Where is the internet taking us?
Posted by Lynn
I was very intrigued by the YouTube video posted by the Apsen Institute titled “Is the internet taking us where we want to go?” The host discussed that last summer there were two big news stories; Ferguson and the ice bucket challenge. It was noticed that the frequency of the stories varied dramatically depending on the website. Twitter covered Ferguson heavily while you were much more likely to see an ice bucket challenge video on Facebook.
We all know the algorithms behind search engines and social media are different depending on the site you prefer. The host posed an interesting question. Can we use social media and its algorithms to sway users reactions and habits?
The host gave a good example showing how social media did make a difference in trackable situations. In the last presidential election Facebook selected 60 million users which is just a portion of their total number of users and added election content to the top of the Facebook page. They put a notice saying that it was election day and gave a link to find your local polling location. It was determined that this created a measurable increase in polling turn out.
The big question that was posed was is it ethical for social media to use its algorithms and content to control peoples choices and access to information. Would it be ethical to change the algorithms during the Ferguson riots to show more pictures of cats or any humorous content and reducing the amount of news stories and videos of burning buildings.
I don’t think enough social media users understand how the social media sites have the ability to control information. While I do think there is the potential to really reduce violence in the case of the riots. There are a significant number of social media users that use Facebook and its variety of reliable and not so reliable news sources as their only source for information. It is a very common occurrence to see one of my friends on Facebook like a clearly fake news article.
The last significant issue with control of algorithms is control of information and censorship. It is a very delicate and complicated issue. While some censorship can be beneficial to a groups general wellbeing, it is not in everyones best interest to not hear both sides to every story. It is scary that social media sites can make decisions to sway things like politics. We need to remember that many social media sites are businesses. While most users don’t have to pay for their services, many businesses do and this generates significant income for the company. I am not implying that all social media sites would take money to sway voters etc but it is within the realm of possibility.
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