Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has served as not just the world’s largest social media platform, but also as an inadvertent cultural influence, providing almost two billion users with news, media, advertising, and other social influence. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that social media has revolutionized the Hip-Hop industry in the way that music and other art are shared, marketed, and promoted, as well as from where artists may draw influence. 

Yet, as is often the case, the good (especially things that are free) comes the bad. While Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy was one of 2018’s hottest-selling albums, it might have also been dubbed as Facebook’s alleged tagline for 2018. 

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The last year capped off several years of privacy issues facing Facebook: questionable data sharing processes, issues about how user information is used, accusations of timeline manipulation, plus a host of other concerns. On March 26, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began conducting a detailed investigation  into Facebook’s privacy practices. The year-long investigation remains ongoing, and almost monthly seems to turn up new evidence of purported wrongdoing by Facebook allegations that range from the privacy invasion to political hacking and internal discrimination.

While the average social media user has the option to simply walk away from Facebook, for those in the Hip-Hop industry it’s difficult to do so since a social media presence is required, even for the mega stars. Accordingly, it’s best to wise-up and learn the Facebook privacy issues, as well as other social media and online platforms, as Facebook is not alone in wide-scale mistakes impacting users.

Possible Compromised Intellectual Property

While Facebook is no stranger to questionable advertising policies, the issues were typically relegated to publicly available profile information. Yes, Facebook could see users’ hometown, current city, age, relationship status, interests, friends list, etc. The end result was typically a barrage of ads for local businesses, graphic t-shirts, and other products or services that advertisers had deemed relevant. While this type of information gathering has been standard procedure with almost all search engines, major retail websites, and social media platforms for decades, practices have generally been limited to geotargeting and collecting demographic 

that social media has also changed. He pointed out the ongoing, significant effect of social media on both individuals and corporate America in general. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube provide Hip-Hop artists with the opportunity to launch new music and products, push upcoming concert performances in local venues, or simply connect directly with their avid fans without having to get permission or clearance from their record companies or attorneys. 

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For major Hip-Hop artists, Facebook has done an excellent job of providing a centralized location for artists such as Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and other big names to share new music, videos, concerts and events, and other announcements all in one central location rather than requiring users to scroll through a feed (such as with Twitter or Instagram).

Yet by identifying an artist’s fans through a third party app, another record label or artist could essentially “poach” the fans by marketing to them through paid ads–a practice of skewed promotion to the disadvantage of new and emerging artists.

A Manipulated Fan Base

In July of 2014, Facebook data scientists, working loosely in conjunction with Cornell University researchers, conducted a mood-manipulation experiment on thousands of unknowing users. In the experiment, Facebook altered users’ news feeds to show more positive or negative posts, testing whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the news feed. The study’s hypothesis was to show that emotions could spread on social media. The controversial results were published in an academic research paper for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where the research supervisors noted that the study was conducted under the direction of Facebook’s policies and, therefore, did not fall under the regulations of the International Review Board (the committee that oversees academic research).

This exercise shows that Facebook has the power to manipulate news feeds to influence the feelings of users. Facebook does not regulate the sharing of false news from third party blog sites. In 2017, DMX, Tyga, and Rick Ross were just some of the celebrities whose photos were used in conjunction with fake stories on Breitbart Insider, a semi-satirical news site.

Big Brother-esque Surveillance 

While the idea of increased government surveillance might sound a bit tin foil hat-leaning, the truth is that throughout human history, it has traditionally been in the best interest of governments to oppress views that significantly deviated from their own. From a historical perspective, musicians and other artists have often led counterculture charges that oppose the views of the government or ruling elite. In fact, Hip-Hop’s earliest roots date back to using art to protest issues of the day. 

In one of its numerous investigations into Facebook, the FTC complained that Facebook exposed users’ profile information, including “potentially controversial political views or other sensitive information,” to third parties. Granted, most of what Hip-Hop artists say online is public, but that would require human evaluation. With a Facebook algorithm monitoring millions of posts per week looking for key words, likes, shares, and other social media metrics, it would be very easy for a computer to identify the biggest proponents of “deviant” ideologies. Since Facebook is a private entity, it reserves the right to remove content that is determined to be offensive, determination based on loose standards and subjective, seemingly ever-changing opinion. 

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The FTC investigation in the spring of 2018 found that the disgraced Cambridge Analytica regularly used information to build a “psychographic” OCEAN profile of users (the OCEAN acronym stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism). Researchers associated with Cambridge University claimed in a paper that it “can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender.” Combined with the fact that a computer algorithm has the capability to build a psychological profile of a user along with the ability to see that user’s friends or fans, then the much-bragged about logistic/linear regression model could also have an impact on an artist’s fans, either from unscrupulous advertisers or unwarranted government surveillance. 

Even if Facebook did not remove content, it clearly has the ability to manipulate content. Since Facebook is also a crucial power and promotional tool that allows fans to stay in touch with their favorite artists, giving them the power to connect with said artists through Facebook posts, replies, and messages, manipulating an artist’s content from their fans’ newsfeeds would have a significant impact on the artist’s message and influence. Given the clear privacy challenges, the question is whether or not Facebook has too much power.