The problem of Meta no longer amplifying content

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Most tech journalism today is a rewrite of corporate blog posts and press releases. On Friday, the blogosphere produced post after post that faithfully regurgitated corporate blog posts and press releases. AnnouncementYou can also find out more about the following: Meta’s decision to no longer amplify “political” content on Instagram and Threads from accounts that users don’t follow — in a presidential election year, no less.

As is the case with so many bad ideas, this one sounds great as long as you don’t look at it too closely. The idea is to create a political clickbait that will make people angry. Disinfo paid for by Russian troll farms that’s dressed up to look like news will no longer invade the sanctity of your feeds and Explore pages.

It’s fine, I suppose, except for one little thing.

All that content isn’t going to magically start keeping its distance from Threads and Instagram users on its own. Meta must first identify the posts that are political and those that are not in order to block them from being seen by users.

Meta can only identify political posts if the company is also involved. You can find out more about this by clicking here.What is political? Logic suggests that the company needs to know what it’s looking for, and must then proactively find it, before it can go about hiding it from users. And that, by the way, is the most important takeaway from Friday’s announcement:

What’s most You can also check out our other blog posts.eworthy was not that Instagram and Threads will no longer amplify an account’s political posts to non-followers, which is what every headline declared. Rather, it’s that Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, in the midst of a presidential campaign season, has chosen this moment to define what counts as political content — and whether you see it or not.

This is a bad idea for so many reasons, and to understand why just look at Meta’s unsatisfying and banal definition of what counts as political content. It’s content that, and I quote, is “potentially related to things like laws, elections, or social topics.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, speaks at an event held in New York City. Image source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It becomes obvious, if you look past the press release that this is a bizarre endeavor. Let’s say, for example, there’s a post on Instagram or Threads that expresses a user’s excitement at attending an upcoming rally in support of LGBT rights. Is it a political message? To a conservative voter probably, but to the user who posted it, the content is just an extension of his or her identity.

Or what if, say, a law professor writes an explainer post that elucidates the 14th Amendment to help their followers better understand it — importantly, Without a doubt, mentioning Trump by name (the 14th Amendment bars anyone who previously swore to upload the Constitution from holding office if they’re found to have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion.”) Is that political content? What if, in the case of Trump, a post said something like: Did you notice what Trump did yesterday when the camera was on him during the Super Bowl?

Honestly, it never ceases to amaze me how logically inconsistent people can be in their attitudes toward Meta — and to Zuckerberg, specifically. Facebook is a nightmare for privacy! Zuck is way too powerful! And speaking of power, I want Zuck’s systems to be able to zero in on specific, individual posts from users and hide them if they’re too political!

Obviously, that’s a staggeringly absurd contradiction, but here we are. No wonder that the demise of social media is already underway. In terms of policing content, these big platforms have careened from the earlier eras of letting ‘er rip and then squelching reach unless you pay to play, to now becoming quasi-Ministries of Truth in tandem with an automation at scale of what content users are and aren’t allowed to see. The next press release may clarify the situation.

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