Javier Castaño

The death of the print media, announced more than two decades ago, hasn’t happened, but the information and social Holocaust is succeeding on social media. People are reading less and less.  They think that they have real friends on the Internet (please like me), and they don’t know how to avoid fake news. The Latino community is being relegated, condemned to ostracism. What is the responsibility of the Government, big corporations, colleges and universities?

At the heart of the matter, there are those who invest in the Internet to make a profit; mercenaries. Media companies that abandon their neighborhoods, and schools of journalism that reject the teaching of critical thinking, to emphasize links to increase hits and algorithms: social myopia.

I still remember when Facebook recommended not having more than 250 friends and insisted that advertising was not a part of its growth. That platform also suggested their subscribers should ask friends for permission before uploading their pictures. Now Facebook wants us to invest in campaigns to obtain more “likes.” There will be a time when Facebook will charge a monthly fee for access to the same pictures you took of your friends that are now Facebook property.

With more than 2,000 million users, Facebook is an enterprise that sells itself as protecting democracy and fighting fake news, but the truth is that we need to protect our democracy from companies like Facebook. At an international level, Facebook is offering the alternative to ‘free basics’ to underdevelopment nations, and pretty soon those governments and this digital platform will charge for each transaction.

Facebook is connecting people under its rules, on its platform, and it is nobody’s business. Facebook’s business is far from democratic. It claims to worry about fake news. However, Facebook edits articles and videos to make their point of view more attractive. This platform values and rewards certain engagements and algorithms, prioritizing superficial and ostentatious posts.

Roger McNamee.

Roger McNamee.

Therefore, in the Latino community, there are many people insulting and lying. As the rest of social media users, they want “likes” desperately. Roger McNamee, digital expert and Facebook investor, argues that on this platform anger and fear have more value than joy and information. “Rumors and addiction to fake news are generating lots of profit for Facebook, and this has to change”, said McNamee on CNBC News.

Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter and Tencent will control the content on the internet. Companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will control the infrastructure and have the tools to charge or slowdown those users who don’t adjust to their ideology and rates. Therefore, it was so important to keep Net Neutrality.  But, that fight was lost in Washington and the Trump administration won.

In the next decade, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can eliminate half of the jobs in this nation. To respond to this crisis, the government may pay people who are unemployed, so they can keep spending money.

The problem is the business model on the Internet. Some companies that are selling products or services, such as Amazon, are making money. Media outlets or people who open websites and give their time and lives to Facebook and other social media, are not making money. It is a mirage. Their revenue is less than their income. Until now the Internet has proved to be an excellent digital tool. However, you must learn to navigate it and take it in controlled doses.

On the Internet, even the social fabric is being destroyed. Advertisements manipulate behavior, and the information that people receive varies from one person to another. It is based on everyone’s income and history as a consumer.

Jeff Jervis.

Jeff Jervis.

Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, announced this month that his company is going to make emphasis, again, on what people share with family and friends to reduce the noise in the news feed channel. This is a great defeat that also reduces the power of media outlets that have been using Facebook to generate traffic to their digital pages. Professor Jeff Jervis of CUNY, once again is saying that he’s surprised by Facebook’s inability to generate money for other enterprises. Really?

“I don’t think braking up the companies fixes it. I don’t think regulation can really fix it. I think we have to change the financial incentives… people who contribute a lot of value to social networks have to have a chance to earn money back from it… we have to create a real digital economy, instead of a fake one”, said information guru Jaron Lanier.

From this perspective, the Latino community doesn’t have any guidance and it is being relegated to information isolation. Nobody discusses the concepts and implications of Digital Divide, and much less about corporate responsibility. Many Latinos without knowledge of the socio-political structure have been creating digital pages in Spanish, bilingual radio stations on the Internet or streaming live on Facebook, hoping to inform their audience and make money to pay the rent. They don’t have a real audience. Fake news and gossip prevail.

El DiarioWhen the newspaper El Diario, that has been informing Latinos for more than 100 years, announces that it is abandoning the print edition those information mercenaries will claim victory. Others would say that this is the reality of digital times. Editors and journalists will highlight the importance of algorithms. But the truth is that El Diario abandoned the neighborhoods many years ago. El Diario was manipulated by the same mercenaries who travel around the world pushing for the digital model.

El pais de espanaOn March 3rd of 2016, Antonio Caño, editor of El Pais, in Spain, wrote an editorial about the digital future of this daily newspaper: “This medium is, and will be, more and more American, given that it is in America where our growth is strongest and our expansion is most promising”. What? Two years later El Pais is totally unknown in the USA’s Latino community. Caño was promised a bag full of money but ends up empty-handed as often happens in Western movies.

Latino press in the United States needs innovation, authenticity and connection to reality. We can’t succumb to the trap of social media where people believe that they have many friends and that they can easily make money. Please “like” me!