They Want Your Soul

I’ve not had a really good rant on here for ages, have I?

You shouldn’t take that as a sign that I’m mellowing with age. Far from it. It’s just that things seem to happen so fast these days, by the time I’ve crystallised my thoughts, formulated the argument I want to put forward and, more importantly, thought of a decent song which sort of links to the topic under scrutiny, the news has moved on to the next thing that we’re supposed to feel outrage about.

For example, a little over two weeks ago, a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned in Salisbury. By the time I’d had chance to read up on it, identify some reliable sources to quote and choose a couple of absolute doozies of tunes to play, I looked up and found that the debate was no longer about whether or not the Russians were responsible, but had moved on to the much more important topic about whether or not the BBC had made Jeremy Corbyn’s hat look “a bit Russian” in a backdrop on Newsnight. And I have no decent records about hats, or rather none that I’d care to sully the already sullied name of this blog by posting.

So that one sits on the back-burner for now; apparently the police investigation into it is likely to last until summer so, y’know, it can wait.

I did have a pretty good tune ready for whenever I saw that the next round of Brexit negotiations starting again, but really the whole Brexit debacle seems to be one long blur of never-ending lies and mind-blowing incompetent twattery…I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time to return to this too. Well, there definitely will be, for we now know that the terms of the Brexit Transition Period have now been agreed. And just how many points was the guy in our corner, David “Double D” Davies, able to get the EU to concede to in order that a transition period could be agreed? None. And what about the other way round – how many of the EU negotiator’s points did Davies agree to? All of them.

Oh go on then, you can have that tune now:

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Grace Jones – Send in the Clowns

And then over the past few days, the whole matter of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica hit the fan. Just in case you’re not fully up to speed on this: following a whistle-blower interview and confession, Cambridge Analytica have sort of admitted to helping UKIP’s Brexit efforts to win the referendum by harvesting information based on the sort of stuff people post on Facebook, then identifying people who seemed likely to vote Leave, or seemed undecided, or just seemed to be an idiot, and targeted them with false information designed to gently nudge them towards voting the way their paymasters wanted them to. It’s like when you were younger, and didn’t want to go out with your partner anymore, but didn’t want to be seen to be the one to finish things: you behave in a way so subtly appalling as to make them end things and think it was their idea all along.

Cambridge Analytica, of course, denied any wrong-doing, and in fact they had never helped the Leave campaign and if they did, which they definitely didn’t, but if they did, then it was only for a bit, and they definitely weren’t paid for it, they did it as a freebie, not that they did anything at all.

Meanwhile, central figures in the Leave campaign, namely Aaron Banks – co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign, and one of the largest donors to UKIP has posted this on Twitter:

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Bit awkward.

Just in case you don’t recognise Banks, here’s a picture which you definitely will recognise, which some kind soul captioned so that we can identify all of the lovely people posing:

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And this turns out to be quite a handy way for me link to the fact that Cambridge Analytica is not just accused of meddling in the EU Referendum, they’re also implicated – along with them pesky Russians, of course – in some distinctly underhand shenanigans on Facebook in the US Elections back in 2016. Perhaps come back to this another time.

But make no bones about it, whilst the focus is, for the moment, on Cambridge Analytica, Facebook are just as culpable in my eyes for allowing them to do what they’ve done. Moreover, they’ve known about this for at least two years and have taken no action until the current crisis hit.

Personally, ever since I learned about updated Terms & Conditions that Facebook had implemented which basically said that any content that you uploaded onto there was, essentially, theirs to do with as they please, I’ve practically stopped using Facebook. I rarely post anything there, but I have a few friends who are on there and who I see rarely, so it’s a handy way of staying in touch with them. However, the consequence of me not posting anything on Facebook pre-Brexit to indicate my political inclinations meant that I didn’t have to wade through any of that guff on the occasions when I decided to flick through my time-line to see what they had been up to.

The thing is, many people did not realise how the data that they innocently posted on Facebook was going to be used, and may still be used. Facebook followed the iTunes model of knowing full well that when they send customers a 12+ page updated Terms & Conditions, with the possibility of clicking “Accept” rather than actually having to read them all, 99% of them will take that option. Which means that Facebook, iTunes et al, can put whatever they like in those T&C’s and You and I will have no idea what’s in them.

And then, when we complain, they can say “You clicked ‘Accept’. Sorry.”

Which all sounds a bit mad conspiratorial 1984 Big Brother, I guess. And normally I’d agree, if this wasn’t all getting played out right now.

A tune, then, which I’ve not been able to get out of my head since the story started to emerge:

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Freeland – We Want Your Soul

More soon.

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