Last week I was forced to think about the impact of social media on the public space and our mutual communication in it. The privacy consultant shared a screenshot of a Facebook ad campaign targeting “similar audiences” to me and two other Dutch political scientists. Of course I know that these kinds of companies Accurate targeting No, but seeing my name on such a short list felt too small. I don’t know exactly how this type of campaign works. Is it common and harmless? Does this happen automatically or is it a conscious choice? So I asked this consultant if he could give me an explanation.
He said he requested his Twitter profile – something anyone could do – which, among other things, lists the advertising campaigns he was offered on Twitter. This is a huge file, of course, and he’s starting to dig into it for highlights. This is how he came across this campaign that was bought by a Facebook account on Twitter and specifically targeted followers and people similar to the followers of the three people. It is not immediately possible to infer from the data what kind of ads are included and why.
What could that mean? The privacy expert couldn’t answer for sure, but his suspicions were that “Facebook is running a pressure campaign targeting people who listen (or look like people listening) to some influential political scientists who focus on the topics covered on Facebook.” He has witnessed such campaigns over the years.Thus, journalists or politicians are targeted around politically sensitive files such as Joint Strike Fighter.
So not very innocent. Of course I don’t know if that’s the case. The question is if I should be notified of this and I hope Facebook can give me an explanation.
This personal event made me think about what happens to public spaces. And in particular about our mutual relations.
I recently read the book expel the other The German-Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han. As the title indicates, it mentions that the “other” is disappearing. Not literally, of course, because we’re in touch with all kinds of other people all the time. But the other disappears. The other as an independent person standing before us surprises us, brings us out of ourselves and disappears. The other people we interact with increasingly target our own interests, are constantly coordinated and compared to others in a system Likes employment swipes. In this way they lose their individuality.
The disappearance of the other in people is an interesting lens for looking at known phenomena. We know there is a gap between friendship on Facebook and a real relationship. Or that someone’s timeline doesn’t tell that person’s biographical story. However, we increasingly appear to each other in this mean way. The effect is to banish the strange, the unpolished, and the unexpected.
Byung Chul Han himself uses another beautiful contrast to illustrate this. The other appears online as a face. Profile pictures, selfies and also automatic facial recognition software seem to put us in a world crowded with others. But the face is not a face. Really seeing someone’s face is another experience. Not the face of someone you walk in front of, but the face of someone who looks back, talks to you, asks you a question or answers you in an unexpected way. The face breaks the stable rest of his plans and expectations.
In addition to the old world of propaganda from others who want to impress us, we now also live in the world of “automated propaganda”; A collection of photos, people, and messages that are basically just a mirror of ourselves.
I was shocked last week by the way it was personally targeted. I can talk about it, but what is even worse is subtly what happens to those who watch ads.
It is appropriate that the word referring to this is “similar audience”. Individuals with resignation enter a public place as changes of the same. It is a danger to our public space if more and more meetings are held there with like-minded people.
On the Internet we are connected to many other people, but something is lost in this area; The other as a face, as an unpolished and unpredictable phenomenon, is subtly banned from our environment.
Aaron Sheikh He is a philosopher belonging to WRR and VU. Maxim February is absent this week.
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of August 24, 2021
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