Zeynep Tufekci on how the idealism of social media went wrong

In a new, must-read article at MIT Technology review, Professor Zeynep Tufekci at the the University of North Carolina describes How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump.  Beginning with the euphoric naivete of just a few years ago that universally assumed Facebook and Twitter would save democracy, Tufekci details the mechanisms by which social media became a weapon aimed at destroying democracy–and not just by Russians.  Advocating that we look beyond the technology–and especially not seek exclusively digital solutions–she places the role of social media in its proper context, I think, as a tool for exacerbating social, political, and economic ills that were already in place well before Mark Zuckerberg began shaving.  Some pull-quotes below, but read the whole article here.

“Digital platforms allowed communities to gather and form in new ways, but they also dispersed existing communities, those that had watched the same TV news and read the same newspapers. Even living on the same street meant less when information was disseminated through algorithms designed to maximize revenue by keeping people glued to screens.”

“Throughout the years of the Obama administration, these platforms grew boisterously and were essentially unregulated. They spent their time solidifying their technical chops for deeply surveilling their users, so as to make advertising on the platforms ever more efficacious.”

“… the weakening of old-style information gatekeepers (such as media, NGOs, and government and academic institutions), while empowering the underdogs, has also, in another way, deeply disempowered underdogs.”

© 2018, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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