Is the Internet manipulating you? You may think so, given Cambridge Analytica, Russian troll farms, Facebook algorithm manipulation, and echo chambers. Each one of these contributes to the broad narrative that individuals are being manipulated through complicated analysis and digital sleight of hand. Each alleged danger is more pernicious than the next. What if the truth behind the power and persuasion of each of these actions is overstated, nonexistent even?
Are people so easily manipulated? The notion seems facially valid; the Internet plays a significant role in day to day life. The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we behave. But does it have the capacity to manipulate our beliefs and behaviors?
To avoid confusion of what manipulation is, it’s critical to establish definitions and evaluation criteria. Since we’re discussing thoughts and actions, we’ll use psychological manipulation – changing perception or behavior through underhanded or deceptive techniques to advance the goal of the manipulator.