I want to let you know about some simple, concrete actions you and I can take — today — that will fundamentally improve our ability to communicate with each other ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. In particular, if you are a university student, professor, or IT staff — this article is for you.
It is no secret that Twitter and Facebook have been compromised by nefarious actors that use fake and automated accounts to falsely influence public opinion. It is also no secret that these platforms have financial responsibilities to shareholders that prevent them from fixing their products quickly. We do not have the time to rely on Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey — no matter how well-intentioned they are — to fix these problems for us. Individual citizens must take it upon themselves to build secure information ecosystems.
ARPANET and Facebook both grew out of the university system. Why shouldn’t the next generation of digital infrastructure do the same? Here’s an algorithm to create a large-scale, federated social network composed entirely of real-human accounts.
The most immediate, pressing issue of our time is the corruption of social networks by bad actors. Twitter, in particular, is overrun by astroturf accounts and political propaganda bots. Trending hashtags and other information derived from user activity is suspect and subject to hijacking by those commanding massive botnets. Facebook has its own set of problems, including so-called “dark ads” that may be targeted at the individual level to disillusion people from voting.
Ah, election season. The time every four years where we get to collectively wake up, freak out about the direction of the country for 6 months, passive-aggressively flood our feeds with political opinions, then act like nothing happened after it’s all over. This season has revealed some really painful problems with the internet in general and with social media in particular. In my view, there are two big ones that really ought to be fixed before 2020. Continue reading