview, Hal, who understandably chose to use a fake name out of fear of losing his job, spoke about the ongoing effort within Google to suppress certain content that the company doesn’t want the public to have easy access to.

“Many people now fear that Google, Facebook and other companies are moving to control and censor their content. Are these fears justified?” asked Breitbart reported Allum Bokhari. “That is absolutely what Google is trying to do,” Hal replied. “The pro-censorship voices are very loud, and they have the management’s ear. The anti-censorship people are afraid of retaliation, and people are afraid to openly support them because everyone in their management chain is constantly signaling their allegiance to far-left ideology. Our leadership (Sundar in particular) is weak, so he capitulates to the meanest bullies on the block.”

The news is particularly damning to conservatives, who in recent years have been working to establish a stronghold on the Internet considering the fact that all other outlets, from the mainstream media to Hollywood, are run by leftists. A prominent example of this is Mark Levin’s LevinTV, which is an Internet-based conservative program launched last year that puts out new episodes every weeknight. If Google is actively working to censor ideas and information that do not align with the progressive ideology, conservative voices on the Internet could be in serious trouble. Related: Google and Facebook algorithms create a whole new kind of censorship, warns News Corp CEO.)

Another area of the Internet where widespread censorship is occurring is on the Google-owned video sharing website, YouTube. Just days ago, YouTube revealed on their official blog that they would be taking action to censor what they consider to be “hate speech” and “violent extremism.” YouTube also plans on launching a “trusted flagger” program, which will help the video sharing website identify videos that contain hate speech and extremism. Unsurprisingly, one of the organizations tasked with identifying which videos are to be censored is the left wing No Hate Speech Movement, as well as the Anti-Defamation League.

With liberal censorship running rampant in the mainstream media, in Hollywood, on college campuses and across the Internet, our country needs pro-First Amendment voices now more than ever. Once the freedom of speech is gone, it is only a matter of time before an all-powerful authoritarian state is established and individual liberty in America ceases to exist.

Sources include:

Breitbart.com

ZeroHedge.com

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Source Article from http://www.naturalnews.com/2017-08-14-google-insiders-warn-outright-censorship-of-the-internet-is-googles-top-priority-and-everyone-has-been-intimidated-into-silence.html