Platform operators need to deal with personal media and mass media in a different way
John Funge is the Chief Product Officer at DataTribe, a cybersecurity startup foundry. He’s founded, built and offered 3 innovation business.
Social network in its present type is broken.
In 20 years, we’ll look back at the social media of 2020 like we look at smoking cigarettes on airplanes or journey with the kids rolling around in the back of a station wagon without seatbelts. Social network platforms have grown into borderless, society-scale false information devices. Any claim that they do not have editorial influence on the circulation of information is rubbish. Just as a news editor picks headings of the day, social media platforms channel material with engagement-maximizing algorithms and viral dynamics. They are by no means passive observers of our political discourse.
At the same time, I have compassion with the position that these business are in– caught between the interests of shareholders and the public. I understand that social media CEOs have a responsibility to maximize the value of the organisation for their shareholders. I also understand that social media companies can do better.
The way to repair social networks starts with understanding it is two various things: individual media and mass media.
Personal media is many of social media. Mass media is content that reaches large audiences– such as a tweet that reaches a Super Bowl-sized audience in real-time. High-reach material can also be posts that go viral and get viewed by a big audience.
Twitter’s decision to annotate a couple of Trump’s tweets is a baby step in this direction.
Reach is an unbiased measure of the impact of a social media post. It makes sense. Tweets that go to more people bring more weight and therefore should be the focus of any effort at cleaning up disinformation. The audience size of a message is as important, if not more, than its material. So, reach is a beneficial first-cut filter gotten rid of from the hornet’s nest of translating the underlying material or beliefs of the sender.
From an innovation point of view, it is extremely manageable. When a social networks post goes beyond a reach limit, the platform needs to instantly subject the material to additional processes to decrease disinformation and promote neighborhood requirements. One concept, an extension of what Twitter just recently did, would be to plainly link a set of links to appropriate posts from a swimming pool of relied on sources– to add context, not censor. The pool of relied on content would require to be vetted and varied in its perspective, however that’s possible, and users could even be involved in crowd-sourcing those choices. For the highest-reach content, there might be additional human curation and even journalistic-style reality checking. If these platforms can serve pertinent advertisements in milliseconds, they can serve appropriate content from relied on sources.
From a regulative point of view, reach is likewise the best framework for reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That’s the pre-social media law that offers web platforms a broad immunity from liability for the content they traffic. Conceptually, Section 230 continues to make good sense for low-reach content. Facebook should not be held responsible for every single remark your uncle Bob makes. It’s when posts reach a vast variety of individuals that Facebook and twitter begin to look more like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times than an internet service company. In these cases, it’s reasonable that they need to undergo similar legal liability as mass media outlets for broadly distributing damaging fallacies.
Improving social networks intelligently begins with breaking the issue down based upon the reach of the content. Social network is two extremely various things thrown up in a web mixer: personal media and mass media. Let’s begin treating it that method.