The preliminary proof of Facebook’s influence on the manipulation of democracy is there. The prophecy of “Brave New World” is about to materialize.
Last weekend, the first results of an official inquiry into digital political manipulation in electoral processes became known. A committee of the British Parliament met for five months, and began by proposing to analyze the existence and influence of “fake news” and its impact on social networks. With the swell of evidence discovered in recent months such as the scandals involving Facebook, the work of the parliamentary committee took on such a dimension that it became an essential document for understanding democracy in these times.
The British parliamentary investigation unequivocally shows two facts: that Russia played an active role in the manipulation of democracy, and that Russia executed thousands of acts of political manipulation and disinformation in a way to ensure that Brexit was ratified.
The language of the now published report is clear enough, leaving no margin for doubt: Brexit won the referendum because a campaign was conducted using disinformation supported by social networks, circumventing all electoral propaganda laws and leveraging millions of pounds from abroad, namely from Russia.
A report from Oxford University had already confirmed that in 2017, acts of political manipulation and disinformation were conducted through social media in 48 countries. In the U.S., Robert Mueller’s investigation is likely to point to unequivocal proof of Russian interference in American elections. Then the picture will be complete. Facebook is the perfect machine for the manipulation of democracy on a large scale, and its impact is much bigger than we were prepared to admit, thanks to the manipulation of personal data which allow the creation of individualized campaigns that generate emotional responses. Our public space is not prepared to reflect and recognize these signals.
What is being examined here is not thinking about catastrophic scenarios such those as described by George Orwell in “1984.” What this is about is the the soft manipulation which Aldous Huxley portrayed so well in his “Brave New World,” in which entertainment led to dictatorship. One does not need to ban books or culture when we are all anesthetized by endless entertainment. It is fundamental to recognize that Facebook is an essential part of the problem concerning the democratic crisis and the degradation of public space – and that it has to be resolved before Huxley’s warnings become reality.