8 February 2019

Social networks: What if there's no right answer?

In recent articles I’ve talked about what’s wrong with social networking and some ways I think we might improve it.

This week I saw a Twitter thread about a Facebook group with a few hundred members that was being used to organize harassment campaigns.

Then came the news that private Facebook groups were spreading the conspiracy theory that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in a coma, or even dead and being replaced with an impostor.

It seems that small private social network groups are now the preferred way to spread lies and conspiracies, because they are less likely to be detected. Yes, the reach of a single post is lower, but if the post is incendiary enough it will doubtless get reposted to other groups, and spread organically — and invisibly. That’s how individual members of the Myanmar military spread rumors which lead to murders, rapes and ethnic cleansing.

So now I’m wondering: By trying to move towards decentralized social network systems, are we actually making things worse? What if online social networks are inherently damaging to society as it exists at this point in human development, and we should try to eliminate them as much as possible?

Convince me that’s not the case.

© mathew 2017