In 1928, Edward L. Bernays wrote a book entitled "Propaganda", where he delved deeper into the complex relationship between the human psychology, democracy, and corporations.
Bernays described propaganda as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses” – for causes as diverse as civil rights, and persuading American women to spend more money on cigarettes. “Propaganda carries to many minds an unpleasant connotation.” Almost a century later, we still misunderstand propaganda as something that only other, more evil people, organisations and states do – and none more so than dictators.
His thesis is that “invisible” people who create knowledge and propaganda rule over the masses, with a monopolistic control of power to shape thoughts, values, and citizen response. His “engineering consent” of the masses would be vital for the survival of democracy.
Bernays explains: "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses are important elements in a democratic society. Those who manipulate these unseen mechanisms of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. Bernays expands this argument to the economic realm, appreciating the positive impact of propaganda in the service of capitalism."
Facebook since its inception has worked towards manipulating users towards "more sharing" by introducing the like button. Content creators, publishers, media companies since their inception know the power of propaganda and its influence on people for their benefits. This is the only reason you see an obvious nexus between politician and media companies (the richest persons on earth own them) because ultimately they want to be in control of everything we do.
In 2014, Facebook jointly conducted a study with Cornell University professors Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory and Jeffrey T. Hancock. The study was entitled "Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks".
The study proved beyond any doubt that "emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues."
Global headlines have been dominated by Facebook’s privacy problems, which stem from data-science firm Cambridge Analytica obtaining the data of 50 million Facebook users. At the same time, there is a global online privacy backlash brewing that is set to reshape Internet advertising. Are these privacy issues at Facebook the tip of a larger iceberg? Who might be next? Will more whistleblowers emerge who reveal client data misuse? Here are the reasons why most users didn't see the scandal coming:
a) Social media platforms have become too powerful, you consume Facebook from morning to evening at conventional intervals.
b) Facebook is more personalized and most of the information emanates from your circle and you have more faith in propaganda engendered by your friends.
c) The analytical capability of the digital world is making it more perilous than other means
Users are weighing whether to quit the social media platform and calling for greater online privacy protection. Social media have become ubiquitous, and many users are either ambivalent toward data privacy or don’t understand what they’ve given up by agreeing to the terms of service in order to create an account. How have users responded to these revelations?
The reaction has been mixed, but some users have urged others to delete their accounts. Despite all the talk, it's unlikely a significant number of them will walk, even after allegations that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained and kept the data of tens of millions of users to help get Donald Trump elected, and Facebook didn't stop it.
Ashok is a Business Transformation Leader and certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is expert in Robotics & Digital Strategy Consulting. He previously led successful projects at IBM, General Electric (GE), Zenta (Accenture), GENPACT. Ashok has more than 25 years of experience in Business transformation using latest innovative technologies.