algorithmic amplification

What is the impact of constant misinformation on consumer social media? Dave Troy discusses the effects in a long Twitter thread:

“Disinformation is the operational end of a process designed to break down society and radicalize it into cultish forms. This process leads people away from truth. We can’t address this process by distributing truth; the cure for disinformation is not simply truth … Truth is, rather, a goal we must arrive at … We need to turn our attention to what is being lost: social ties, social trust, social capital … We don’t look enough at the relationship between identity, in-group, and belief. They are all reflections of the same thing and you can’t alter one without altering the others. This is why injecting garbage breaks down social ties and alters belief and identity. Sufficiently radicalized, people won’t recover their prior social connections, leaving them stranded on ‘islands of dissensus’. There is no natural pathway back from this. It’s a one way process. Throwing truth at them doesn’t restore lost social/family ties; it alienates them.” —Dave Troy

Twitter recently revealed — Examining algorithmic amplification of political content on Twitter — that its algorithm that decides what you see in your stream can have a social and political impact.

Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline … In six out of seven countries — all but Germany — Tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group.
Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organizations listed above, see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets.

The Spectator Index recently reported on Twitter that — “While engagement with Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Messenger is associated with increased belief in coronavirus conspiracy theories, engagement with Twitter is linked with reduced belief in them. (Source: New Media & Society journal)”. This was confirmed by Frank Graves, founder of EKOS research. So Twitter is ‘less worse’ than Facebook and its other platforms.

Social media definitely thrive on constant outrage. Understanding the effects of these media is critical for democracy to survive. This past year I have written about the dark sides of social media several times.

  1. We need to connect, challenge, and create better ways of public discourse.
  2. Too often those in power try to counter misinformation with facts. This does not work. It is human engagement that counters misinformation.
  3. It’s up to people, not algorithms, to counter disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.
  4. It’s worth reminding ourselves that networks are not communities. Communities are trusted spaces run by and for members. Therefore, Facebook is not a community.

I still use Twitter to teach about social media and knowledge networks in my workshop. It’s fairly easy to start with. Its asymmetry allows users to follow who they like, mute the noise, and block the trolls. But if we use the Twitter web interface it is essential to set the timeline to ‘Latest Tweets’. The ‘Home’ setting is newspeak for ‘let the algorithm decide what I see’. Algorithmic amplification can be blocked, for now.

twitter home settinglatest tweets setting

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