Paranoia or Manipulation?
Today, I am a little off topic but this is an important issue. Is it another Facebook manipulation? Facebook is making a change in its API aka:
(computer programming) an application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API expresses a software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types.
This change officially takes place April 30, 2015 although in other parts of the world it was rolled out earlier than in the U.S. I was aware of this change about a month ago when I heard from a top Facebook marketer a month ago that changes to the API would affect those who use a 3rd-party application for social media management. I use Hootsuite as my manager to post my blogs to groups automatically and at certain times. There are many others social media managers such as Buffer, Tweetdeck, SocialFlow, IFTTT, TwitterFeed, etc.
On Facebook, I follow about 40-50 groups for my three blogs. Some are for pet groups for my pet blog, some are mental health groups for my mental health blog and even others are for poetry, creative writing and blogging for my third blog. With this change pending, my gut kept telling me that this was a manipulation by a large social media site, but I was doubting myself and felt like I was becoming paranoid.
I made plans for this change by letting the groups that I post my blogs to know about the change and that after the end of the month I would no longer be posting. I further told them how they could get my blog postsif they wanted them by subscribing to my blogs or following me on other social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. But there was still this nagging feeling that we are all being manipulated. Again, I dismissed the feeling but I decided to do a Google search for information about Facebook and the change and I hip pay dirt when I entered two words–Facebook and manipulation. That is when I found out about the manipulation to its API that news media disclosed in June 2014. So, maybe I am not paranoid after all.
Facebook’s Mood Manipulation Study
Yes, Facebook had a previous manipulation involving its API or programming. It became know as Facebook’s Mood Manipulation Study. On June 30, 2014 the Huffington Post stated that there were concerns about:
the ethics of Facebook’s now-famous experiment in which it manipulated the emotional content of users’ news feeds to see how that would affect users’ activity on the site. (The paper, by Adam Kramer of Facebook, Jamie Guillory of UCSF, and Jeffrey Hancock of Cornell, appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.)
The main dispute seems to be between people such as James Grimmelmann andZeynep Tufecki who see this as a clear violation of research ethics; versus people such as Tal Yarkoni who see it as consistent with ordinary practices for a big online company like Facebook.
According to The Wire on June 28, 2014 issued this statement:
The social network is coming under some serious fire today for a mood study it conducted back in 2012. Over at the Atlantic, Robinson Meyer explains what it was all about:
For one week in January 2012, data scientists skewed what almost 700,000 Facebook users saw when they logged into its service. Some people were shown content with a preponderance of happy and positive words; some were shown content analyzed as sadder than average. And when the week was over, these manipulated users were more likely to post either especially positive or negative words themselves.”
The results were logged and analyzed for a study on “emotional contagion” released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Facebook users had no idea.
The New York Times on June 29, 2014 said:
To Facebook, we are all lab rats.
Facebook routinely adjusts its users’ news feeds — testing out the number of ads they see or the size of photos that appear — often without their knowledge. It is all for the purpose, the company says, of creating a more alluring and useful product.
But last week, Facebook revealed that it had manipulated the news feeds of over half a million randomly selected users to change the number of positive and negative posts they saw. It was part of a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media.
The company says users consent to this kind of manipulation when they agree to its terms of service. But in the quick judgment of the Internet, that argument was not universally accepted.
“I wonder if Facebook KILLED anyone with their emotion manipulation stunt. At their scale and with depressed people out there, it’s possible,” the privacy activist Lauren Weinstein wrote in a Twitter post.
On Sunday afternoon, the Facebook researcher who led the study, Adam D. I. Kramer, posted a public apology on his Facebook page.
“I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my co-authors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused,” he wrote.
There was a buzz about Facebook by using API changes to manipulate data received by over 1/2 million viewers without consent. This buz was in social media and news for some time. Actually, any web-based company can manipulate data without informing users. This is something to be aware of and it should change how you view information on the internet.
What Is psychological manipulation?
According to Psychology Today:
Psychological manipulation can be defined as the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, with the intention to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at the victim’s expense…
…In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda.
Most manipulative individuals have four common characteristics:
- They know how to detect your weaknesses.
- Once found, they use your weaknesses against you.
- Through their shrewd machinations, they convince you to give up something of yourself in order to serve their self-centered interests.
- In work, social, and family situations, once a manipulator succeeds in taking advantage of you, he or she will likely repeat the violation until you put a stop to the exploitation.
How can we protect ourselves from manipulation?
These are the steps to take when you need take:
1. Know your rights and be aware when your boundaries are crossed.
2. Keep your distance from manipulators and avoid engagement unless you have to.
3. Avoid taking things personally and don’t use self-blame.
4. Focus on the manipulation. Ask yourself these questions from Psychology Today:
(Color change mine…)
- “Does this seem reasonable to you?”
- “Does what you want from me sound fair?”
- “Do I have a say in this?”
- “Are you asking me or telling me?”
- “So, what do I get out of this?”
- “Are you really expecting me to [restate the inequitable request]?”
5. Avoid time pressure by the manipulator by saying, “I need to think about this.”
6. Learn to say “NO” and mean it. Stand your ground.
7. Let the manipulator know what you think by words, actions, and consequences.
So…what am I going to do about the Facebook manipulation under the guise of “protecting our privacy?” Now that I have figured out that my gut was right and that this is a manipulation by Facebook, I am going to distance myself from Facebook by concentrating on other social media sites more. I will protect myself by not becoming so dependent upon social media that I concentrate on only one social media site. I am not going to blame myself for Facebook’s covert manipulation. Lastly, I will express my views about this change from Facebook to them in my overt absence and by writing to Facebook as well as expressing my opinion to others.
What are you willing to do? Do you feel Facebook is manipulating us? Let me know your views in the comments.
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