500 signatures reached
To: House of Representatives
From online petitions to voter enrolment reminders, digital platforms like Facebook have enabled New Zealanders to connect, collaborate and engage in our democracy in new ways. But it’s not all good news.
Social media platforms are also being used to manipulate our democracy - as shown by the alarming revelation that Facebook allowed millions of users’ personal information to be exploited by corporations who use it to manipulate elections around the world.
This has to stop. We call on Parliament to take action to prevent the erosion of our democracy by gigantic corporations like Facebook.
Why is this important?
It’s been revealed that Cambridge Analytica used tools provided by Facebook to suck up personal information about millions of people, and used it to spread targeted misinformation during the US election. Similarly manipulative tactics were used in the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom.
The problems with Facebook don’t end with the manipulation of personal data for political micro-targeting. Facebook’s algorithms are designed to be both addictive - using the insights of neuroscience to keep us scrolling longer - and polarising. Content that outrages us gets more of our attention, and our attention is the product Facebook sells to advertisers. Those same algorithms allow the rapid spread of disinformation and fake news by people who want to disrupt democratic processes.
Some people have responded to these problems by deleting their Facebook account or changing their privacy settings. But just as we’ve learned in relation to climate change, individual behaviour change can’t replace effective government regulation. The only long term solution to these problems is government regulation of the mega-companies making massive (and often untaxed) profits from the use of our personal data.
Only government action can prevent further breaches of privacy and erosion of our democracy by Facebook, it’s time for the government to step in.