We’ve come a long way from the Arab Spring when Facebook’s technology and that of other social media platforms stirred and facilitated freedom lovers. Those who supported democratic movements thought they were witnessing technology’s miracle: the ability for ordinary people to express their uncensored views on the world stage and to orchestrate demonstrations against repression. Because social media has dramatically altered how we communicate, companies like Facebook find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. Their creations, meant to bring people together, are dividing them. Social media have become the hub where fake news proliferates and where dictators can track and suppress democratic stirrings.
In their pursuit of profits, Facebook, for example, has been aggressive in seeking partnerships with governments around the globe. It offers them “white glove” treatment that allows political leaders to maximize their platform potential. (“In the Philippines, Facebook is a Weapon,” by Lauren Etter, Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 11, 2017, pg. 57.) Tyrants use tools that once gave voice to freedom’s longing to spread disinformation and track potential political disrupters.
Sadly, companies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, have taught their wealthiest customers well. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s vigilante justice pervades the internet. According to reporter Lauren Etter, he has over 12 million social media accounts, and these he uses to dispense fear and false information. (Ibid, pg. 58.)
Now Facebook is working on a new technology which it presumes will aid humankind. A team of its engineers is working on a brain implant which will enable users to type with their mind. Since the company has neither imagined nor been effective against the corruption of its current visions, I shudder to think what some unscrupulous individual or government will do with this next development.