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Dear Mark Zuckerberg: You Can’t Steal Democracy

Mark Zuckerberg apologized before Congress on Tuesday morning for Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And not a hair on his head was harmed.

For people unfamiliar with Facebook’s massive data and privacy breach, the social media platform released the profiles of its users to a private third party company called Cambridge Analytica (CA). CA then released a wave of ads based on what they perceived to be an individual’s political preference and essentially shaped the way millions of Facebook users may have voted in the most recent 2016 presidential election.

However, while people are informed of Zuckerberg’s meddling in the Trump election, what most Americans don’t know is that the Facebook scandal started in 2010. Nearly a decade ago, Zuckerberg unveiled a platform called Open Graph, giving third-party applications a place to set up shop on the most popular social media in the world. According to a timeline provided by CNBC, these applications not only asked for the majority of the individual’s personal data, but also the majority of their friends’ information. Essentially, you could play one of their seemingly innocent games and have the privacy of you and your 200 closest friends invaded.

Three years later, CA released an app called “Thisisyourdigitallife” which built a psychological profile for each person that participated in the survey and their friends as well. Fast forward another three years, and you have Republican primary nominees such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz heavily investing in a series of advertisements for Facebook with the help of CA.

However, the credibility of the 2016 election is not the issue here. Time has passed, the people have spoken, and regardless of whether we like it or not, Donald Trump is our president. The problem here is one of corruption. Our country was founded on the principles of democracy, and Tuesday morning Zuckerberg walked away scot-free after weakening it.

Let me explain:

For democracy to work efficiently, a nation needs to listen to the people — all the people. However, the 2016 election is just another reminder of how we truly live in a plutocracy: the rule of the wealthy.

According to an article from Business Insider, Cambridge Analytica’s bosses not only created promotional advertisements for Trump, but also created “‘Defeat the Crooked Hillary” attack ads. With Zuckerberg making backroom deals and Trump seriously investing in CA’s assistance, the invisible hand of wealth paved the path to Donald Trump’s success.

While not blatant, Zuckerberg’s involvement in the Republican campaign is a threat to American democracy. And Tuesday morning, thanks to Congress, it was essentially legalized. After a quick slap on the hand, an apology, and an empty promise to revise Facebook’s privacy policy, Zuckerberg proved that one can get away with stealing the people’s right to influence political change sans bias.

We as a society need to ensure that we are in control of the opinions we develop. We need to ensure that everyone in our country has equal opportunity to speak up and be heard regardless of wealth and class.

And Zuckerberg, if you want to influence another election, why don’t you try voting like the rest of us next time.

Photo: Jose Moreno via Unsplash

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Yashi Samrendra
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Yashi is a student at University of California, Berkeley. She is passionate about feminism and politics. Yashi spends her free time writing, painting, and spending time with her family.

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