Both Twitter and Facebook’s selfish algorithms, optimized solely for increasing the number of hours I spend on their services, are kind of destroying civil society at the same time. Researchers also discovered that the algorithms served to divide up the world into partisan groups. So even though I was following hundreds of people on social networks, I noticed that the political pieces which I saw were nevertheless directionally aligned with my own political beliefs. But to be honest they were much… shriller. Every day the Twitter told me about something that The Other Side did that was Outrageous and Awful (or, at least, this was reported), and everyone was screeching in sync and self-organizing in a lynch mob, and I would have to click LIKE or RETWEET just to feel like I had done something about it, but I hadn’t actually done anything about it. I had just slacktivated.
What is the lesson? The lesson here is that when you design software, you create the future.
The public awakening in the past year to the more toxic and unethical effects of Silicon Valley firms, generally, is long overdue. The tech industry should have done a better job of regulating themselves for years, but they now have an opportunity to make up for their delinquency. I worry that they are incapable of doing so, and could be answering to the current U.S. administration instead.
Update: “Market forces” isn’t a good answer to any of this.