Online Radicalization

For years now I have been leery of social media. I am only on one and that is Twitter and I use it for a news feed mostly although I do have some friends that I have met there.

I watched social media get bigger and bigger and more influential in our daily lives and especially our politics.

I have written several posts on my thoughts about social media….

In recent years the Far Right has used social media very effectively to organize and throw their support behind former Pres. Trump….a radicalization.

The allegations against social media are as old as the platforms themselves. Rarely, though, have we seen so clearly how the nonsense spread in these networks can spill over into reality. The world saw clearly how lies, violence and hate are freely spread and what misinformation echo chambers can produce. We saw what happens when algorithms – in their pursuit of clicks, reach and stickiness – determine how users see the world. And how successful those algorithms are in doing exactly what they are programmed for: creating a system in which the self-affirmation of its users continues to grow and magnify.

Recommendations, search optimization, trending lists, friend suggestions – all of that follows the commercial logic of generating more traffic, collecting more data and attracting more users to whom more ads can be served. That is the business model underpinning social media platforms. If you watch a video on YouTube posted by an anti-vaxxer, more such videos will be suggested to you. If you listen in on a Trump acolyte or a racist on the web, an entire chorus of such voices will be recommended. It makes it easy to spread even the most absurd horror stories via YouTube, Telegram, Twitter, Parler or Reddit. And they find their way into groups of society that never before played much of a role in political life.

When social media platforms were developing, they looked initially as though they could be a tool for good. The digital sphere democratized access to information and gave a public voice and visibility to broad swaths of the population – and traditional media outlets lost their gatekeeper function.

I do not believe in censorship but something needs to be done….social media is out of control and their power to radicalize needs to be drawn in and make them a servant of the democracy and not a tool for its destruction.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”