How Facebook Can Manipulate the November Election

What could be wrong, though, with increasing voter participation? First, some would point out that people who are Facebook oriented — people who spend more time on social networks — might be inordinately liberal. Others, such as John Stossel and me, have asserted that encouraging generally apathetic, disengaged citizens who wouldn’t otherwise vote to cast ballots simply increases the number of low-information voters at election time. Yet there is another problem, as Zittrain explains:

Now consider a hypothetical, hotly contested future election. Suppose that Mark Zuckerberg personally favors whichever candidate you don’t like. He arranges for a voting prompt to appear within the newsfeeds of tens of millions of active Facebook users — but unlike in the 2010 experiment, the group that will not receive the message is not chosen at random. Rather, Zuckerberg makes use of the fact that Facebook “likes” can predict political views and party affiliation, even beyond the many users who proudly advertise those affiliations directly. With that knowledge, our hypothetical Zuck chooses not to spice the feeds of users unsympathetic to his views. Such machinations then flip the outcome of our hypothetical election. Should the law constrain this kind of behavior?

Professor Zittrain calls this “digital gerrymandering,” which is when a website disseminates information in a way that promotes its own political agenda. Any site can do this, and it’s quite insidious because Web users will generally be unaware of the manipulation. After all, would you know it if a social network simply didn’t send you a voting graphic that a certain targeted group received (I rarely even view my Facebook page)? Zittrain’s article title says it all: “Facebook Could Decide an Election Without [sic] Anyone Ever Finding Out.”

FK – ‘Friends’ don’t let ‘friends’ use facebook.

Is this a viable alternative? I may sign up and find out just how much reality they can stand. I’m not counting on being on there very long. I was a patriot and militiamen before the ‘tea parties’ were cool and ‘tea partiers’ are generally only a couple notches above your average golf playing Dubya voter.

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