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European democracies under threat from Political Cyber Gaming

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Monitoring Desk: “The European Parliament Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection conducted a Public Hearing where the Whistle-blower’s Frances Haugen was invited for her testimony on the negative impact of social media products on users and this Public Hearing indicates that the European politicians and political parties feel threatened with a new kind of “Perception Building” against political systems and democracies”.

This was observed by Prague-based Foreign Affairs expert Shazia Anwer Cheema in her article published in Pakistan today.

In her article titled “EU political system facing threats from Political Cyber Gaming for Perception Building”, she writes that she believes the most vulnerable are democracies in the developing world where they already face pressures from establishments and powerful corporate giants and one can understand establishments and corporate giants can use social media platforms for “regime change” without coming at the front. We understand a “Deceit Game with Deceptive tools” is being played against many countries, against several political parties, and against a number of individuals through Social Media Campaigning in South Asia.

Hereunder is her complete article published in Pakistan Today

On November 8, 2021, the European Parliament Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection conducted a Public Hearing where the Whistle-blower’s Frances Haugen was invited for her testimony on the negative impact of social media products on users.

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) asked several questions to her regarding harmful technical practices of social media platforms and she briefed them on how did social media platforms gather private data, use it for commercial purposes, and how Facebook keeps engaging people on the platform and why? She also talked about the adverse impact of social media platforms on youth and how one can save youth from adverse impacts? The adverse impact of Instagram was the major issue for members of the European Parliament therefore they raised several questions about Instagram-related suicides among youth and vulnerable people.

EU is investing €7.6 billion in five areas: supercomputing (€2.2 billion), artificial intelligence (€2.1 billion), cybersecurity (€1.6 billion), advanced digital skills (€0.6 billion), and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society (€1.1 billion). Therefore, online safety, the transparency of algorithms, and risk mitigation are important issues for Europe.

After her briefing, there was a Question and Answer Session. I attended both the sessions online to understand the subject of online safety and its priority for the European population, the rapidly changing online world, and how to ensure a better and safer digital environment for internet users.

Member of EU Parliament Christel Schaldemose (S&D, Denmark) who leads MEP for the Digital Services Act (DSA) was of the view that all users of Facebook should know and understand to the greatest extent the business model and the choices behind the operation of the platform while Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany) indicated that Facebook plays (played) a large role in modern society and it shows users political advertisements and political content based on our personal data and this practice can create “echo chambers”.

European politicians strongly believe that there is a dire need to regulate online political content and social media platform (Facebook) should use data of users with the informed consent of the users and the mechanism behind the algorithm should be shared with users so they can know the risk that any algorithm or change of algorithm effects to the users and make the platforms accountable for the adverse impact of the recommender systems and algorithms.

It is pertinent to mention that the European Parliament is working to make the “Digital Markets Act” (DMA) for ensuring the privacy of users that personal data can only be used for political advertising if users give their renewed consent.

According to the office of European Parliament Committee, the “digital transformation is one of the EU’s priorities and the Parliament is helping to shape the policies that will strengthen Europe’s capacities in new digital technologies, open new opportunities for businesses and consumers and that is the reason that EU Parliament in May 2021 adopted a report on shaping the digital future of Europe. EU is investing €7.6 billion in five areas: supercomputing (€2.2 billion), artificial intelligence (€2.1 billion), cybersecurity (€1.6 billion), advanced digital skills (€0.6 billion), and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society (€1.1 billion). Therefore, online safety, the transparency of algorithms, and risk mitigation are important issues for Europe.

Important points Haugen shared with members of EU Parliament during her testimony include:

  • One out of three social media users is under 18 years of age.
  • The users of Instagram feel fear —- I cannot stop myself –I will be cut off from my family and friends if I will stop using it.
  • We really need a system instead of blaming parents.
  • parents want to keep their kids busy sometimes and ask them to use social media.
  • Facebook discourages researches on the impact of social media on kids and for developing meaningful social interaction.
  • Data gathered by Facebook should continuously be shared with the public and data monitoring is needed
  • Hate speeches are also considered as social media interaction
  • Producing more content is the game of Facebook and this is done through creating contradictions and encouraging contradictions including hate speeches
  • Negative comments are encouraged and radicalization is also considered as “Debate”
  • We do not know what actually is going with the data we share with social media platforms?
  • It is the responsibility of social media platforms to tell people about the impact of social media but the assessment process has been stopped inside Facebook operations.
  • Data streaming should be released on monthly basis.
  • There should be a centralized authority in Europe to keep an eye on Fake News and Misinformation.
  • US and EU approaches are different on privacy and morality while a majority of social media platforms are registered in the United States and follow US rules and ethics.
  • Facebook hides the data of impact on people because Facebook knows if data is shared with they would avoid coming on it (Facebook).
  • People Tracking is a forced option without their awareness.
  • Creating “Hate and Division” among social groups is the lethal game of social media platforms.
  • Whistleblowers are important and they have protection US rules.
  • Shadow profiles are on social media to engage people.
  • Instagram and Facebook are providing misinformation and the most vulnerable are those who are already in a lonely phase like divorced people, living single etc
  • You are invited into groups — but leaving a group does not mean that your data has not been shared and gathered by a new group you join even for one minute.
  • Facebook algorithm is tricky and the EU has a big role to discuss these issues because you are (EU) a real democracy.
  • Social Media Platforms must tell what backend system they have for security and data collection.
  • End to end encryption —-Facebook does not share what kind of encryption it has? People would be shocked one day when Facebook would disclose.

This Public Hearing indicates that the European politicians and political parties feel threatened with a new kind of “Perception Building” against political systems and democracies. I believe the most vulnerable are democracies in the developing world where they already face pressures from establishments and powerful corporate giants and one can understand establishments and corporate giants can use social media platforms for “regime change” without coming at the front. We understand a “Deceit Game with Deceptive tools” is being played against many countries, against several political parties, and against a number of individuals through Social Media Campaigning in South Asia.

 

Central Desk
Central News Desk.

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