As millions of Americans cast their votes for the next president of the United States, all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 35 contested seats in the U.S. Senate, it’s important to remember just how slim the margin of victory was in 2016, with the election decided by roughly 107,000 votes spread across three states—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—and the outsized role Facebook played in swinging things in the direction of one Donald J. Trump.
In 2017, Facebook itself estimated that 126 million users were served content by Russian troll farms; that the Trump team harvested the private information of over 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge via the firm Cambridge Analytica; and that the Trump campaign brilliantly exploited Facebook’s digital ads, running 5.9 million ad variations in the final months of the election compared to Hillary Clinton’s 66,000. Facebook’s impact was so profound that the data-mining company even boasted of being “responsible” for Trump’s victory in an internal memo.
Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya’s new documentary Coded Bias—premiering Nov. 11 in virtual cinemas—examines the work of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini, who uncovered how facial-recognition AI discriminates against people of color, as well as the disturbing ways technology and social media are shaping the world that we live in.
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