There are a number of posts related to social media election hacking. Just two examples:
over 126 million Americans may have seen Russia-linked political posts
Youtube says 1,000 political videos uploaded by Russian trolls
Then there’s this piece: “Do Russian bots qualify for free speech?” Despite the click-bait title, it’s an interesting examination of the “limits” and aspects of free speech. Courts have ruled that “money is speech”; is “software” also “speech”? Bots are programmed by coders; are they expressions of speech? Russians obviously aren’t citizens, but there are implications beyond the 2016 election.
And that point is indeed the point: the 2016 election is not necessarily an outlier but the trendmarker of a “normal.”
In this TED Talk, Zeynep Tufekci argues that “we are building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.” She discusses the power of big data, AI, the inscrutability of the systems we are developing, and how they are affecting us.
On the other side, Ben Evans, in “Fashion, Maslow and Facebook’s control of social,” argues that “you can optimize and measure but people still have to want it” – that social media’s ability to control people is still limited. (I lean a little more toward Zeynep’s argument, myself.)
In the long run, the bigger issue for us in missions is going to be the controls that are placed on Internet communications as a result of social media. China has remarked more than once that “Russian interference in elections wouldn’t happen in China”–because China’s censorship “defends” its citizens.
It doesn’t even have to be increased censorship. Facebook is testing the idea of moving “non-promoted content from Pages” (that is, content that is not advertised, you haven’t paid to promote it) to a subsidiary “Explore” page. But Facebook’s new “explore feed” is a “cesspool of the worst content on the Internet.” Quality publishers won’t want their content in the cesspool, so they’ll either have to (1) pay for advertising or (2) withdraw their content. FB is probably betting on the former.
The implication for mission agencies who promote their content on Pages is pretty clear. The result is that promoted content will be regulated by advertising guidelines, and unpromoted content will be muzzled.
Let’s all think about that for a second.