Facebook is a Big Brother. Google is a Big Brother. Amazon is a Big Brother. They all monitor their users and customers in an incessant stalking effort to gather ever more information about us. My question is simple. Who is monitoring the monitors?
Mac And 1984
Is it a coincidence that the Mac was launched in 1984? George Orwell’s Orwellian novel 1984 told of a Big Brother future with monitors everywhere.
Big Brother is a fictional character and symbol in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is ostensibly the leader (most likely a symbolic figurehead) of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling Party wields total power “for its own sake” over the inhabitants
We are decades beyond 1984 and the world is not being surveilled by a single Big Brother. There are many big brothers, including the aforementioned Facebook, Google, Amazon, and many others. They are not an integrated collective, but they share data culled from you, the user of their products and services.
Who monitors the monitors?
Good question. When you post something on Facebook or other social media and it gets taken down, does the monitor tell you why? Usually not, right? Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) wants more transparency from the likes of Facebook which would require them to issue reports on what is removed and why.
Someone wants to monitor the monitors.
When things go badly for Facebook, Google, et al, they blame the problem on an algorithm that went wonky. No human was involved. Except that a human wrote the algorithm and humans could easily oversee what those algorithms pull from public view. Maybe humans will write an algorithm to review those items, too.
EFF has joined with other entities which monitor the monitors to promote more transparency and accountability; first in content moderation. It’s called The Santa Clara Principles and the guidelines say major publishers should follow these rules and a few others:
- List the total number of discrete posts and accounts flagged.
- List those posts remove and accounts suspected
- List which were removed or suspended by rule violation.
That seems fair enough but the Principles also call for review by a person or panel of persons. That becomes more of an issue because Facebook and Google remove items in such large numbers that humans may not be able to administer appropriate oversight.
Algorithms sure don’t do a good job.
Such monitoring of the monitors is all well and good but don’t expect much to come of it. We haven’t reached Orwellian 1984 because there are too many monitors but once they start collaborating and sharing their collected data with each other and the government, it will be too late for new monitors to monitor the monitors.
At least someone is watching Big Brother. Why isn’t it Apple?