After Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election in the US, big tech corporations such as Facebook and Google demonstrated their readiness to build a closer relationship with the Trump administration.
Dr. Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, told Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker that, by donating $62,500 in cash (as well as an additional $62,500 of in-kind logistical support) to the annual conservative gathering, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is trying to make up for the last year’s mistake when fake news was deluged upon Facebook users just before the election.
The company faced sharp criticism for its inability to prevent false information being republished on its platform, and in response set up measures attempting to tackle the problem.
“I think in the case of Facebook this is just Zuckerberg bending over backwards to make up for the ridiculous comments he made after it was discovered that lots of fake news had reached people’s eyeballs through Facebook in those days just before the election,” Epstein suggested.
But the main reason why tech companies are so readily switching sides and suddenly showing support for conservatives is money, he said.
”That massive traffic of fake news stories on Facebook just before the election made a lot of money for Facebook,” he explained in the Loud & Clear broadcast.
“And what Zuckerberg is doing now is trying to teach conservatives how to use Facebook to reach their constituencies, and that also makes money for Facebook.”
However, Epstein emphasized that attempts by the tech companies to cozy up to Trump is not the most important aspect. Much more important is what these corporations are doing behind the scenes, he said, implying the use of various tools to manipulate public opinion online, some of which are almost undetectable.
“They have incredible power to influence public opinion in…virtually invisible ways” he stressed. “Whatever nice little gloss they are putting on what they are doing, the real question is what are they showing people? Are they showing people, for example, things that are biased toward liberals, biased toward Democrats?”
According to Epstein, it is essential to make sure that there are mechanisms in place to monitor what big tech companies show their users.
Last year, Facebook fired around 15-18 employees who worked on the platform’s trending news section, after it was revealed that the workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers, including those about the CPAC, and favored the placement of stories that boosted a liberal agenda.