Future of social media?

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 15.52.25This week I learned about two students from the Bay area that developed an algorithm capable of distinguishing between bots and real twitter account.
And I wish to pay respect to both Ash Bhat and Rohan Phadte, computer science students at UC Berkley. They developed the algorithm capable of distinguishing bots on Twitter with 93.5% accuracy.
I share their need to fight against this horrific onslaught at the democracy. I feel the same.
Let me get honest with you, I’m naturalized US citizen and became one because I liked the fact that people here in this country can raise their voice against people in power without risking their lives. I liked going through US history and seeing how when people rise up, they actually make changes.
I grew up in a country with a dictatorship. Meaning, one could not freely say they disagree with government or political system. In my country of origin, when retirees came to protest government stealing their retirements peacefully, police beat them up.
I grew up listening to my mother telling me to keep my mouth shut outside the house and do not repeat stories I heard about corruption. I’ve seen good people being quiet and not rising up against malignancy when the country went astray and started killing innocents. I know what the price of being silent is, it is the one you pay in blood.
That’s why I like the freedom of speech. But this latest attack by Russians showed how fragile that freedom online is, and how malignant people can manipulate internet for their nefarious goals.
I rejoiced at the increase of the connectivity. As someone who loves science and math, I knew from the network theory a perfect network, that allows connection between every node, without super-connector nodes, is the embodiment of the all democratic tendencies.
But the truth is, internet today is not an example of a fair network. Internet, especially social media is made to be unfair, to give an advantage to few nodes that hold the path for other nodes to connect. The social media is one of those super-connector nodes. And they control how other nodes, their users, connect. Companies categorize their users and serve them only stuff their algorithm determine users will most likely consume. Yes, I’m talking about those infamous information bubbles.
In my opinion, those bubbles are the most significant problem democracy today faces. Remember what I said above that atrocities were possible because good people kept quiet. Imagine yourself surrounded by people who think it’s ok to abuse ‘the others’. Your neighborhood is decked with the symbols of your tribe, and everywhere on social media you look, your tribe is there, telling you yeah, ‘the others’ are not really humans. Everywhere you look, it is the same message. The information bubble where you’re stuck does not allow you to see there are others who do not share that opinion. You get the impression those people are rare, maybe just a few idiots and a majority of your country share your opinion. So if you disagree that ‘the others’ should be abused, there is no way for you to voice that opinion, or even learn that it is ok not to hate those ‘others.’
It is easy to divide country when information bubbles are prevalent.
I get it. I know that categorizing people and showing them preferable products is the way for social media companies to earn money. Hey, even I plan to use that system for my own purposes, to sell my own products. Targeting people with an add that are most likely to buy your product is every businessman dream.
But we must burst the bubble when politics is in question. We should insist that each and every one of us get exposed to all sides in politics.
I know that’s not easy. Pinterest does not have as good categorizing algorithm as other social networks. So lately I’m visiting it more often because I’m curious why the other side thinks the way it does. And boy, I can tell you, some of the posts there do touch the nerve, and it takes loads of self-control not to start an argument. I do not succeed every time, but I’m trying. Because each time I see the other side, I can accept they are humans as I am, with same basic needs.
I’ve seen that I cannot just disregard their opinion entirely because extremes of any kind are bad. And because I learned through the contacts with them that I share some political views with ‘the others’. All of us agreed that problem of corruption should be solved. Imagine how effective we could be on that particular issue if we work together, all of us?
To be honest, I would not even mind being exposed to a variety of the products. People change, tastes change. Just a few years ago I would laugh if someone would show me articles on woodworking, and today, I’m hard at work on making my own furniture, exchanging old ugly ones with furniture made precisely to match my needs and my taste.
So why not make those bubbles a bit transparent?
The bot detection algorithm is a great start. But it is just a start. We also have humans who pretend to be something they are not. Remember blogger Jenna Abrams? No bot detection would mark her. Humans made her identity and her posts. How can you determine if the person behind the name someone who actually cares about the country as you do, or someone who just uses current social media architecture to attack your country?
No AI help us there, right now. Remember, the smartest AI is somewhere at insect level of IQ. We are not close to the singularity yet.


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