Huge power is concentrated in the hands of a few companies. The dissemination of false information and news, threats to privacy, the election process, and democracy are some of the key issues in the social media ecosystem that US researchers, policy makers, and users have recently highlighted. Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Social Media Summit not only discussed the problem, but also discussed a series of potential solutions. This 17-page report discusses in detail all the issues related to social media and their solutions.
Here are some highlights of the MIT report:
Fake news and misinformation
Did you know that a study found that fake news and false information “spread farther, faster, deeper, and more widely than the truth?” Not only that, but the probability of such information being forwarded is also higher than that of the truth 70%. Social media algorithms further help this. Klintwartz, a researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, suggested that one of the ways to solve this problem is to fight prolific criminals. “We know them, and [enforcement] You need to focus there to get the most impact,” Watts said.
Balance between user privacy and platform transparency
Sinan Alar, a professor at MIT Sloan School who presided over the event, said that social media constitutes a “transparency paradox.” So she added that not only researchers, but even the public have the right to know how these platforms access and use our data. Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington, said that algorithm transparency allows researchers to check peer-to-peer information sharing without sharing personal information, which will help to better understand malicious use and how to prevent malicious use.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said independent oversight is necessary, adding that the world is beyond the scope of the debate on whether we need new rules. However, he does not approve of different rules in different parts of the world. Clegg said that this may “divide” the Internet, so the United States and the European Union need to work together to include India.
The business model is not user-friendly
Experts say that the social media model is designed based on the attention economy, which means that the platform sells your attention to advertisers, and adding things that attract attention is not always beneficial to users or society as a whole. Therefore, it may be helpful to modify the business model in a way that draws from the attention economy. Scott Galloway, an adjunct professor of marketing at New York University, suggests that a subscription-based model that has nothing to do with advertising might be another option. However, what is worrying is what happens if the best, fact-checked information is always hidden behind the paywall.
Algorithms further lead to prejudice, racism, and polarization
Safia Noble, co-founder of the UCLA Critical Internet Research Center, said that people organize and access information through social media platforms and search engines. However, she pointed out that the companies that operate these platforms are not always bound by the principles of democracy and human rights, and sometimes the most popular and profitable statements promote racism, misinformation, and polarization.
Renée Richardson Gosline, chief research scientist at MIT Sloan, said that part of the problem is a frictionless system that allows users to easily forward and share such information.