Vocabulary is an integral part to the SBI PO Examination since most of the English questions will be directly or indirectly based from English vocab along with grammar rules and regulations. Now, vocabulary reminds all of us about the stock of words we have and how we should know the meanings of as many words as possible.
In order to help you with your vocab preparation, we are coming out with a series articles on vocabulary learning from the newspaper.
Article: Politics in the Age of Facebook
There has been a lot of talk around the globe over the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica (CA), a company partly owned by the U.S. billionaire hedge fund owner and Donald Trump backer, Robert Mercer.
In India, the discussion has descended into a farcical wrangle between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress on who used the company’s services. For good measure, Union Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even warned Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg of “stringent action” including summoning him to India if it was found to be involved in the theft of data from Indians.
All of this misses the real point. Data theft is not the issue. There is no need to steal the cornucopia of data that Facebook has accumulated on each one of us who uses the platform. It can be, and is, legally bought and used by a marketer, businesses, researchers and anyone else who pays the social media giant for it.
Facebook (or Google for that matter) has information on where we live, our age, our gender, what our likes and dislikes are who our online friends are, where we like to go out to eat, and where and when we travel. Facebook charges advertisers to target audiences using this knowledge, and the money from this is what has made Mr. Zuckerberg one of the wealthiest people on earth.
What is new and potentially worrying is the spotlight CA has thrown on how this information can be used to create psychological profiles of Facebook users (or psychographic targeting as it has been described) and direct political messages to people in ways that could move and manipulate our deepest emotions and impulses. Two experimental studies show that this kind of psychological targeting can influence not just emotions but also behaviour.
CA’s work for the Trump presidential campaign was based on two studies by Michal Kosinski, an assistant professor at Stanford University, U.S. Mr. Kosinski was approached by CA but declined to work for them. However, a Cambridge University researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, agreed to work for CA to build psychological profiles of Facebook users.
Mr. Kosinski, as a PhD student at Cambridge, had devised a model to analyse the pages a person “liked” on Facebook and build a psychological profile of the person based on five characteristics including introversion, extroversion, neuroticism, openness and agreeableness. The model was based on the results of three experiments involving more than 3.7 million Facebook users. He and his colleagues first posted a personality quiz on Facebook and then tallied the results of the personality test with the pages that the test takers “liked”, which was then used to build a model to create psychological profiles of users, based on the pages they “liked”.
His team then created advertisements with messages targeted to a user’s psychological profile. For example, someone who was judged to be an extrovert would see a different version of an advertisement on Facebook than someone who was judged to be an introvert. They found that psychologically-targeted advertisements were more effective than non-targeted advertisements in persuading people to take some kind of action such as downloading an app or clicking on the advertisement than non-targeted advertisements.
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, in 2017, Mr. Kosinski and his colleagues wrote that this kind of psychological targeting could “make it possible to influence the behaviours of large groups of people by tailoring persuasive appeals to the psychological needs of target audiences”.
The holy grail of marketing and advertising lies in persuading people to take action, such as buying a product. The link between message and action has always been hard to determine. But Mr. Kosinski’s research appeared to provide a way to use a person’s digital footprint (in this case, a liked page on Facebook) to construct a psychological profile and create messages that seemed to change behaviour. “Tailoring persuasive appeals to psychological profiles of large groups of people allowed us to influence their actual behaviours and choices,” he wrote.
If Mr. Kosinski’s research is accurate, all it takes to have a rough idea of a person’s personality is a single Facebook page ‘like’. For example, those who liked the singer Lady Gaga were on average likely to score more highly on the personality trait of openness and adjudged to be more intellectually curious and imaginative. So anyone hoping to use Facebook to target users with messages could get a list of users who liked Lady Gaga, and target them with messages that addressed their curiosity and imagination. Until recently, data on Facebook page ‘likes’ were publicly accessible. Now, they are no longer publicly accessible. But there are ways around this. Anyone who wants a list of Facebook users who like Lady Gaga need only take out an advertisement with a link asking Lady Gaga’s admirers to name their 10 favourite songs by the singer. Anyone who clicks the link is giving access to their Facebook profile and becomes a target for further advertising.
What are the political implications of this kind of psychological profile-based targeting? CA and its erstwhile head Alexander Nix worked for the Trump campaign as well as the one for his rival, Ted Cruz, also of the Republican Party. A presentation made by CA on its work in the Trump campaign that was leaked to The Guardian and Observer newspapers states that the firm “ingested data and audience profiles” and “devised communications to best promote a story to these individuals”.
Voters were clearly getting targeted messages, but did this actually help change their voting intentions? This is not something that can be measured as there is no data linking people who saw a particular advertisement and the way they voted. CA worked on the Cruz campaign, but he lost. The firm began to work on the Trump campaign after he won the Republican nomination. There is no way of knowing the impact it had.
Mr. Kosinski himself has expressed concern at the ways this kind of behaviour change communication could be put to use in political campaigns and written that “it could be used to covertly exploit weaknesses in their character and persuade them to take action against their own best interest”.
The question then is not about which political parties in India did or did not use the services of CA, or whether data were illegally acquired from Facebook users. The real issue is that we spill out our every like and dislike and opinion on every subject on platforms such as Facebook. The clues to our personalities revealed by our social media behaviour leave us vulnerable to psychological warfare from those who wish to influence our behaviour.
Winning elections have always been about moving people at an emotional level. As every demagogue knows, if you can manipulate, rouse and orchestrate people’s emotions, you are halfway towards achieving political power. Social media has provided a new tool to achieve that.
1. Deamgogue (Noun): A political leader who appeals to the popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
Synonyms: Firebrand, incendiary, rabble-rouser, agitator
Antonyms: Peacemaker, reconciler, uniter
Sentence: The Prime Minister of the country was a demagogue in his initial days, manipulating all the newspapers with his own brand of development.
2. Vulnerable (Adjective): Exposed to the possibility of getting attacked or harmed, both physically and emotionally
Synonyms: Endangered, unsafe, unprotected, unguarded
Antonyms: Strong, unsusceptible, protected, safe
Sentence: The child was in a vulnerable state of mind after the sudden demise of his parents in the span of one moth in road accidents.
3. Covertly (Adverb): Without being openly acknowledged or displayed
Synonyms: Secretly, discreetly, clandestinely, furtively
Antonyms: Candidly, frankly, honestly, openly
Sentence: The RAW agents completed the mission covertly and killed all the insurgents in the region.
4. Ingest (Verb): Absorb information
Synonyms: Consumer, devour, absorb
Antonyms: Build, reveal
Sentence: He spent most of his last few days here ingesting the contents of the school library.
5. Neuroticism (Noun): The condition of often feeling worried and nervous, especially due to a mental illness
Synonyms: Agitated, excited, anxious
Antonyms: Stable, composed, calm
Sentence: The new President suffers from neuroticism and that is why it is not possible to expect rational behaviour from him.
6. Cornucopia (Noun): An abundant supply of good things of a specified kind
Synonyms: Affluence, bountifulness, exuberance, lavishness
Antonyms: Lack, need, want, poorness
Sentence: The festival offers a cornucopia of pleasures and all the villagers celebrate it every year with a lot of enthusiasm.
7. Wrangle (Noun): A dispute or argument, typically a long drawn and complicated one
Synonyms: Disagreement, quarrel, argument, dispute
Antonyms: Harmony, peace, quiet, calm
Sentence: The insurance wrangle between the government and the insurance companies is delaying the payment of compensation to the affected farmers of the state.
8. Manipulate (Verb): Control or influence a person unscrupulously and cleverly so as to make him believe what is required.
Synonyms: Exploit, steer, guide, maneuver
Antonyms: Destroy, idle
Sentence: The opposition tried to manipulate the voters before the election but could not succeed and lost the election ultimately.
9. Orchestrate (Verb): Plan or coordinate the elements of a situation to produce a desired effect, especially surreptitiously
Synonyms: Influence, Organize, arrange, manage, mobilize
Antonyms: Disperse, separate, disorganize, ignore, divide
Sentence: The situation has been orchestrated in this manner by a tiny minority of the community though the entire community is being blamed now for it.
10. Grail (Noun): A thing that is eagerly pursued or sought after
Synonyms: target, objective, aim
Antonyms: Ignorance, negligence
Sentence: The holy grail of a business lies in influencing the consumers to choose their products and making profits from that.
Direction (1-5): Answer the following questions.
1. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word ‘persuasive’ as used in the passage?
e) None of the above
Solution: Option (d)
Explanation: The word ‘persuasive’ means something that can influence an opinion to a certain extent so as to take decision in a certain manner. Among the given options, ‘convincing’ refers to the same and that is why, it is the correct answer among the given options.
2. Which among the following is opposite in meaning of the word ‘introversion’ as used in the passage?
Solution: Option (e)
Explanation: The given word ‘introversion’ refers to reflecting one’s behaviour or character in order to understand oneself better. The opposite should be something related to do something in order to show others. Among the given options, option (e) is about that and it is the correct choice among the given options.
3. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word ‘farcical’ as used in the passage?
e) None of the above
Solution: Option (d)
Explanation: The given word ‘farcical’ refers to something that cannot take place because it is too much unbelievable or imaginary. Among the given options, ‘ludicrous’ refers to the same and that is why, it is the correct option among the given answers.
4. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word ‘stringent’ as used in the passage?
e) None of the above
Solution: Option (a)
Explanation: The given word refers to something that is very strict, concise and exacting. Among the given options, an option (a) talk about the same and that is why it is the right answer among the given choices.
5. Which among the following is similar in meaning to the word ‘profile’ as used in the passage?
Solution: Option (d)
Explanation: The word ‘profile’ has been used in the sense that it provides a short description regarding the person along with his likes and dislikes, character etc. Among the given options, an option (d) talk about this and it makes this the right choice among the given options.
Word of the Day
Kerfuffle (Noun): A commotion or fuss, especially one created by wrong and conflicting information.
Synonyms: Disorder, commotion, confusion, fuss
Antonyms: Harmony, peace, calm, tranquility
Sentence: There was a kerfuffle over the chairmanship of the committee since most of the new members objected to the idea of having multiple chairmen for multiple sub-committees.
All the best!
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