Gilad Lotan, chief scientist at betaworks wrote a recent post that was featured by NPR, BBC and several other media. Gilad shows that Social Media is being actively used in the art of personalizing propaganda, and while war rages on the ground in Gaza and across Israeli skies, there’s an all-out information war unraveling in social networked spaces.
Here are some highlights:
… on social networks:
The landscape is much more nuanced, and highly personalized. We construct a representation of our interest by choosing to follow or like specific pages. The more we engage with certain type of content, the more similar content is made visible in our feeds. Recommendation and scoring functions learn from our social connections and our actions online, constructing a model that optimizes for engagement; the more engagement, the more traffic, clicks, likes, shares, and so forth, the higher the company’s supposed value. Our capitalistic markets appreciate a growing value.
… on algorithmic filtering:
The better we get at modeling user preferences, the more accurately we construct recommendation engines that fully capture user attention. In a way, we are building personalized propaganda engines that feed users content which makes them feel good and throws away the uncomfortable bits.
We used to be able to hold media accountable for misinforming the public. Now we only have ourselves to blame.
… on capitalism vs. democracy:
Personalized online spaces are architected to keep us coming back for more. Content that is likely to generate more clicks, or traffic is prioritized in our feeds, while what makes us uncomfortable, fades into the ether. We construct our social spaces — we may choose to follow a user, like a page or subscribe to updates from a given topic.
The underlying algorithmics powering this recommendation engine help reinforce our values and bake more of the same voices into our information streams.
…and a beautiful explanatory network visualization : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajmE0hjkM24