May 20, 2019

Regulations Can't Save Facebook

“In response to charges of fake news and foreign interference in elections, Facebook executives lament that they were blindsided by how their platform has been misused and abused. Such surprise is either naive or a misdirection from a company that prided itself in understanding and monetizing human behaviors.

Unfortunately, Facebook has little control to change human behaviors that they exploit with their algorithms; and regulations will not eliminate the abuse and misinformation either.

Facebook has been a great platform for social interaction precisely because it plays upon our desires to connect and have purpose among our community. Facebook has brought people together with common interests, and long-lost friends have found one another to rebuild connections. The resulting good has been immense as Facebook has played a role in raising funds for various causes that have helped thousands.

Unfortunately, those same human desires and tendencies are a source for perpetuating abuse, hate, trolling, cyberbullying, misinformation, rumors, jealousy and misogyny. Sadly, social media is now a source of public health risk, with documented rises in depression and suicide rates.

At the crux of the problem are natural and well-understood human behaviors, including homophily and confirmation bias. Homophily is the tendency of individuals with similar beliefs (e.g., around cultural, political, race, or drug issues), social demographics and other characteristics to come together.

Facebook creates a natural environment for individuals to opt in with similar others while excluding those with contrarian views. The behaviors on social networks have popularized these terms: echo chambers, consumption treadmill, birds of a feather flock together, and the information cocoon/bubble.”

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JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"My fellow progressives actually doubt if I'm still a Democrat just because I won't accept Nicolas Maduro's tyrannic regime in my home of Venezuela."

"One of the particular characteristics of the Trump presidency is the way Trump consistently creates drama – some by design, some not – that makes it hard to see the broader outline of events."

"Israel’s Eurovision entry barely made a dent on the scoreboard but there’s no doubt that the Jewish State was the real winner of the Eurovision Song Content 2019."

"The Saturday Night Live Finale Was a Mishmash of Everything It Needs to Fix: The send-off to Season 44 might end up functioning as a send-off to a particularly toothless era for the show."

"The biggest challenge in measuring real compensation and Americans’ well-being is the extraordinary growth in new products that have brought new benefits not captured in any government consumer price metric."

"...we’ve grown wary of the so-called attention economy, which, in the name of corporate profits, exploits our psychological vulnerabilities in ways that corrode social life, diminish privacy, weaken civic cohesion..."

"Regardless of how healthfully we live or how much medical care we receive, we will all die. Yet, understanding this intellectually is vastly different from truly feeling it; raw confrontation with our own mortality is frightening."

"Power, although hard to handle, is greatly desired. There is no person or group or sect or party or mob that doesn’t want power, convinced that it would know how to use it as no one ever has before."

"It turns out that feminism and faith both have high expectations of husbands and fathers, if for very different ideological reasons, and that both result in higher-quality marriages for women."

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"The Germans, the Jews and the Poles Are on the Battlefield Again: The Poles see themselves as the ultimate victims, the Germans repent and pass anti-BDS resolutions, and Israel speaks in two voices..."