Are Internet Algorithms giving Mary Shelley a run for her Frankenstein Monster?

By Hector Cisneros
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It’s almost the 200th anniversary of the classic horror story Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. So, what’s this got to do with marketing? Lately, there have been a slew of news stories about how advertising and newsfeeds have gone awry doing everything from favoring a political candidate, and allowing hostile foreign governments to influence elections, to allowing advertisers to target hate speech or dissidents without the search and social media giants knowing what’s going on! In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will take a close look at the Frankenstein results being produced by search and ad algorithms now being used by the internet giants. In fact, we will see how these scary results foreshadow the future of Artificial Intelligence and its uses in the 21st century.



So why should you care if Facebook or Google uses an algorithm to make advertising decisions? That’s a legitimate question. Facebook and Google are private companies, and they have the right to conduct business by any legal means at their disposal, right? I believe they do, as long as they don’t harm or mislead the public. However, we are finding that media giants and artificial intelligence do not always make decisions the way business people do. In fact, they aren’t always in control.

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I had warned about the possibility of artificial intelligence algorithms going crazy. I predicted that soon these AI programs would either be hacked or produce unwanted results on their own. I also warned about media abuse which includes; censorship, fake news, and influence peddling as well. Read my prediction article for 2017,  and my article on the 2016 election.
On top of that, we as a free people have to wake up to the fact that these media giants hold massive sway over public opinion. The way I see it is we have three types of potential Frankenstein problems that could come from the internet in the near future. The first is the abuse of reporting and influence peddling, AKA skewed or fake news, which we are inundated with today. The second is artificially intelligent algorithms running amok, and the third is clever hackers (either by themselves or under government edict) taking control of the media to push their twisted agenda.

Frankenstein Finds a Home in AI
Take for example what happened in March of 2017. A Times investigation
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showed that UK government ads were running on top of extremist content on YouTube. This announcement prompted several very large companies to pull their ads from YouTube and the Google Display ad network. This included companies like AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and others to pull all their ads. When I first read about this in ADWEEK, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, it was just a confirmation of what I knew would eventually happen.

Recently, Facebook was embarrassed by a report in ProPublica that showed that Facebook enabled advertisers to target “Jew Haters”. To
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make matters worse, that same report showed Facebook recently admitted that $100,000 worth of ads had been placed during the 2016 election season by inauthentic accounts that appeared to be affiliated with Russia! Facebook's algorithms allowed advertisers to target people based on hate or political speech, and political affiliation. Needless to say, this is a troubling issue and a direct attack on privacy. Facebook’s COO, Shery Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg (the CEO) both have addressed this issue directly in their social posts and by stopping these ads from running. However, this is still a long way from changing how their algorithms work. Oversight is still needed.

Frankenstein Make Fake News
In my article on influence peddling, I wrote about how both Google and Facebook where seemingly skewing search results during the 2016
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presidential election season. In my article called “Can Internet Giants Google & Facebook, Steal the Election?”, I provided evidence that showed skewed news search favoring specific political candidates.  Now Mark Zuckerberg is engaged in what seems like a 50 state PR tour to deal with Facebooks current Frankenstein monsters. An article in THRIVE GLOBAL even hints that he looks like someone who would like to be called Mr. President one day, even though he’s currently being labeled the less-flattering title of Dr. Frankenstein.

Frankenstein Hack Fest
Every day we read about massive hacks of financial institutions, media outlets, government infrastructure, utilities and political candidates. Now
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Foreign governments have learned how to weaponize hacked content to attempt to affect elections and public opinion. I am not sure how the election would have turned out if the alleged Russian hackers did not release all the damaging information on Hillary Clinton and the facts that the Democratic party was rigging the selection process. In fact, the latest headline in Newsweek states “OBAMA GETS BLAMED FOR CLINTON-SANDERS ‘RIGGING’ SCANDAL THAT’S ROCKED DEMOCRATIC PARTY.” On top of this, you have top Democratic officials placing blame on each other. However, the fact remains. If the Russian Frankenstein hack fest had not taken place, we might have never learned about this collusion and Hillary may well have been elected president.

Rise of the Frankenstein AI
Not too long ago, my business partner and I wrote a few articles about
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the current state of artificial intelligence. One of the articles entitled, In Search of MicroAngelo,
explored how Google was spending a lot of time, money and resources developing AI applications that could “SEE,” “READ” and “WRITE” on its own. In another article about AI called, “Do Smartphones Dream About Facebook?”  we explored how Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM are all feverishly working to advance and perfect artificial intelligence applications.  Apple has SIRI; Google has “Rank Brain” and its “OK Google” assistant, Facebook is working on an AI called “M.” Microsoft has added the “Cortana” AI to Windows 10 and is expanding its use to smartphones and other applications. Amazon has expanded the ECHO platform with Alexa to be housed in no less than seven devices. And of course, IBM’s “Watson” has been evolving since 2011 when it successfully competed against former Jeopardy champions.

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In a recent Forbes article by Tony Bradley, he talks about Facebooks AI runs amok where they had to shut it down because the AI engine they had developed its own unique language that humans can’t understand. Facebook's AI Research Lab found that its chatbot had changed its script and was communicating in its own new language without human input. This is an amazing discovery, but at the same time it is also very scary as well.

If this doesn’t scare you then this just might. Did you know that many stock markets, buying decisions are made using AI algorithms? In fact, this type of technology is in widespread use and thousands, if not millions, of buy sell decisions are made each day by AI algorithms. What happens if these AI programs go awry and buy or sell at the wrong time? What happens if they trigger a major crash? Yes, Frankenstein is alive and well on Wall Street.



Watch this short video on StockMarket AI

Frankenstein Can Cut Both Ways
All of the AI devices have great potential to help humanity in a wide variety of ways. But like all technologies, they are a double edge sword. Take for instance the fact that AI tools can reduce the amount of labor needed to build various things. This fact does not negate the reality that less labor may also mean a lot fewer jobs as well. This is not an evil consequence of a Frankenstein AI going after the labor force, but it is a great example of automation being a double-edged sword.

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It’s important to realize that any tool can be used to build things, to do useful work and help others. However, any tool can also be used in a destructive way, as is the case where Facebook and Google algorithms went awry or were misused as an advertising medium. Most tools can also be used for good or evil. But only AI tools have the potential to learn to do either on their own.

In an earlier article by my partner Carl Weiss, he talks about the effect on the workforce once robots get into the mix. He also quoted the likes of heavyweights like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking who are warning us to create restrains on the development of artificial intelligence technologies because they could one day decide they don’t need us anymore.

In the past, I have made many predictions about technology and artificial intelligence, including how the mixing of these endeavors will affect our society. These technologies will have a dramatic impact on all of us. The genie is out of the bottle, and this genie may not need you to rub the bottle much longer for it may be already thinking of doing its own bidding. Read the dozens of articles on the notes page of our blog and educate yourself so that you can decide how to best address this growing menace before Frankenstein’s monster is let loose. Write your congressmen and ask them to draft legislation to begin the process of creating a set of rules that will put in place safeguards to protect us from AI gone wild. I predict that a failure to do so will have dire consequences, sooner than later. And I mean as fast as you can say “OK Alexa.”

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article discusses the three Frankenstein monsters that the internet
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has given birth to. These include fake and skewed news, misleading marketing and other algorithms that have gone amok or are misused.  I also addressed the hack fest taking place that utilizes these technologies. The article provides links to more than a dozen stories to show how big a problem this is now, and warns that this is only the beginning, unless steps are taken legislatively to slow its progress.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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