I really hope that “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media” – super-long article by Carole Cadwalladr – is just a collection of conspiracies pieces well tied together by a dramatic and well delivered scripting. Otherwise, chances are we could be trapped in a spiraling series of events that will escape out of control.

A bunch of excerpts:

“Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.”

That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasn’t how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of “Go Donald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the “FAKE news liars!”

Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying?”

(Carole Cadwalladr, author of the article)

“There was a research carried out by scientists at Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre based on a personality quiz on Facebook that went viral. More than 6 million people ended up doing it, producing an astonishing treasure trove of data.

These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. Michal Kosinski, Cambridge University’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves.”

(Michal Kosinski, Cambridge University’s Lead Scientist)

“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”

(Professor Jonathan Rust, Cambridge University’s Psychometric Centre’s Director)

“In the course of the US election, Cambridge Analytica amassed a database, as it claims on its website, of almost the entire US voting population – 220 million people – and the Washington Post reported last week that it was increasing staffing at its Washington office and competing for lucrative new contracts with Trump’s administration. “It seems significant that a company involved in engineering a political outcome profits from what follows. Particularly if it’s the manipulation, and then resolution, of fear.”

(Emma Briant, Propaganda Specialist at the University of Sheffield)

“How is it going to be used? Is it going to be used to try and manipulate people around domestic policies? Or to ferment conflict between different communities? People just don’t understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.”

(Paul-Olivier Dehaye, Mathematician and Data Activist)

“There’s increasing evidence that our public arenas – the social media sites where we post our holiday snaps or make comments about the news – are a new battlefield where international geopolitics is playing out in real time. It’s a new age of propaganda.”

(Emma Briant)

“The holy grail is artificial intelligence.”

(Jared Kushner)

“That press conference. It was absolutely brilliant. I could see exactly what he [Donald Trump] was doing. There’s feedback going on constantly. That’s what you can do with artificial intelligence. You can measure ever reaction to every word. He has a word room, where you fix key words. So with immigration, there are actually key words within that subject matter which people are concerned about. So when you are going to make a speech, it’s all about how can you use these trending words.”

(Andy Wigmore, Brexit Leave.eu Communications Director)

It’s very scary. Kudos to Carole Cadwalladr for this brilliant piece of journalism.

Link: Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media



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