Images of the attack on the capitol in Washington on January 6 have traveled the world. The documentary “The Social Dilemma”, on Netflix, already theorized these tragic events. At the heart of the problem: the power of social networks.
The chilling images of the assault on the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, January 6, by thousands of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, convinced that the latter did not lose the November 2020 election, have been around of the world. This high place of democracy, so symbolic, which makes the heart of the country beat, was thus invaded by the militants of the “Alt-Right”, this extremist and supremacist fringe of the electorate of Donald Trump, to which they joined. willingly mixed with activists of the conspiracy movement QAnon. For the latter, the United States has been ruled for decades by a criminal organization involving the Bush, the Clintons, the Obamas, the Rothschilds but also Hollywood stars, all with anti-Semitic overtones. The aim of the movement: to prepare patriotic Americans for “the storm to come” and at “Great Awakening” who, thanks to Donald Trump, will bring down this plot and return power to the people.
This attempt to block the certification of the electoral college voting results of the 2020 presidential election and the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, as Congress meets on Capitol Hill to complete this final stage of the electoral process, leads to a record tragic: 5 dead, including a police officer who succumbed to his injuries in hospital. Three senior Capitol security officials were forced to resign for failing to prevent the rampage.
Donald Trump had a good time changing his tone the next day, saying to himself “scandalized by violence, anarchy and mayhem”, promising that “troublemakers will be punished”, calling “to appeasement and reconciliation”, it remains that many are those who hold him accountable for these tragic events by having heated white his supporters in his speeches; the latest dating precisely from January 6.
Twitter account suspension
In the wake of this day of chaos that shook America, social networks Twitter and Facebook have taken a decision never seen at this level. Facebook has suspended Donald Trump’s account for an indefinite period of at least two weeks. Twitter, the favorite tool of the current tenant of the White House, goes further: the firm of Silicon Valley has decided to suspend the account of the outgoing president “permanently”, Friday January 8. A decision justified by the risks “new incitement to violence” from the outgoing US President, who had over 88 million subscribers.
The interested party reacted strongly, this time using the official White House Twitter account, with 33 million subscribers:“Twitter has gone even further in muzzling free speech, and tonight Twitter workers coordinated with Democrats and the radical left to remove my account from their platform, to silence me, me – and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me “; also citing reprisals against the network and the possible launch of its own platform in the near future, in a series of messages immediately withdrawn by Twitter. “Using another account to avoid suspension is against our rules” explained a spokesperson for the company, which will also take action “to imitate the use” government accounts like @POTUS and @WhiteHouse.
A ban and a radical measure that calls out, and raises fears of an abuse of power by these platforms. Because who can claim to control them when they behave like a state within a state? “We understand the desire to suspend [le président], but everyone should be concerned when these companies have the power to remove people from their platforms, which have become indispensable for the expression of billions of people. “ Explain Kate ruane, member of the powerful association for the defense of civil rights ACLU, interviewed by Le Monde.
A society that crumbles in chaos
If we take the time to expose at length and review these events, it is because they constitute the backdrop and a very disturbing illustration of a powerful argument developed in the formidable documentary The Social Dilemma, available on Netflix (whose title in French is “Behind our smoke screens”), which returns to the hidden face of the social networks created by the giants of Silicon Valley. And how algorithms are undermining the very foundations of Democracy, in an insidious way.
These social networks make us zombies, depressives, hysterics. The Gafams have brought us into what Shoshana Zuboff, Harvard professor emeritus who testifies in the documentary, calls “surveillance capitalism”, titer of his work published last October with us. A surveillance capitalism that locks us into our vision of the world, where disinformation and conspiracy gravitate and prosper. Facebook, Google or Twitter now claim to fight against the epidemic of fake news. But isn’t that also going against their financial goals? “In a commercial logic, it does not matter whether a content is true or false, it just has to generate commitment: like, sharing, comments, reactions … There are several reasons why we share content on social networks online, and these are not always related to the veracity of this content, on the contrary! “ written Julien Lecomte, associate professor in information and communication, more specifically in media sociology.
Roger McNamee, business angel and one of the first investors on Facebook, testifies: “Social media is a model of management by disinformation. You make more money when you let unmoderated posts reach anyone at the best price. Facebook has billions of news posts. They don’t know. not where is the reality, the truth. What we see with the Covid is only an extreme version of what our ecosystem of information goes through. Social networks amplify the echoes and the rumors exponentially to the point that ‘we no longer know what is true, whatever the subject that touches us “.
One of the documentary’s speakers The Social Dilemma is Tristan Harris. A former design ethicist at Google now “repented”, he obviously knows the guts of the machine inside out. “We, the Tech companies, have created the tools to destabilize and erode the social fabric, in all countries at the same time, everywhere.” Referring to the 2016 US elections, which brought Donald Trump to the presidency of the country, he blurted out: “the question was not for whom we voted. It was a question of sowing general chaos and discord. It was a question of making two camps which could no longer listen to each other, which no longer wanted to listen to each other, nor Trust each other. Do we want this system to be sold to the highest bidder? Of a democracy for sale, where no mind is out of reach? Where one lies to a specific group to stir up a cultural war? This technology , it is also its ability to bring out the worst in society, the worst being this existential threat. Technology creates general chaos, scandal, incivility, lack of confidence in others, loneliness, l alienation, aggravates polarization, the hijacking of elections, populism … […] This society is now unable to regenerate itself, and is crumbling into chaos. “ An absolutely chilling observation, especially since, according to him, “False news spreads on Twitter six times faster than real news. What happens to the world when they are six times stronger than others?”
Tim Kendall, former CEO of Pinterest and ex-director of monetization on Facebook testifying in the documentary, thus delivers without detour his feeling vis-a-vis this work of undermining democracy carried out by the algorithms of the social networks: “my biggest fear?” -he thinks for a moment- “I think it’s a civil war”. In the light of the tragic day of January 6, when the country appeared more than ever as the disunited States of America under the cries of “Civil War!” shouted by the attackers, these words have a painful resonance and, let us hope, not prophetic …
In fine, pFor all stakeholders, a clinical observation is in order: it is absolutely necessary to regulate and supervise these giants of the Net, to whom governments are ultimately far too accommodating. There are of course laws governing the digital world. But too little. Adorned with educational virtues, intelligently linking form and substance, sometimes very dense, The Social Dilemma asks essential questions about our collective future. More than ever.