Facebook's role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy

by Volker Weber

Are we going to let Facebook destroy our society? And why are you so complacent?

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This sort of information simply doesn’t reach 99,9% of the population. And even if it did people don’t bother to read it let it alone trying to comprehend it. My hopes for democracy withstanding what’s about to come are fairly low. There were so many wake up calls yet people keep hitting that snooze button. The singularity is near.

Markus Dierker, 2019-04-24

Still it gave me shivers. Maybe this amazing talk reached the right people - at least a little.

Hubert Stettner, 2019-04-24

What an amazing talk. And what a horrible story!

Let’s spread the word!

Thomas Lang, 2019-04-24

Markus, this reaches way way way way more people than 0.1% of the population. There is a lot of talk about this topic, how a number of very rich and secretive people have bought Brexit and are still buying it (lots of extremely shady ads just recently asking people to tell their MP to vote for a Crash Brexit). There have been plenty demands for an official inquiry into this problem (blocked by the Tories).

And sadly on the other side of the opinion spectrum there are a significant number of people who instantly denounce this as fake news. To a large extent probably because that would mean they have to admit they were wrong.

Armin Grewe, 2019-04-24

Nuke it from orbit. I've tried a number of times to get friends and family just to stop using Facebook, never mind deleting their account (not an easy task), and they kind of smile and pat me on the head. The hook is sunk deep: they're addicted, and they can't imagine missing out on things.

Richard Albury, 2019-04-25

frightening speech and Yes to Tom's note ... not primary on the topic Brexit ... we all need more awareness and and skepticism on posts that we receive directly or indirectly

Mark Ehmann, 2019-04-25

This is such a disturbing story about the manipulation of the UK Public during the Brexit vote. There was one famous picture which stated if we left the EU, there would be ¢350million pounds a week paid into our National Health Service. It was not true. This was well distributed on Facebook!

The cost of Brexit, according to a Guardian Report is ¢40 Billion per year ..!

The manipulation of our Electoral laws and the updating to including digital subversion needs to go ahead.

Right now the UK is a country in Limbo. Parliament cannot approve any Brexit deals. Large European Headquarters are leaving our shores, jobs are being lost.

The sad thing is even after this fraud and subversion, even after Parliament and well-respected Journalists have highlighted this to the world, the current government will not allow the British Public another referendum.

I would wonder how many people would want to leave the EU after all of this information and subversion has come to light and if the vote would be different.

Andy Dennis, 2019-04-25

What astonishes me most after more than 2 years of watching and constant personal disbelief is that if the dipship Farage would launch a "Brexit Party" this party immediately tops the polls on the forthcoming EU Parliament election. As if nothing at all ever happened. See https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/04/17/brexit-party-leading-eu-parliament-polls. Interesting times we are all living in.

Frank Mueller, 2019-04-25

Frank, there's actually nothing surprising or astonishing about that at all. Absolutely nothing.

To start with there are plenty disillusioned Leave voters who were promised an easy Brexit and still are promised an easy Brexit by plenty hardcore Brexiteers. These voters have been bombarded with this messaging for a very long time, not only before the referendum, but more importantly in the 2.5 years since. They don't read other media, and even if they did, most of the Remain campaign messaging is still abysmal in terms of reaching these people (which is also why it's a waste of time, money and effort to try to reach them. There will always be a hardcore you can't reach. Much more effective to work on the people you can actually influence). All these voters feel betrayed and disappointed by the established parties. A rich hunting ground for the Brexit party.

In addition to that, Farage is actually very good in a few things, in particular tactical/strategic politics. Even though he was (obviously) dead against it, he prepared for the possibility of an extension (and therefor participation in the EUParl elections) months ago. At that time all other parties didn't have that on their radar. He registered the Brexit Party weeks or even months ago (while Change UK was still trying to figure out what they want to be). As soon as it became clear that the UK needed to prepare for the elections he was flying out of the starting blocks, launching his campaign first. A campaign with the perfect name for the party, telling you instantly what you're voting for. A party with a simple message in this complex confusing world, promising a simple solution. Because he was first he received huge amounts of press coverage, plentiful free advertising for his simple message.

At the same time his competition is disunited and confused. No joint messaging. No real talks about a common platform to campaign on. In some cases even direct competition between them (instead of against Brexit supporting parties incl the Brexit Party).

This (at least initial) success was perfectly predictable. I still hope that the other parties get their act together, although I'm not very optimistic.

Armin Grewe, 2019-04-25

Armin, thanks for this profound and thorough look from the inside. You made a point or two there. Yet I still watch the drama with great incredulity.

Frank Mueller, 2019-04-25

I agree with Armin in his analysis of Farage: old Nige cracked on with setting up his latest party. He and his stooges made at least one egregious omission however: https://thebrexitparty.com

Ben Poole, 2019-04-26

In my limited experience of young people Snapchat and YouTube have a much more pervasive influence on the behaviour of its users than the Facebook application. I'm very worried about kids accepting the demise of their privacy and accepting the lack of accountability businesses have for the use the information they collect. On top of that I'm concerned at how kids are being conditioned to behave by applications like Snapchat with the emphasis of streaks.

It's a public health issue in my opinion and governments should be getting much more involved.

Jason Hook, 2019-04-26

I didn't make reference to Brexit in my rant about the new surveillance capitalism that's exploiting us and very directly our children.

The democratisation of information that platforms like FB, Snapchat, YouTube etc offers is as you've all said a real threat to democracy. What do we do about them? I think we should force them to charge for their services, allow users to configure their own feeds, tag content, and allow users to opt out of the capturing of all tracking information. In effect allowing users to see only what they ask to see and provide them with tools to exclude classes of content they don't want to see. I would want to look carefully at advertising and political advertising in particular perhaps imposing a ban during elections.

Jason Hook, 2019-04-26

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