In a New York Times op-ed, contributor Stevan Dojcinovic attacked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for treating people like guinea pigs.
In the article, Dojcinovic criticizes Facebook for using his nation, Serbia, as a “laboratory” which is affecting the free flow of information in a country that has had problems with censorship.
“My country, Serbia, has become an unwilling laboratory for Facebook’s experiments on user behavior — and the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism organization where I am the editor in chief is one of the unfortunate lab rats,” declared Dojcinovic. “Last month, I noticed that our stories had stopped appearing on Facebook as usual. I was stunned. Our largest single source of traffic, accounting for more than half of our monthly page views, had been crippled. Surely, I thought, it was a glitch. It wasn’t.”
Dojcinovic explained that Facebook had chosen Serbia, along with other small countries, to test page exclusion from the news feed.
“Serbia is a perfect example of why the political context of Facebook’s experimentation matters. Serbia escaped the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, but it hasn’t developed into a fully functioning democracy,” he proclaimed. “One party, led by President Aleksandar Vucic, controls not only the Parliament but also the whole political system. Our country has no tradition of checks and balances. Mr. Vucic now presents himself as progressive and pro-European, but as minister of information in the Milosevic government, he was responsible for censoring news coverage.”
“Facebook allowed us to bypass mainstream channels and bring our stories to hundreds of thousands of readers. But now, even as the social network claims to be cracking down on ‘fake news,’ it is on the verge of ruining us,” Dojcinovic confessed. “That’s why Mark Zuckerberg’s arbitrary experiments are so dangerous. The major TV channels, mainstream newspapers and organized-crime-run outlets will have no trouble buying Facebook ads or finding other ways to reach their audiences. It’s small, alternative organizations like mine that will suffer.”
“We journalists bear some responsibility for this, too,” he concluded. “Using Facebook to reach our readers has always been convenient, so we invested time and effort in building our presence there, helping it become the monster it is today. But what’s done is done — a private company, accountable to no one, has taken over the world’s media ecosystem. It is now responsible for what happens there. By picking small countries with shaky democratic institutions to be experimental subjects, it is showing a cynical lack of concern for how its decisions affect the most vulnerable.”
Facebook routinely experiments on its users without their knowledge, and the company has even previously manipulated its users’ emotions in tests which attempted to make people more negative through Facebook posts.
Even children have been reported to be included in the experiments.
This month, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called for the regulation of technology companies, including Facebook, which he claimed had too much power “to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t.”
Last month, Axios claimed Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, a supporter of regulating Big Tech, has also been “railing against the ‘Lords of Silicon Valley,'” while it was reported that Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all been spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress following the increased threat of regulation.
According to CNBC, “Google spent $4.17 million lobbying Congress this most recent quarter,” while “Facebook spent $2.85 million” and “Twitter spent $120,000.”
In October, the CEO of a popular advertising company called Google a “dictator” in the ad market, while a Vice News report announced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to “influence American politics for generations to come.”