On The Listening Post this week: Chris Wylie blew the lid off of one of social media's dirtiest secrets. The whistle-blower has alerted the world to the way Facebook enabled politicians to exploit personal data. Plus, why WhatsApp rumours can be fatal in India.

The Cambridge Analytica story

2018 was going to be the year Facebook would do things differently. Under intense scrutiny from governments and their regulators over fake news, hate speech and political manipulation on his platform, Mark Zuckerberg vowed to fix things.

Then, last weekend, The New York Times along with the Guardian and Observer and Channel 4 in the UK broke a story that shattered Zuckerberg's PR campaign: Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm employed by US President Donald Trump's election campaign, harvested the personal information of more than 50 million American Facebook users. The goal was to create targeted political advertising to influence voter behaviour.

This story sheds light on Facebook's business model of mass surveillance in order to make a profit off of users' information.

Contributors:
Hannah Kuchler, Silicon Valley correspondent, FT
Siva Vaidhyanathan, director, Center for Media and Citizenship, the University of Virginia
Ben Tarnoff, Tech columnist, Guardian and cofounder of Logic Magazine
Silkie Carlo, director, Big Brother Watch

On Our Radar

  • Google is investing $300m on an initiative aimed at spreading media literacy and fighting fake news.
  • Al Jazeera is put under the microscope in the United States as legislators seek to have it registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, a law originally used to combat Nazi propaganda.

Deadly Rumours: India's WhatsApp dilemma

India's most widely used messaging service WhatsApp has become the platform of choice for activists, politicians and marketers alike.

However, the country's WhatsApp habit has a dark side, too. Misinformation, disinformation, rumours, and false messages can go viral, which in at least two cases, had deadly consequences.

Contributors:
Kalyani Chadha, professor of media, University of Maryland
Mohammad Ali, journalist, The Hindu
Vaid Nagar, national director, Gau Raksha Hindu Dal
Pratik Sinha, cofounder, Alt News

Source: Al Jazeera News