If there is one movie on Netflix that I would urge people to go and see, it is “The Great Hack”. I just watched it again after seeing it in early January. For those who might claim they don’t like documentary films, I say this one is like no other doc movie you’ve ever seen.
It’s got elements of chilling high drama, mystery, scandal, political intrigue, global locations, and a clever investigative ‘reporter’ who’s keen to collect all his personal data back from Facebook. David Carrol’s reason for even taking FB to court is because he has realised several things about social media that he’s found quite disturbing.
The fact that the ‘reporter’ is actually a university professor in communications and digital media studies makes his investigation all the more intriguing.
It means that he knows what he is complaining about. He understands that FB knows so much about each and every one of us that has an account with them, that it was only a matter of time before Mark Zuckerberg would decide to sell your personal data for a fortune.
Still, his profits would be only a fraction of what the data-buyer, Cambridge Analytica, would make by packaging, processing and then reselling your information to the highest bidder.
That highest bidder subsequently used the personal data to conduct what the US military calls “psyops” or Psychological Operations which have involved generating sophisticated and extremely subtle propaganda campaigns that have proved to influence and even change public (meaning individual FB clients’) opinion.
The real problem, our “reporter” discovers, is that many of CA’s richest and most powerful clients are dictators and would-be autocrats who have been elected or re-elected to political office thanks largely to the efforts of CA-crafted ‘psyops’ that target specific social media users. The point is that CA has been extremely successful in achieving its clients’ goals, which boil down to winning apparently “democratic” elections and making it look like people voted by their own ‘free will’, not by mental manipulation. The trick is that voters don’t realise they’ve been fed (over social media) propaganda that supports the CA client.
All this might sound boring. But when you realise CA was involved in the Kenyan election of 2013 as well as the Trump election of 2016 and the pro-Brexit campaign to leave the European Union, you might appreciate the value of understanding how CA works. The two award-winning Egyptian-American filmmakers, Jehane Noujam and Karim Amer, did a superlative job, not only in creating a visually energizing film but also in breaking down a complex history and process that features everyone from Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg to CA’s CEO, Alexander Nix and the working class techie “wiz kid”, Chelsea Kaiser who set up (and “weaponised”’) the CA psyops system.