Technology, Media, & Democracy Final Project

August 27, 2018 Tech Media & Democracy

Tech, Media, and Democracy
Prof. Justin Hendrix

Team Members:

      Cherisha Agarwal
      Michael Allen Fuller
      Kellee D Massey
      Joanna Molloy
      Joanna Yen

My role in the project was to write the code for the web application, allowing keywords in the questions to play videos that corresponded with keywords.

Link to Final Prototype

Problem Statement:

Just over twenty years ago, activist and Internet pundit John Perry Barlow wrote a “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace:”

“We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth… a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity… Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.”
In January 2004, Mark Zuckerberg began writing code for a new website known as “TheFacebook” and stated his intention to “create a universal website that can connect people around the university (Harvard).”

The promise of the Internet as a global system of networks in which citizens of the world can freely communicate with one another and access and share information to improve society has been compromised. Facebook is among the various platforms of social media using as a business model the collection of users’ private data to profile them and create likely targets for commercial advertising and paid political campaign pitches. Agents with political agendas were then able to disseminate propaganda and fake news stories to vulnerable social-media users. A 2017 Pew Research Center study found that two-thirds of Americans got at least some of their news from social media. As early as 2013, a company called Cambridge Analytica used the private data of 87 million Facebook users to influence 44 elections in the U.S. and the U.K., including the 2016 U.S. presidential election resulting in a victory for Donald Trump, and the U.K. “Brexit” election.

In his recent testimony before the U.S. Congress, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg argued that users voluntarily sign away their privacy rights. Some of our team members feel that the founders of Facebook portrayed the platform as only a fun, free place for social interaction. Others believe that actually from the start, Facebook intended it as a profit-making platform based on the monetization of users’ data.

One problem is that many users do not read the fine print in Facebook’s privacy agreement, which is hundreds of words long and only has one check-mark at the end. Many Facebook users are not aware that their political leanings, every one of their “likes,” their purchases, their contacts, and even the data of their friends can be mined by Facebook. Another problem is that with the preponderance of fake news being disseminated, many citizens without professional journalism skills may not know how to factcheck an article and determine its validity.
Our goal is to raise awareness of citizens as to how our data is being collected and used by Facebook. How we have become targets of propaganda and untrue or incorrect news stories (fake news) and how to tell the difference from the truth (unfake news).

Project Concept:

The Great & Powerful ZUCK!
And the Man Behind the Curtain

We will enlist the help of Mark Zuckerberg himself to raise awareness and educate people on the current problems with Facebook, by using his own statements, and mining words from those statements which will provide answers that will be more forthcoming than his Congressional testimony. We will develop an Interactive website experience for users to ask Mark Zuckerberg any questions to gain a response.

We will use his testimonial response clip in Adobe After Effects to create The Great & Powerful Zuck. We will then code an interactive Q+A session in which his answers to users’ questions will be more forthcoming and therefore more informative to those asking the questions. We recognize the irony of toying with Mr. Zuckerberg’s words but we hope the result is to educate and perhaps, entertain.

Examples of Mr. Zuckerberg’s actual statements include:

Q: Do you want to control the world?
A: I think that control is something that’s important that I think should apply to — to every service. [during Hatch]
That level of control is extremely important. [during Durbin]

Q. You think you’re pretty Big Stuff, don’t you?
A. Every day, about 100 billion times a day, people come to one of our services. [during Hatch]

Q. Did you help get a buffoon into the White House?
A. We provided support to the Trump campaign. [during Cantwell]

Q. Are you shining us on?
A.I think everyone in the world deserves good privacy protection. [during Cantwell]

Q. You built a conglomerate. Why are you so insecure that you always have to drop the name of your college?
A. At Harvard At Harvard At Harvard [you know I went to] Harvard Harvard Harvard [Wicker]

Q. Nutella and fig jelly?
A. We’re investigating that now. We believe that it is entirely possible that there will be a connection there.
[during Klobuchar]

Q. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
A. The mantra is … a… sexy mantra. [Cornyn]

Q. No question yet:
A. I do think that we made mistakes because of that.
[optional]: But the broadest mistakes that we made here are not taking a broad enough view of our responsibility. [during Cornyn]

Q. What’s your passion? What do you really want to do?
A. I want to sell skis to women. [Cornyn]

Q. Trump is a tool, no?
A. I do generally agree with what you’re saying. [Blumenthal]

Q. What types of data are you gathering from FB users?
A. Anything that makes people feel unsafe in the community. [during Cruz]
Q. What have you done about liberals working at FB?
A. Facebook in the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place, and I — this is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company. [during Cruz]

Q. Why don’t you just give people a checklist and ask people what types of ads they’d be willing to see instead of being a Nosey Parker?
A. We collect specific data to make the advertising experiences better for businesses.
[clipped from]: The second category is around specific data that we collect in order to make the advertising experiences better, and more relevant, and work for businesses. [during Lee]

Q. What do you think about recreational marijuana?
A. I use it, my family uses it, and all the people I love and care about use it all the time. [during Fischer]

Q. Your net worth today is $63.8 billion, right?
A. I think that that’s something that, to your point, that Americans should be proud of.

Q. So we’re now living in an Orwellian dystopia. [during Heller]
A. That happened, and it happened on our watch.

Q. Do you prefer getting paid in rubles or dollars? [during Harris]
A. The Internet Research Agency, the — the Russian firm ran about $100,000 worth of ads. Ka-ching!

Q. Boxers or briefs? [Capito]
A. That’s something that I’m very passionate about.
Actual Examples of Questions Asked by Members of Congress:
Is FaceBook neutral, safe and a private platform?
27:37-27:43 “We should give people the fullest freest expression that is possible”

What is the difference between surveillance and control of your own information?
Answer to same Question
31:52-31:55 “On FaceBook you have control of your information”
31:55-31:59 “The content you share, you put there you can take down at any time”
32:00-32:04 “The information we collect, you can choose us not to collect”
32:04-32:06 “You can delete any of it”
32:06-32:08 ” You can leave FaceBook any time”
Other statements
currently going through the process of investigating any third party who had access to a large amount of our data.”
“In general, we collect data from people who have not signed up for Facebook for security purposes“I believe everyone owns their own content online.”
“This is a really important question. “
“There is absolutely no directive in any changes we make to have a bias in anything we do.”
“We are.”

C-Span video FaceBook ceo Mark Zuckerberg Congressional testimony

11:50-11:54 “We face a number of important issues around privacy, security and democracy”
12:05-12:08 “FaceBook is an idealistic and optimistic company”
12:09-12:13 “For most of our existence we focused on all the good that connecting people could bring”
12;14-12:24 “As FaceBook has grown, people everywhere have gotten a powerful new tool for staying connected to the people they care about most, for making their voices heard, for building community and businesses”
12:47-12:52 ” But it is clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm”
12:54-13:01 “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech as well as developers and data privacy”
13:02-13:07 “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities and that was a big mistake”
13:08-13:11 “It was my mistake and I am sorry”
13:12-13:17 “I started FaceBook, I run it, and at the end of the day I am responsible for what happens here”
13:25-13:29 “It’s not enough to just connect people, we have to make sure that those connections are positive”
13:30-13:36 “It’s not enough to give people a voice, we have to make sure that voice isn’t used to harm other people or spread misinformation”
13:37-13:43 “It’s not enough to just give people control of their information, we need to make sure that the developers who they share it with protects their information”
13:44-13:51 “Across the board we have a responsibility to not just give people tools, but make sure those tools are used for good”
13:52-13:58 “It’s going to take some time to work through all the changes we need to make, but I’m committed to getting this right”
13:59-14:03 “That includes the basic responsibility of protecting people’s information”
15:42-15:49 “My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together”
16:01-16:09 “We serve more than two billion people around the world and every day people use our services to stay connected with people that matter to them”
16:10-16:12 “I believe deeply in what we are doing”

Presentation at Hackathon

Final Presentation

Final questions:
Was enough information given about Cambridge Analytica?
How much data does Facebook access?
Is Facebook a security threat?
Are you the best person to lead Facebook?