Would Friction Improve Social Media? 1/1/2022
New forms of discrimination
Sahar Massachi writes about
a different approach, one that is emerging in companies across the social media landscape: integrity design. Integrity workers like me try to defend a system from attackers who have found and learned to abuse bugs or loopholes in its rules or design. Our job is to systematically stop the online harms that users inflict on each other. We don’t (often) get into the muck of trying to make decisions about any specific post or person. Instead, we think about incentives, information ecosystems, and systems in general. Social media companies need to prioritize integrity design over content moderation, and the public needs to hold them accountable about whether they do so.
Massachi offers two examples. One is a “driving test” that a user must pass before being able to use all of the features of the app. This test might be intended primarily to make the user prove that he or she is a human being and not a bot. The other example is a “speed bump” in which someone who makes heavy use of an app would be shut down for a while in order to slow them down.
These proposals strike me as discriminatory. They are not discriminatory based on the content of the user’s actions. Perhaps that is an improvement, especially if you think that content moderators are biased against conservatives. But the “driving test” and “speed bump” approach to discrimination strikes me as a cat-and-mouse game. It is likely that the most harm-producing mice will learn how to evade the cat, and you will just end up with frictions that annoy the innocent while the guilty carry on.
Internet culture is not so much an engineering problem as it is a cultural problem. We are at a point in history where some really nasty cultural viruses are circulating. The status of liberal values is declining. The status of “social justice” is too high on the left. The status of various conspiracy theories is too high on both the left and the right. For me, that is the crux of the problem.
Thanks to one of my seminar participants for a pointer to the article.