In the 17-months-long conversation Americans have been having about social media’s effects on democracy, two distinct sets of problems have emerged. The ones getting the most attention are bad-actor problems—where someone breaks the rules and manipulates a social-media system for their own nefarious ends. Macedonian teenagers create sensational and false content to profit from online ad sales. Disinformation experts plan rallies and counterrallies, calling Americans into the streets to scream at each other. Botnets amplify posts and hashtags, building the appearance of momentum behind online campaigns like #releasethememo. Such problems are the charismatic megafauna of social-media dysfunction.
If you want to know more about who’s watching you, download Ghostery, a browser extension that tracks and can block these “third-party” trackers.
We need an ecosystem that encourages competitors to existing social-media platforms, which means ensuring a right to export data from existing social networks and new software that lets us experiment with new services while maintaining contacts on existing ones. We need to treat personally identifiable information less like a resource to be exploited and more like toxic waste, which must be carefully managed, as Maciej Ceglowski has proposed. This may require a digital EPA, as Franklin Foer, Paul Ford, and others have argued—a prospect that would be more appealing if the actual EPA wasn’t currently being gutted.
Tribalism, manipulation, and misinformation are well-established forces in American politics, all predating the web. But something fundamental has changed. Never before have we had the technological infrastructure to support the weaponization of emotion on a global scale. The people who built this infrastructure have a moral obligation to own up to what they’ve done.
Hey, Mark Zuckerberg: My Democracy Isn’t Your Laboratory
By STEVAN DOJCINOVIC
Facebook had made a small but devastating change. Posts made by “pages” — including those of organizations like mine — had been removed from the regular News Feed, the default screen users see when they log on to the social media site. They were now segregated into a separate section called Explore Feed that users have to select before they can see our stories. (Unsurprisingly, this didn’t apply to paid posts.)
It wasn’t just in Serbia that Facebook decided to try this experiment with keeping pages off the News Feed. Other small countries that seldom appear in Western headlines — Guatemala, Slovakia, Bolivia and Cambodia — were also chosen by Facebook for the trial.
Facebook Says Social Media Can Be Negative For Democracy
In a new commentary, the social media giant acknowledges the possibility that social media can have negative ramifications for democracy. This comes after repeated criticism that it didn’t do enough to prevent the spread of fake news that had the potential to impact the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Tech firms including Facebook have faced increasing scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Most recently, executives from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter appeared before a Senate committee last week to discuss the”steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the Internet.”
Today’s discussion on Facebook is part of a series of “Hard Questions” from the social media network. Another recent post questions, “Is spending time on social media bad for us?” It stated that active interactions on social media are good for well-being. However, Facebook said that “when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information – reading but not interacting with people – they report feeling worse afterward.”