Will Social Media Destroy Democracy?

Will Social Media Destroy Democracy?


“The crisis at Facebook intensifying.” “They handed out data like candy.” “A firm called Cambridge Analytica accessed data to 50 million users.” “Data-harvesting programs where we would pull data from users of apps and all of their friend networks.” “That is just the tip of the iceberg.” From fake news to troll farms to bots, and now a sinister data-mining company that used third-party apps on Facebook to manipulate Americans into supporting Donald Trump. I don’t know about you, but I’m scared that I’ve been helping to elect authoritarians just by filling out that quiz that told me I’m a Miranda. I already knew I was a Miranda! Look at me. So are social media platforms like Facebook helping to undermine democracy, not just in the U.S. but around the world? And who’s going to protect us? Our story begins with a sweet global PR firm, Strategic Communications Laboratories, who together with Steve Bannon, data analysts, a Russian professor and billionaires Robert Mercer and daughter Rebekah – the Gomez and Morticia Addams of the ultra right – birthed Cambridge Analytica, a company that harvested the Facebook data of at least 50 million of people in order to impact and coerce politics around the world, which we’re gonna get to soon, but let’s start with the U.S. In addition to Steve Bannon, Trump advisers like Corey Lewandowski, Brad Parscale and Michael Flynn also apparently worked with the company. And thanks to 27-year-old whistleblower Christopher Wylie, we now know just how much the company shaped Trump’s messaging. “We were testing all kinds of messages and all kinds of imagery. That included images of walls, people scaling walls, we tested ‘drain the swamp.’ And I was surprised when I saw the Trump campaign started to talk about building walls or draining the swamp and I’m remembering in my head, wait, we tested this.” Holy sh*t. Is Donald Trump just the mushroom that grew out of the dankest memes of the internet? That’s at once reassuring and terrifying. Ermahgerd … We Erndermerned Our Dermercrasrr. Cambridge Analytica mapped people’s online ape brains into so-called psychographics to micro-target political content to them. And I know what you’re thinking, is that really that hard to do? Our online habits are pretty obvious, it’s mostly just WebMD searches about the rash on our elbow, what koalas look like when they sneeze and how our ex is doing. And apparently the answer to all of that is And what Cambridge Analytica developed and weaponized against the American people, they also used in countries like Mexico, Malaysia, Brazil and Kenya. Their work even included the UK, where the firm helped the Leave campaign get voters to vote to leave the EU. Which makes sense, since Cambridge Analytica funder Robert Mercer is friends with Brexit proponent Nigel Farage. And Farage is tight with Bannon and even advised Trump himself. They’re all friends. They’re like the X-Men, if the “X” stood for Xenophobe. And the incredible effectiveness of the company is probably why whistleblower Christopher Wylie has gone on virtually every news show to repent. “I’m taking responsibility. I’m owning up.” “It’s something that I regret.” “Do you regret what you created, what you did, Christopher?” “Yeah. Absolutely I regret it.” Thank you. Now, Don, it’s your turn. Anything you wanna tell the American people about CNN’s role in helping Trump get elected through incessant coverage of his campaign? No? No, no time? Oh, gotta cut to an empty podium cause Trump’s about to give a speech? No cool cool … Now of course, if the tables were turned and the Clinton campaign did this exact same thing, the right would make this a story all about how Killary and Huma Abedin watch you through your phones. But in an effort not to be partisan, let’s look at the bigger story, which is of course, Facebook. The thing about how Cambridge Analytica mined and used people’s data is that it wasn’t a bug in Facebook’s system. It was a feature. And according to a former employee, Facebook not only allowed these third-party apps to access your friends’ data without their consent, but it lost control over how the data was used. “People are missing, it was not a breach, Facebook gave the data to these developers.” “Yeah, I’m glad you say that. This is the business! The entire premise of Facebook is we are the product, right? You and I are the product.” “I don’t use Facebook.”
“I don’t either.” “I’m not on Facebook where all the plebes are I only use Facebook to connect to Western Horseman online. That still counts? Oh dear. But Chuck is right in saying that when it comes to Facebook, we the people are the product. In 2017, 98 percent of Facebook’s revenue came from ad sales. All the platform does is sell your every move, every like, every share every status update — proving George Orwell never saw Facebook coming. If he had, it wouldn’t have been Animal Farm, it would’ve been Animal Farmville. And Facebook knew that political advertisements had the power to sway elections. It boasted about helping turn out voters to get Florida’s Rick Scott elected and triggering a landslide for the Scottish National Party in the UK’s 2015 election. Both of those case studies, however, are now curiously hidden on Facebook. And today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is denying the company ever had such power: “If you told me in 2004 when I was getting started with Facebook that a big part of my responsibility today would be to help protect the integrity of elections against interference by other governments, I wouldn’t have really believed that that was gonna be something that I would have to work on.” Except swaying elections was what you were telling marketers that you did, Mark! That’s like the makers of Viagra being like, “If you had told me that our product would lead to an increase in elderly STDs, I wouldn’t have believed it.” Oh yeah, then why do you keep pushing ads in the middle of the Price Is Right, Viagra?! You know my Grandpa Joe loves that show! And things get even creepier when you look outside of the U.S. to see how Facebook has wittingly or unwittingly aided authoritarians. “I watch with horror as authoritarian leaders in many countries around the world use social media’s exponential power to spread propaganda. Use anger and hate to manipulate their people and to create alternative realities.” And she should know. That’s Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, and she’s alluding to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, who once compared himself to Hitler. Turns out before he was elected, Facebook trained the Duterte campaign on how to use its tools for political purposes, and the campaign then promptly employed a social media army to help prop him up in the worst ways. “People who are pro-Duterte supporters online really going after critics and opponents, and targeting them in really personal manners and really violent, aggressive manners. So there was this kind of trolling aspect of the campaign early on. And then there was also the fake news element.” And Ressa’s news outlet documented how a mere 26 fake accounts ultimately reached 3 million people on Facebook. And those troll armies had the same name as Duterte’s real-life army of hired assassins, who infamously kill drug users in the country. Which is super scary. That’s like if Jeff Sessions renamed ICE “The Pepe Patrol.” Then there’s Myanmar, where the UN has said that Facebook played a “determining” role in violence against the country’s Rohingya population. “Sites like Facebook and Twitter are playing a role in the spread of anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim vitriol. Many perpetuate the myth that Rohingya are illegally entering from Bangladesh. Some even accuse the Rohingya of burning down their own homes.” Yeah, and that “some” include Myanmar authorities and leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who’ve used official social media accounts to discredit Rohingya women who have reported rape. “Suu Kyi, dismissing them as fake news, you know, ‘fake rape.’ That’s what you read on Aung San Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page. ‘FAKE RAPE.’ ” That’s terrible. And coincidentally, ‘fake rape’ will also one day be the entirety of Trump’s legal defense. The thing is, for Myanmar, like the Philippines and many other countries in the Global South whose internet use through mobile phones has exploded more recently, Facebook is synonymous with the internet. Because logging onto Facebook doesn’t incur mobile data costs – people can access it for free. And that’s been a project set up by, whaddya know, Facebook in dozens of countries under the ominous name Internet.org. Just listen to Zuckerberg sell it. “If a local fisherman gets access to free internet services he couldn’t otherwise afford, to help him sell more fish and support his family, then that’s good.” Depends on the fish, Mark. Are we fishing for tilapia, trout or or a Muslim minority struggling for survival? And while helping local communities with internet access is noble, given what we’ve gone over, going online purely via Facebook might be undermining democracy. Just ask this young Burmese man concerned about how social media has fomented anti-Rohingya violence. Damn, that is a harsh metaphor. Also coincidentally, slide 18 of Zuckerberg’s pitch on Internet.org entitled And then there’s the most informationally totalitarian country of all: China. And you’d think that a country that censors websites and sends tweeters critical of the government to three-year prison terms might give Facebook some pause. Instead, Zuckerberg has been bending over backwards to try to tap into the Chinese market by learning Mandarin, jogging through Beijing and, oh yeah, developing a tool that would allow the government to conduct targeted censorship on his platform. Xie xie, Mark!! And while Facebook eyes Asia, so too does …. Cambridge Analytica, which isn’t going away just ’cause it was shamed. It wasn’t programmed for that emotion! Onwards and downwards! And the continued work of these data propagandists is actually scaring Zuckerberg to the point where he’s even saying thing like this: “Given the stakes here, why shouldn’t Facebook be regulated?” “Um, I actually am not sure we shouldn’t be regulated.” What? Damn. Zuckerberg admitting regulations are necessary is like ExxonMobil going, “Just take some of our oil tankers away, please! We are killing the planet! Have you seen a pelican lately?” It’s disgusting!” And yet imagining that the very governments who utilized social media to get elected would turn around and regulate the platform that helped them do it is a stretch. Which means a lot of this comes down to us, he Mirandas, the Carries, the Samanthas – and sure, the Charlottes — to become more savvy. Revoke privileges of third-party apps, use tools to maintain our privacy and read the entire terms of service agreements before we accept them. Line 29b: “Fascism”?! Wait a gosh darn minute … Thank you for watching Newsbroke, I’m Francesca Fiorentini, please follow me on Twitter. And hey! We made it to 40k subscribers on YouTube! So thanks to all of you who continue to watch us and support us and lovingly comment on our videos. As a thank-you … we have another video next week! So you’re welcome.

100 Comments on "Will Social Media Destroy Democracy?"


  1. I love you Francesca. You are wonderful and brilliant. Keep on fighting. #TakeAmericaBackAgain

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  2. *9:40 By the way, it's Xie, Xie, not "Shie, Shie"; I know it's trivial to point out that your pronunciation is a bit off, just for your information.*

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  3. "And apparently the answer to all of that is 'Benghazi!'" — Francesca

    Simultaneous irony, hilarity, and brilliance!

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  4. Socialize social media!

    It's a public good just like roads.

    BTW big business often love regulation because it creates hurdles for competitors.

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  5. Social media is a double edged blade. It’s so new that no one is prepared for the effect it is having. Like anything new, it will take time to learn how to use it effectively and ethically.

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  6. UK also sending people to prison for "wrong thoughts" even for Jokes and more, So does Sweden and Germany. China is not worst

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  7. Omg I like your videos so much! You make me laugh and think so much at the same time! Wanted to write a comment for a long time, love you! Keep up the good work!😊😊🌈🌈

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  8. I think governments can do more than what the US does to protect their democratic institutions and consumers from social media corporations. Look at the EU! Regardless, the only reason I mess with social media is Newsbroke, and I don’t think my activity as such will come back to bite me . . .

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  9. America is not democratic . never has been , never will be . the constitution and bill of rights are designed to protect me ( the individual ) from you and your crazy friends. when the majority rules the extermination camps open. remember this when you see a poll demanding the banishment of something .

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  10. When will you cry baby liberals quit blaming the election on everything other than the truth? She lost because she is a thieving corrupt arrogant witch!!!!!! Facebook had not one influence of a vote not one!

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  11. I gotta hand it to you guys. This could have sucked. But I'm glad to see you've made it fun without dumbing it down. All you guys are great. Keep doing whay you do.

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  12. LOL, social media? Facebook helped undermine the election? 16 years of extreme GOP neocon FOX right wing southern strategy/ corporate government media propagandists like Bill Orielly/Glen Beck,Hannity, Clear channel radio, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones info wars,and even the DNC/Hillary did more to elect Trump than Facebook and Russia combined Facebook and Russia might have had a minuscule influence, military industrial complex,Cheney,GOP, wallstreet corporations ceos,had more of a influence on creating and electing Trump.

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  13. Facebook is being attacked because of its democratic value /in sharing factual information,it is a threat to neoliberalism and the DNC/GOP establishment. Thats why they both continue to dumb down the mass with lies , simplistic analysis and irrelevant issues. Trump is a creation of neoliberalism economics policies ,the GOPs fraudulent free market/ free enterprise profits before people/ shareholder value ,deregulation,privatization of public government / trickle down economics propaganda is promoted supported by the DNC/GOP corporate government establishment. The fight is amongst the gilded age new class society of 2200 billionaires wallstreet corporations themselves.

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  14. The problem is, the left's response to this won't be: "Get offline and start taking some responsibility for your life."
    It will be: "Get social media controlled." The impetus is never primarily on the individual to improve. We never learn.

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  15. Hell-o. First of my 🔥 goth Jezebel… Ddos -directed denial of service. Serves for restrict totally access to World Wide Web.Overload of existing channels without increasing MTu factor with self multireplicating dns requests providing self excluding directories and fragmentation of network traffic, killing its processes, dismenteling

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  16. Selective outrage much? PR (propaganda if you read the book by Bernays) and Neoliberalism has been "undermining Democracies" around the globe before the internet. Anywhere the CIA has been, there has been a spin master as well

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  17. The only person I know, for certain, was not affected by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, is my 80 plus year old Mother who owns no computer or cell phone. She owns a Jitter Bug, with no internet access, she carries with her when she is out and about, but rarely turns on because she still has a landline.

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  18. So, we know know which Sex in the City character you are, now tell us which Golden Girl you are.

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  19. I love you guys, I’ve kind of been binge watching everything you have so far since stumbling upon this delightful piece of news.
    You guys give middle ground facts and tell the story with a sense of humor, that feels like it’s been lost in the new world.
    As for Facebook, I’ve pretty much given that up, for the fact that there is too much drama posted, but now hearing it’s being used to manipulate elections, that really sours things for me. And I thought Facebook putting eavesdropping softwarein the app to listen in on people so they can sell better to you, was bad.

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  20. Great video, but Cambridge Analytica swaying the election has been news for months before Wiley's confessions. And throughout this whole video, I couldn't help noticing how dope that shirt is.

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  21. A drawback of this show is that Francesca is so charming, personable, and witty that I don't take bad news as seriously.

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  22. Wait minute .. wait a minute .. I'm pretty sure this whole thing is being wildly exaggerated.
    I'm almost certain I was repeatedly told this whole thing is the responsibility of 13 Russian trolls who destroyed Democracy.
    Next your going to tell me that the Koch-fueled data company i360 had something to do with this past Presidential election.
    Or, that the Obama administration was mining data back in 2012 for his re-election. And what goes around comes around.
    No. I'm much more comfortable with the xenophobic Russian narrative that the corporate-media has been pushing.

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  23. I love the way they present the videos, and the best part, they do their research not like Fox news lol. Love Francesca Florentini she made me laugh every time I watch her great videos.

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  24. Franny! Your segments are always amazing, insightful and hilarious…. I think I'm in hardcore like with you…

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  25. i tried to delete the facebook app from my phone. can't do it. WTF? isn't it my phone? i sure as hell paid enough for the thing.

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  26. Apparently you're forgetting the controversial beginning of Facebook. At the beginning its purpose was to "grade" girls pictures at college. Zuckerberg had an amazing idea: let's provide free access to Internet around the world. Amazing I said yes cool he's an angel but then I realized the only purpose he had is to expand Facebook. Poor people don't have food, donde have a home, neither education but they do have Facebook. Doesn't matter if they have to sign a 30 year contract to get access to internet, they will do it. And then government targets these people cause they're easy votes and Facebook has the chance to offer the government digital platforms to help them winning some sort of election or just share some targeted information. That's how it works. And how he's saying it was a mistake? That's bullshit he knows everything but accidentally someone wanted to tell the whisper to the whole world and that's why he says sorry. Fuck him

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  27. 1. I really like your channel. You are a fun person and adress a lot of important issues, thanks!
    2. Everyone with 2 brain cells knows that your data is sold and used to manipulate you.
    3. Why should you use Facebook the way your data can be used to analyse you. I randomly comment, like, am part of groups,etc..
    Just make your data useless through not being you online, but being random. Katzenspiel.

    4. There is a plan (can´t say how true it is, but it seems to be happening) from fb to sell to you the idea of "getting back the authority of your data". Facebook already has the most data, so they pretend to take a step back, because they respect people so much^^.
    http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_Known_Traveller_Digital_Identity_Concept.pdf
    In reality they don´t want competition, which can be achieved through, making further data selling without your content illegal. Don´t forget they already have your data and the algorithms to analyze you, because of actions on fb. The next step will be to make propaganda about the dangers of free travel and that their algorithm can analyze all people and tell if a tourist is a terrorist in disguise or not. Maybe even further, if you are potentiall a dangerous person, through finding all the commons of criminals, through their fb likes. For your own safety you will be advised to be pro algorithm controlled country-entering-system, probably owned by Facebook and ready for misuse..
    5. If you do not "freely" give Access to your whole data, for the algorithm to analyze you are not allowed to enter the country. Welcome to the future..or..

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  28. …Goodest Goddess!!! UgoGrl! RokOn and Viva Newsbroke! cheers(head still spinnin')

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  29. you do yourself a disservice by being an empty, hollow SJW parrot.

    …and you don't need makeup…at all…but you perpetuate another pathetic American trait.

    why don't you LEAD, instead of follow?

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  30. Wow 40k subscribers, i can see you hitting 100k pretty soon, love listening to your comments.

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  31. Which news channel would you recommend best to watch on a daily basis? What I mean by this is which news channel is less biased and manipulative?

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  32. "Manipulated people into supporting Donald Trump"

    Well that explains a lot…

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  33. Every comment I ever make on Facebook on any device has a backspace block, that won’t allow me to edit a mistake I make. Got a brand new iPad to try that and I did the exact same thing. It also does that on my android phone. That’s two iPads and an android where the error only takes place when I make an attempt to leave a comment, or respond to one! I wish to God I could get to the bottom of why they’re doing this to me and who else is experiencing it. It doesn’t happen on YouTube, Twitter, or any place but Facebook, in the comment sections and my postings. It is obviously deliberate.

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  34. Yeah Christopher Wiley is really repenting with his smug bragging all over the internet. Thanks for your brilliant insights on social media, it seems like you're practically Zuck himself, a real expert on software engineering and the related ethics. It's a good thing we have you to educate us in substitute for these unaffordable universities!

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  35. This is a two-sided coin, and it's been going on a lot longer, and is a lot more bipartisan, than this video suggests. To save time, go to the 19:00 mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0c-OSVQcAA

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  36. I interacted with some pro-Duterte trolls on YT around a year ago. I was shocked such a thing existed. Now I know why they do.

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  37. I don't think social media is doing anything that the media hasn't already been able to do for at least one hundred years. Manipulation, distortion of truth, pushing of an agenda: these concepts are hardly unique or even more prevalent with social media.

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  38. Everyone is saying that Zuckerberg is the devil and he's a robot but he's just not media trained and ironically the king of social media is socially inept. But at least he's honest. He actually apologised and is admitting to all the mistakes he made. Far more than can be said of any politician.

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  39. What democracy? Oh, you mean this farce that nearly no one participates in anymore. No. I doubt social media will stop it.

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  40. I got rid of facebook back in 2011 when I was 21, and it was like watching all my friends descend into madness, worrying and obsessing about things that had absolutely no reality to me

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  41. Probably, since the Trump campaign was involved in social engineering. Different messages for different voters according to their desires and determined by our data which was offered up by someone else who didn't have the right to give that permission. Only we have the right to agree to mining of our data and no one else including friends or family members.

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  42. i love when zuckerberg says "if you had told me in 2004, when i was getting started with FB…" he means WHEN I STOLE THE IDEA AFTER THE FIRST MEETING.

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  43. Destory Democracy?? Where?? AMERICA IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. That's why we will NEVER have socialized medicine.

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  44. No longer a FB user thanks to all this…and yes, still using a flip phone too.

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  45. Ironic coming from AJ+

    Rather than showing how all political sides use social media and media in general as propaganda machines. You biasly make it an exclusively right wing thing.

    Make assumptions that Social media is why we voted to leave the EU or Yanks voted Trump. Despite a lot of the old folks who voted don't use social media.

    Social engineering (in sociology and propaganda terms) has been going on for centuries by left wing, right wing, theocracies etc etc. They just have a new platform and CA was one of the least successful, the fact that they were outed shows it while the rest of the social engineers go by unnoticed and laughing they have your opinions under control and politically correct.

    But look at who I'm talking to pfft.

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  46. I really like the satirical style and the program is very informative. In some ways you remind me of Samantha B. I hope you like her because that was supposed to be a compliment.

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  47. Still amazed at how short, witty segments are more informative than mainstream "news". And I'm a long-time imbiber (started with Jon Stewart back in 2000). I recently found you, Newsbroke, and am saddened to learn your run is ending. Love your segments. Hope you're doing similar work going forward. The country needs you and others like you.

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  48. Continua così, Francesca! That was Italian!Keep it going boys and girls at Newsbroke, unfortunately I discovered your channel just a few days ago when you already decided to suspend this channel…

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  49. What kills democracy is not social media or data harvesting. It is sheeple stupidity. And of course the vapidity of politicians. Because in the case of the 2016 election the "opposition"s biggest problem was that they did not stand for ANYTHING.
    But I agree with the analysis of what Facebook is. I was really surprised that everyone was "shocked" about Cambridge Analytica and targeted marketing. Because that is the whole business idea behind social media. That is what Facebook does. It is fairly obvious.

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  50. It is estimated that it would take you more than your entire life to read all the license agreements you actually agreed too.

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  51. Hint, America is not a Democracy or Republic. We have been a plutocracy for at least the last 16 years since I started paying attention. A government by the rich for the rich…. Will the internet destroy that. I fucking hope so.

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  52. There may come a day when corporations convicted of the crime of "supporting a totalitarian state" will lose their intellectual property. There may come a day when corporations will support totalitarianism throughout the world and write whatever laws their owners want them to write.
    \Facebook doesn't deserve to exist.
    Zuckerberg shouldn't be trusted.\

    Francesca Fiorentini's awesomeness inspires me! Please keep up the great work!

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  53. Mark Zuckerberg needs to be STOPPED ..that's why TRUMP put tariffs on china . I knew it had something to do with face book and mark … .what an arrogant evil little punk .

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  54. Yes our beloved democratic system has gone. Today any prospective politician can be bullied into place

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