Bots and fake news
Image Credit: The Federalist
When we talk about social media and censorship, we have to bring up Twitter’s debacle. Twitter used to describe itself as the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” but that’s hardly the case anymore. They have faced massive backlash over the last year for banning and censoring accounts that don’t fit their political narrative.
U.S. president, Donald Trump, himself accused Twitter of “shadow banning” Republican party members from the platform. Denying the allegation, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a statement while testifying before Congress:
“Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules. We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially.”
Unfortunately, the facts point in an entirely different direction:
- Richard Hanania of Quillette put together a database of prominent, politically active users who are known to have been temporarily or permanently suspended from Twitter. Of the 22 prominent, politically active individuals who are known to have been suspended since 2005 and who expressed a preference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 21 supported Donald Trump.
- Sarah Jeong, a reporter for The New York Times, has tweeted several hate messages against white people over the years but faced no repercussions. However, when conservative activist Candace Owens reposted Jeong’s tweets and replaced the word “white” with “Jewish,” her account got banned immediately.
There are many more cases similar to these but, all things considered, one fact is clear as day. Twitter has a left-wing bias and they have always favored users of a more liberal disposition than a more conservative one. Their repeated censorship of people who don’t fit their political agenda has shown how dangerous these platforms can be when it comes to curbing free speech.
Bots and Fake News
Automated Twitter accounts called “Bots” that spread fake news and misinformation is another massive problem with social media. This issue was extremely prevalent during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It was reported in “Nature Communications” that bots helped spread bogus articles during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election by making the content appear popular enough that human users would trust it and share it more widely.
These bits usually follow two strategies to encourage people to spread misinformation.
The first strategy is to heavily promote an article with low credibility immediately after it is published. This helps in creating an illusion that the article is viral and everyone is sharing it. When researchers dug deep, they found an interesting pattern.
- Half of the accounts sharing a viral article within the first few seconds it appears on social media are bots.
- After the story has been around for at least ten seconds, most of the accounts spreading the story are real people.
As V.S. Subrahmanian, a computer scientist at Dartmouth College, points out, “What these bots are doing is enabling low-credibility stories to gain enough momentum that they can later go viral. They’re giving that first big push.”
The second strategy is for bots to target people with many followers, either by mentioning those people specifically or replying to their tweets with posts that include links to low-credibility content. Now, if one of these social media celebrities retweets a bot’s story, it becomes automatically mainstream since it is visible to their millions of followers.
How can blockchain improve the social media experience?
Since the social media landscape is infected, how do we make things better? It turns out that incorporating the blockchain technology can automatically help eradicate most of these issues.
Firstly, let’s look at the matter of censorship. The current companies can do that because they own all the information that’s on their platform. However, decentralization is one of the core tenets of blockchain technology. No single entity owns all the data inside the blockchain. It is because of this very reason that blockchain-based systems are censorship resistant. Plus, since the blockchain happens to be immutable as well, it is impossible to tamper any data once it has already been put inside the blockchain.
Now, let’s look at how the blockchain will help stop bots and fake news. Any content that a user, can always be traced back right to its very origins. Therefore blockchain-powered social media can always verify the content before posting and track the digital footprint. Going through a strict user verification process will help make sure that only genuine people get to be a part of the ecosystem. After that, the blockchain’s transparency can be used to keep them accountable for everything that they post.
Vid is a privacy-focused AI video journal app that allows you to remember your life and monetize your memories. Vid understands the importance of freedom of speech while keeping the platform free from fake accounts that pollute your feed with misinformation. This is why we incorporated the blockchain technology to give our users the best experience possible. If you want to learn more, check out our whitepaper here.
The Article was first published on Medium: