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Why does the media seem to be publishing so many "well duh" tier articles about various companies at the moment? "Big data company collects big data", "company known for monetising private data collects private data", "political consulting company profiles voters and tries to affect vote".

No shit?




> Why does the media…

Here’s a handy formula next time you ask yourself a similar question:

Why does the media X?

Because people watch / listen to / read X.

Why do people read about companies collecting data? Because it sounds scary, and it blames someone who is not them. Fear + scapegoat + victimisation of people = read read read read.

Don’t think of it any more complex than this or you will drown in irrelevant details. They don’t matter, and they never will. Read some 19th century news papers to see this effect take hold with comical clarity.


yeah, good point. It makes sense how such clearly irrational articles could come about through those incentives.


There are obviously people out there for whom this is new information.


media will do this about every subject, think of it as the original analytics, if the story drew a lot of attention then another story similar to the first story will also draw attention because people will associate it with the original really interesting story that drew all the attention. Sooner or later the quality and interest of the stories on subject X will decline and people will not react so much to them so the writing of these articles drops off.

Currently, because of facebook, there is a spike of Company Y knows everything about you type stories, as well as a spike of Facebook is evil stories. These things permeate out and loose interest over time.


Here’s the problem with the journalism industry:

They love to write about scandals and problems. But if you have an actual solution to the problem, they aren’t going to publish it.

You can also see articles on court cases about some scandalous things, but can hardly find out how the case eventually turned out. And so on.

Journalism highlights problems not solutions because that’s what gets the most “outrage reshares”. The exception is some “cool new technology” that can have a story about it, but not as a SOLUTION associated to a lot of PROBLEM stories.


> They love to write about scandals and problems.

They particularly love to write about scandals and problems among their rivals. That's the real change here: journalists and bloggers have gone from thinking of Facebook (and other social media) as potential allies to thinking of them as rivals. Negativity sells, as you say, but negativity that reinforces one's view of rivals as evil is especially appealing. People whose own Google Ads revenue is declining because the eyeballs are elsewhere are very highly motivated, both consciously and unconsciously, to write about why those eyeballs are elsewhere when they clearly shouldn't be.


I think the problem is market economy. Media organizations are businesses which are organisms that focus on the bottom line. I.e. making as much money as possible. Usually the only way to fix these market failures ( I consider this dissonance between monetray value and actual long term value to be a market failure) is with formal regulations or non formal moral regulation. The former is tricky and the latter is requires cohesive cultural values and structures. Sadly (imo) the most effective coltural structures are religious.


Because what is clear to you, isn't clear to Joe public. Oh - and "company known for monetising private data collects private data" isn't the story. People kind of understand that. What they didn't understand is that "company known for monetising private data" actually sold the raw data, rather than using it for its own targeted advertising.


has there actually been any suggestion/evidence that Facebook sells the data? All I'd heard is that companies like Cambridge Analytica were using surveys and Facebook's at-the-time lax data security to scoop up data about the friends of people who answered their Facebook quizzes.


"A more productive answer to someone saying something you agree with is “I agree”, not mistakenly berating them for not agreeing sooner."

(https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16627766)


People have been aware of the basic facts for a while, but not its prevalence or significance. Also, nobody is as zealous as a new convert. Everyone wants to raise awareness of what they've just noticed themselves, even if others had noticed it long before. Thus thousands of articles have been written by journalists and bloggers about the same few things, while hundreds of HNers happily submit and upvote every one here even when they're redundant or poorly written.


>Why does the media seem to be publishing so many "well duh" tier articles about various companies at the moment?

Did you miss the whole Facebook and election thing?


no I didn't, that's partly what I'm referencing. What specifically are you pointing to?


Most non-technical people (and even many technical people) don't know this. I am myself surprised that the Facebook thing caused such an out cry now, but that's what happens when you bring these things to people's attention.


That's why they publish these kinds of stories. It's related to current events.


I realise this, but it stinks of artificial controversy. I get that a lot of people are unhappy that Trump was elected, but there are so many articles trying to spin Cambridge Analytica as some kind of shady political Illuminati instead of a me-too political digital consultancy, suggesting that Facebook collecting private data is a new shocking revelation, or now that we should be shocked that a big data processing government/enterprise contractor is processing big data for the government and enterprises. Alongside all the "democracy is broken" articles we're seeing, it seems to be all focused on harming the legitimacy of the election and implicating shady power players in the outcome, a play that would seem more at home on Alex Jones' show than splayed across every mainstream media outlet.


Not a bad idea to yell at someone asleep at the wheel.


I know this might be a surprise to you, but not everyone knows everything that you do.


I'm not exactly tapping my own research here. Palantir is a big data/spying company, what do you expect from them? Facebook asks you for lots of private data and it's clearly obvious that when you post data on Facebook, Facebook gets that data. So what's the shock that they hold this private data? The only surprising aspect of the current Facebook drama is that they apparently mine your phone for additional data but that's not the main focus of the outcry. Why are people surprised that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, did political research and affected a voter outreach strategy? None of this requires any real background knowledge, and yet the outcry seems extremely disproportionate to the revelations at hand. It seems like the Snowden reports all over again, where the world was up in arms that an intelligence agency was collecting intelligence.


Most of the people knows nothing about all these things, until the media picks up the story. They at most believe Palantir is a Skype stone for elves and that Facebook makes money just running ads just like printed newspaper TV stations and radios run ads on very basic criteria (i.e. different ads during a soap opera than during an action movie), but they're not aware of the depth of analysis FB et al. perform.

Example from other field: aircraft passengers have breathed compressor bleed air since jet engines were introduced in the 60s, everyone in the industry knows this is how it works, and yet it wasn't until last year, when major publishers such as Fortune [1], The Guardian [2], Bloomberg [3], The Telegraph [4] etc. happened to simultaneously run this issue, that lot of the general public learned about it for the first time, most of them having assumed that cabin air was taken directly from the atmosphere.

---

[1] http://fortune.com/2017/08/09/dangerous-cabin-fumes-planes/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/19/sick-crew-to...

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-08/airline-w...

[4] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/world-health-organis...


the thing is, articles about how facebook collects private data and analyses it have been running pretty much non-stop for the last few years. I would totally understand the reaction if that hadn't been the case.


> Palantir is a big data/spying company, what do you expect from them?

How can expect anything of them when I don't even know that company exists, let alone what it does?

> Why are people surprised that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, did political research and affected a voter outreach strategy? None of this requires any real background knowledge, and yet the outcry seems extremely disproportionate to the revelations at hand. It seems like the Snowden reports all over again, where the world was up in arms that an intelligence agency was collecting intelligence.

This is simplifying the discussion a lot. The general assumption about both intelligence and research was probably that they stick to rules and are concerned with their own fields.

I'd guess the average joe would (before snowden at least) think that an intelligence agency is concerned with foreign diplomats and military strategists and a political consultancy does opinion polls.

It's something different if said agencies collect intimate data of random citizens without their consent. At least in public mind, that was something the stasi or similar organisations did - but certainly not their own side.


you raise a good point - with the intelligence agencies, I can believe that plenty of people think (or used to think, before Snowden) they are focused on specific valuable targets such as diplomats given that's how they supposedly used to operate before asymmetric warfare, terrorism and sole attackers became the median threat.


That is a life lesson that keeps on learning




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