In “Big Data,” Sifry argues that, paradoxically, the low cost of collecting data enabled its acquisition on such a massive scale that the cost of using it grew exponentially. This created profitable business opportunities for those with the expertise to use the data, and raised, rather than lowered, the cost of campaigning. Of the 25 most visited websites, Sifry points out, only one, Wikipedia, is a nonprofit. The rest are hardly hubs for political action; he tellingly describes them as “online malls” in which we are invited to “hang out.” (And the largest such data gatherer of all, the NSA, threatens citizen efficacy perhaps most of all.)

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