Over the weekend, your Facebook feed may have exploded with anger— at Facebook. Researchers from the company, in collaboration with academic social scientists, published the results from a study in which the company manipulated the news feeds of hundreds of thousands of users. Some users saw news feeds full of negative material, others saw material that was positive. The idea was to see how those two conditions made people feel.
Well, the answer was that people felt really, really mad.
“This study has been characterized as Facebook deliberately trying to depress people,” says Michelle N. Meyer, a bioethicist at the Icahn School of Medicine. “Which, put that way, strikes people as potentially dangerous— and rude. People don’t like to feel like they’re being jerked around.”
Getting manipulated isn’t especially new, she says. “We’re manipulated all the time. Every day. You know, your mother wants you to eat brussels sprouts.”
However, it may be rude of Facebook to rub users’ faces in its ability to manipulate what they see.
That highlights an uncomfortable reality, says Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain, who studies the internet and society.
“We are relying more and more on just a handful of intermediaries to offer us a view of the world,” he says. “And the view that they offer is produced by a secret sauce that nobody reviews.”
First up, more on the expected nomination of Robert McDonald to head the VA, and his troubled history as the former head of Procter & Gamble. Plus, as another casino closes in Atlantic City, a look at the larger negative effects of the boom in the casino business in the Northeast. Also, with political giving getting bigger all the time, a new kind of financial planner has popped up -- Wealthy, politically-minded families are hiring people to manage their financial gifts to campaigning politicians.
The boom in political giving has given rise not only to countless television advertisements and myriad political action committees, but also to something of a new type of job: financial planner for wealthy political donors.
“They [wealthy donors] have other activities in their lives," says Bob Biersack, a fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics. "So they don’t follow the ins and outs of politics – who’s up, who’s down."
Enter what’s known as a donor-side consultant, like Ella Arnold, who works with five Bay-Area families. These are very wealthy families whom she declined to identify.
Arnold and her company, Buell Private Political Management, are in touch with clients every day, “managing their political giving and making sure they stay within federal and state limits – contribution limits,” she says.
Some of those limits disappeared recently, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in a case called McCutcheon versus FEC. Arnold says that actually made her kind of consulting more attractive to big donors. That class of political activist recognizes that candidates can now hit them up for more cash.
They’re thinking, “now that I can give all this extra money,” Arnold says, “I want to make sure that I’m sticking to a budget.”
Arnold meets with politicians. If she thinks one has a platform one of her clients might support, she’ll set up a meeting. And if everything goes well, maybe a fundraiser. She calls the role something akin to being a “wedding planner.”
“Donors, particularly businessmen, are typically risk averse, and the rule of do no harm to either their own good name or their business is their first and primary consideration,” says Dora Kingsley Vertenten, a professor at USC, who used to do this kind of work.
Arnold calls it a growth industry, especially in San Francisco and Silicon Valley; home to a lot of very rich people, many of whom are young, and are new to politics.
“I don’t think that there is a place where it is happening as fast as it is in the Bay Area, given the tech industry and all for that,” she says.
A recent demo gathering in New York featured several startups showing off their software projects. It was from the FinTech Innovations lab, which looks at innovations in the financial tech industry. The audience was comprised of some of the biggest banks and their affiliated financial companies in the world.
For more on the FinTech Innovations lab, click the media player above to hear Marketplace reporter Tracy Samuelson in conversation with Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson.
Financial technology is a category defined as any kind of technology meant to serve banks, insurance companies, and other financial services industries. It's a growing market -- Investment in the sector has tripled since 2008.
Companies at the gathering show off products like Kasisto, which uses the technology underlying the iPhone’s Siri to allow a user to ask mobile banking apps specific questions about their banking information.
The banks, as the future customers of these companies, have an incentive to help improve these products, and create their own venture funds to invest in these companies.
The Showboat casino in Atlantic City is closing. It’s the second casino to close there this year. It turns out, a recent boom in Northeast casinos means the house doesn’t always win.
Since 2001, gaming revenue in the Northeast has increased 71 percent, the most of any region says David Schwartz, who directs the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
But regional growth isn’t good for old gambling hubs like New Jersey.
“You’ve had casinos open up in Pennsylvania in particular, which is where a lot of the customers for Atlantic City were coming from,” Schwartz says. “And now they have the same games they can play, it’s a shorter drive, it’s less gas money. So many of them are just playing there.”
Schwartz says gaming revenue in New Jersey has fallen 42 percent since 2007.
It’s not just the casinos that effects. Dave Fitzgerald, who directs the Ocean County, N.J., transportation department, says taxes on casino revenue help fund a program that gives people rides to dialysis appointments. But the decline in casino revenue means the program can’t take new clients.
“Back in ’08 we were transporting approximately 280 dialysis clients,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re now down to less than 30 dialysis clients. So it has severely impacted the level of services that we’ve been able to provide.”
The problem isn’t going away anytime soon. A third Jersey casino has filed for bankruptcy and is looking for a buyer.
Sales of Hillary Clinton’s most recent book, “Hard Choices,” slipped significantly after its first week on sale.
Clinton was reportedly paid a multi-million dollar advance by her publisher Simon & Schuster, raising questions from some about whether the publisher’s bet will pay off.
“I do think it’s doing well,” Kate McKean, vice president at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, says of the book. “She’s not going anywhere, so this book could potentially sell, and probably will sell for years and years.”
Still, even with books by celebrities that seem destined to be best sellers, publishers are taking a gamble, says Brian DeFiore, a New York-based literary agent.
“How much do we believe in this person?," DeFiore says. "How much do we believe the public wants to hear from this person and hear more about this person? And then, how much will that person’s voice resonate for years to come?”
Something else publishers taking into account: global sales. And given Clinton’s fame, DeFiore says it’s book that should sell around the world.