Spring has sprung and Facebook is fucked! Did you think that Stephen Bannon was long forgotten? Well, he and his henchmen’s effort to manipulate your voting behavoir became startlingly clear with the biggest digital news scandal of 2018 and the shady practices of Cambridge Analytica. That and more in this week’s Digital News REFRE5#.


Can you trust a company called Cambridge Analytica? Most of us would say yes. Sounds like a bunch of data geeks wearing tweed jackets. Now what if you knew that Stephen Bannon came up with the name and it was funded by a shell company created by the powerful Mercer family? Yeah, that becomes much, much sketchier.

We’re not even sketching the surface. Cambridge Analytica took a ton of people’s private Facebook data and illegally used it to target content designed to manipulate people in the most sensitive ways.

It sounds like a marketer’s dream, and that is why it is so messed up. They took data that people had created using Facebook and turned it around on them. They lied about the purpose of their data collection to some, and straight up stole it from about 50 million more. Combine that with Russian money and conservative bot accounts and you have a perfect storm to tip an election.

I hope all of those douchebags go to jail.

WTF Zuck?

Speaking of douchebags, Mark Zuckerberg finally came out with a statement. Shit is getting real. His chief security officer is resigning. Accounts for Cambridge Analytica have been suspended. He assured us that they will do a better job of accounting for our data. But no apologies.

This is where we realize that Mark Zuckerberg is still in many ways a kid who has created something that is out of his control entirely. It’s like a kid in California who tries to burn an ant with a magnifying glass and entire neighborhoods in Santa Barbara end up blazing for weeks. Facebook has gotten so big that it can’t be controlled.

Facebook said it can’t control fake news. Algorithm changes mean that the quality of content is degrading for everyone’s feeds. Now it clearly can’t control its customer data either. Is this the third strike?

Traffic Apps Make Congestion Worse?

Alright, enough about Facebook. Here is some bad news: I thought that apps were going to make traffic better by anticipating congestion. Turns out that may not be the case.

Traffic navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps might actually be making traffic congestion worse by diverting traffic to residential routes that are not equiped to handle such quantities of vehicles.

It seemed like those apps would be able to improve traffic since they could isolate each vehicle and know their respective destinations, thus being able to divert traffic effectively so that each person had a faster route. In a sense, that’s what they do. But to do that, those apps send people down stretches of roads that become immediately jammed up, ironically causing people to spend more time for each journey.

Some cities are already pressing Waze to ban certain routes or they are installing speed bumps to make residential routes less attractive.

Bummer for everyone.

It’s All About Reputation

When information is endless, what matters is where we get it from. That’s the gist of this awesome essay in Aeon about the importance of credibility. In fact the idea of trust is one thing that people continuously value, since we’ve now witnessed that even when all information is available to us, the truth means nothing.

And Google Wants to Help

In order to stem the tide of misinformation, the web’s gatekeeper just launched the Google News Initiative to make it easier for real journalists and publications to uphold the standards that the web is fast undermining.

Concretely, the Google News Initiative is in part a congolomeration of efforts to combat the spread of misinformation, protecting Google so that only real news surfaces, and creating tools to label misinformation before it can spread too far.

It is also a commitment to supporting paid news service business models by giving people targeted samples of news that are behind paywalls in an effort to get people to pony up for quality journalism which will enable publications to continue paying real journalists who report on real stories instead of web publishers that rely on clickbait to pay the bills.

Thanks for not being evil, Google.


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