Though Facebook never told its customers it was trying to manipulate their emotions, it was all somehow for their benefit according to Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management, Monika Bickert.
Bickert was at the unintentionally absurd Aspen Ideas Festival where elites search out pseudo-intellectuals to rationalize the mediocrity and malevolence of America’s ruling class. An audience member asked about the now notorious emotional manipulation study and wondered if Bickert saw government regulation coming. Bickert responded by saying the research was for “platform improvement” to help customers:
“Most of the research that is done on Facebook—if you walk around campus and you listen to the engineers talking—is all about, ‘How do we make this product better? How do we better suit the needs of the population using this product, and how do we show them more of what they want to see, and less of what they don’t want to see?’”
“And,” Bickert continued, “that’s innovation. That’s the reason that when you look at Facebook or YouTube, you’re only seeing new features. And that’s the reason that if you’ve got that one annoying friend from high school who always posts her photos of her toddler, every day, that’s the reason you don’t see all of those over the News Feed.”
Is the attention economy becoming command and control? Facebook will decide who you will and won’t see in your news feed based on their view of what is best for your closely monitored and quantified emotional health?
It is also worth pointing out that Facebook is one of the least innovative things to come out of Silicon Valley – not only is it a rehash of Friendster and MySpace, creating a “face book” goes back generations. And that is leaving out the legal settlements Mark Zuckerberg and company settled – worth tens of millions of dollars – with those claiming he ripped them off.
So apparently Facebook’s “innovation” to improve customer service justifies secretly manipulating users. Like a Big Friend Facebook is there to help you decide what consumer lifestyle is best for you.