Members of hacker collective Anonymous reportedly have a plan to take on Facebook by helping to develop a super-private social network where user data cannot be collected by a central authority, according to The Independent. This means users will not be “spied on” by a Big Brother-style headquarters with access to millions of users’ data and powerful supercomputers capable of monitoring and analyzing that data.
“A new social network, backed by members of Anonymous, hopes to take on Facebook and the other social media giants with a commitment to privacy, security and transparency about how posts are promoted.”
Another feature of the new Anonymous network is that users will be rewarded for activity and engagement.
“Users are given points that can then be exchanged for views, meaning that the posts of active members will be more promoted by the network.”
The Anonymous action follows years of reports about how big social networks like Facebook and Twitter were abusing their power, manipulating users and failing to allow for free speech and freedom of expression.
This week, Breitbart is reporting that Twitter has been “shadowbanning” users it judges as “politically inconvenient.” It is claimed that the network keeps a list of favored and unfavored users, and pulls string to promote people it likes and bury the tweets of those it doesn’t.
“Twitter maintains a ‘whitelist’ of favoured Twitter accounts and a ‘blacklist’ of unfavoured accounts. Accounts on the whitelist are prioritised in search results, even if they’re not the most popular among users. Meanwhile, accounts on the blacklist have their posts hidden from both search results and other users’ timelines.”
Twitter apparently demotes or “shadowbans” users depending on their political preference. Some types of accounts hated by Twitter HQ are said to be “tweets from populist conservatives, members of the alternative right, cultural libertarians, and other anti-PC dissidents.” An anti-censorship activist and adult film star named Mercedes Carrera has reported that her Tweets do not appear on the timelines of her own followers. Twitter is also, it seems, not a fan of Donald Trump — a popular pro-Trump account run by blogger Ricky Vaughn is reportedly being shadowbanned, as is the account of right-wing sci-fi author Vox Day, and that of a geek culture blogger named “Daddy Warpig.”
“For weeks, users have been reporting that tweets from populist conservatives, members of the alternative right, cultural libertarians, and other anti-PC dissidents have disappeared from their timelines.”
EXCLUSIVE: Twitter Shadowbanning ' https://t.co/U1vK1xLfNX Pretty sure I'm heading towards shadowing. The thought police are here.
— Tech (@WriteReadRock) February 17, 2016
The political bias of Twitter is at odds with the company’s public proclamations that it is a social network with the mission of merely connecting people and providing a neutral platform for the sharing of ideas. The idea that social media is a free arena that allows people with similar views to connect, even across national borders, and then spark political action, build movements or just have discussions away from the interference of authorities, has been a source of excitement to many. Social media was even cited as a big factor in fanning the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, as reported by Washington.edu. Policy Mic dubbed the explosive protests which spread like wildfire across the Arab world “The Twitter Revolution.”
According to the Libertarian Republic, “[w]ith shadowbans now confirmed by an inside source, there is little room for doubt that the [Twitter] platform is intent on silencing conservatives. Furthermore, it has demonstrated a complete lack of regard for transparency, concealing its shadowbanning system from users and hiding its political bias behind a veneer of opposition to online abuse. In reality, [Twitter] turns a blind eye to abuse from left-wingers.”
It’s not just Twitter that is sticking its tentacles into users’ lives and trying to manipulate what people believe. The Independent reports that in 2012 Facebook ran a sinister secret experiment to test how they could manipulate users’ moods.
“For one week in 2012, Facebook skewed nearly 700,000 users’ news feeds to either be happier or sadder than normal. The experiment found that after the experiment was over users tended to post positive or negative comments according to the skew that was given to their news feed.”
— Stuart Pollington (@Stu_Poll) July 14, 2014
See US Senator's Letter to FCC re: Facebook's manipulation of news feeds and NOT COOL user mood experiment on Scribd http://t.co/1S46NyX150
— Kim Duplechien (@kimdup66) July 12, 2014
I wish Facebook would release their mood experiment as a user-facing feature. I'd use it to filter all negative content.
— Baris Bicer (@AlternNocturn) August 24, 2014
The Independent also reported just last year that Facebook may be trampling on European privacy laws by tracking people. The Belgian privacy watchdog investigated and found serious violations of privacy laws. The regulators urged people across Europe to take care and protect themselves from the surveillance of Facebook.
Facebook wriggled out of the conundrum by claiming it is “subject only to the law in Ireland, the site of its European headquarters.”
[Image credit: Denis Doyle/Getty Images]