nettime's avid reader on Wed, 9 Jul 2014 08:23:45 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Facebook's Mood Study: Orwellian newspeak 2.0

Facebook's Psychological Experiments Connected to Department of Defense
Research on Civil Unrest

01.Jul.2014 | SCG

It turns out that one of the researchers who ran Facebook's recent
psychological experiments received funding from the U.S. Department of
Defense to study the contagion of ideas

There has been quite a bit of chatter this past week after it was
revealed that a recent Facebook outage was the result of a psychological
experiment that the company conducted on a portion of its users without
their permission. The experiment, which was described in a paper
published by Facebook, and UCSF, tested the contagion of emotions on
social media by manipulating the content of personal feeds and measuring
how this impacted user behavior.

Over 600,000 users were used as guinea pigs without their consent, which
raises a number of serious ethical and legal questions (particularly due
to the fact that this study received federal funding), however there is
an even more disturbing angle to this story. It turns out that this
research was connected to a Department of Defense project called the
Minerva Initiative, which funds universities to model the dynamics,
risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world.

In the official credits for the study conducted by Facebook you'll find
Jeffrey T. Hancock from Cornell University. If you go to the Minerva
initiative website you'll find that Jeffery Hancock received funding
from the Department of Defense for a study called "Cornell: Modeling
Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes". If you go to
the project site for that study you'll find a visualization program that
models the spread of beliefs and disease.

Cornell University is currently being funded for another DoD study right
now called "Cornell: Tracking Critical-Mass Outbreaks in Social
Contagions" (you'll find the description for this project on the Minerva
Initiative's funding page).

The Department of Defense's investment in the mechanics of psychological
contagion and Facebook's assistance, have some very serious
implications, particularly when placed in context with other scandals
which have broken in the past two years.

First of all we know that Facebook willingly participated (and
presumably is still participating) in the NSA's PRISM program by giving
the agency unfettered access to user communications. We also know that
the U.S. government has invested heavily in technology used to track and
model the spread of opinions on social media.

The U.S. government hasn't sought these capabilities for the sake of
science. We know from the Cuban Twitter scandal, where the U.S. State
Department where got caught red handed attempting to topple the Cuban
government through social media, that these capabilities are already
being used for offensive operations. Combine that with the fact that the
U.S. Military got exposed in 2011 for developing 'sock puppet' software
to create fake online identities and spread propaganda and an ominous
picture snaps into focus.

The U.S. government is militarizing social media through a combination
of technology and social sciences, and Facebook is helping them.

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