Facebook as a Visual Black Box
Since 2014, the annual Media Convention Berlin (MCB) has been a conference for current issues in the media industry, media policy and media society at international level. Over two days, more than 100 speakers present their latest findings and research results on topics such as innovation or media regulation. In partnership with the re:publica, the Media Convention is organised by the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and the media authority Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb).
At last year’s MCB, Serbian scientist Vladan Joler held a presentation with the title “Mapping Facebook’s Algorithmic Empire” on his research project “Facebook Algorithmic Factory”. In a visually impressive presentation, Joler pictured the information intermediary Facebook as a visual black box. In doing so, together with his colleague Djordje Krivokapic he intended to disclose comprehensibly how the platform uses the variety of collected user data. For this purpose, around 8,000 of the company’s patents were analysed.
Among other things, Joler was able to reveal the immense profit that Facebook makes worldwide, not least by the activities of its 1.6 billion users. In 2015, the profit amounted to around 18 billion US dollars. Joler figured out that Facebook’s community would provide 300 million hours of unpaid digital work to the company every day. No matter if users post pictures, like posts or write comments – they sell themselves and their data for free in the end. “People produce the material; the algorithm does the job. Only few persons make money with it”, says Krivokapic.
Following the presentation, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Ben Wagner took place. In this debate, Vladan Joler, his colleague Djordje Krivokapic and Dr. Julia Powles (researcher in the field of Law and Technology at the University of Cambridge) exchanged their views on the power of intermediaries as well as on the exploitation and manipulation mechanisms originating from algorithms.
Facebook Algorithmic Factory is a research project initiated by the SHARE Lab. Its objective is to reveal a comprehensive and hidden exploitation process that is hiding behind the black box of the information intermediary Facebook.
Find the whole presentation on “Mapping Facebook’s Algorithmic Empire” by Vladan Joler at Media Convention Berlin 2017 here: