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Reducing the spread of misinformation on social media: What would a do-over look like?

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The news is awash with stories of platforms clamping down on misinformation and the angst involved in banning prominent members. But these are Band-Aids over a deeper issue — namely, that the problem of misinformation is one of our own design. Some of the core elements of how we’ve built social media platforms may inadvertently increase polarization and spread misinformation.

If we could teleport back in time to relaunch social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok with the goal of minimizing the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories from the outset … what would they look like?

This is not an academic exercise. Understanding these root causes can help us develop better prevention measures for current and future platforms.

Some of the core elements of how we’ve built social media platforms may inadvertently increase polarization and spread misinformation.

As one of the Valley’s leading behavioral science firms, we’ve helped brands like Google, Lyft and others understand human decision-making as it relates to product design. We recently collaborated with TikTok to design a new series of prompts (launched this week) to help stop the spread of potential misinformation on its platform.

The intervention successfully reduces shares of flagged content by 24%. While TikTok is unique amongst platforms, the lessons we learned there have helped shape ideas on what a social media redux could look like.

Create opt-outs

We can take much bigger swings at reducing the views of unsubstantiated content than labels or prompts.

In the experiment we launched together with TikTok, people saw an average of 1.5 flagged videos over a two-week period. Yet in our qualitative research, many users said they were on TikTok for fun; they didn’t want to see any flagged videos whatsoever. In a recent earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg also spoke of Facebook users’ tiring of hyperpartisan content.

We suggest giving people an “opt-out of flagged content” option — remove this content from their feeds entirely. To make this a true choice, this opt-out needs to be prominent, not buried somewhere users must seek it out. We suggest putting it directly in the sign-up flow for new users and adding an in-app prompt for existing users.

Shift the business model

There’s a reason false news spreads six times faster on social media than real news: Information that’s controversial, dramatic or polarizing is far more likely to grab our attention. And when algorithms are designed to maximize engagement and time spent on an app, this kind of content is heavily favored over more thoughtful, deliberative content.

The ad-based business model is at the core the problem; it’s why making progress on misinformation and polarization is so hard. One internal Facebook team tasked with looking into the issue found that, “our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” But the project and proposed work to address the issues was nixed by senior executives.

Essentially, this is a classic incentives problem. If business metrics that define “success” are no longer dependent on maximizing engagement/time on site, everything will change. Polarizing content will no longer need to be favored and more thoughtful discourse will be able to rise to the surface.

Design for connection

A primary part of the spread of misinformation is feeling marginalized and alone. Humans are fundamentally social creatures who look to be part of an in-group, and partisan groups frequently provide that sense of acceptance and validation.

We must therefore make it easier for people to find their authentic tribes and communities in other ways (versus those that bond over conspiracy theories).

Mark Zuckerberg says his ultimate goal with Facebook was to connect people. To be fair, in many ways Facebook has done that, at least on a surface level. But we should go deeper. Here are some ways:

We can design for more active one-on-one communication, which has been shown to increase well-being. We can also nudge offline connection. Imagine two friends are chatting on Facebook messenger or via comments on a post. How about a prompt to meet in person, when they live in the same city (post-COVID, of course)? Or if they’re not in the same city, a nudge to hop on a call or video.

In the scenario where they’re not friends and the interaction is more contentious, platforms can play a role in highlighting not only the humanity of the other person, but things one shares in common with the other. Imagine a prompt that showed, as you’re “shouting” online with someone, everything you have in common with that person.

Platforms should also disallow anonymous accounts, or at minimum encourage the use of real names. Clubhouse has good norm-setting on this: In the onboarding flow they say, “We use real names here.” Connection is based on the idea that we’re interacting with a real human. Anonymity obfuscates that.

Finally, help people reset

We should make it easy for people to get out of an algorithmic rabbit hole. YouTube has been under fire for its rabbit holes, but all social media platforms have this challenge. Once you click a video, you’re shown videos like it. This may help sometimes (getting to that perfect “how to” video sometimes requires a search), but for misinformation, this is a death march. One video on flat earth leads to another, as well as other conspiracy theories. We need to help people eject from their algorithmic destiny.

With great power comes great responsibility

More and more people now get their news from social media, and those who do are less likely to be correctly informed about important issues. It’s likely that this trend of relying on social media as an information source will continue.

Social media companies are thus in a unique position of power and have a responsibility to think deeply about the role they play in reducing the spread of misinformation. They should absolutely continue to experiment and run tests with research-informed solutions, as we did together with the TikTok team.

This work isn’t easy. We knew that going in, but we have an even deeper appreciation for this fact after working with the TikTok team. There are many smart, well-intentioned people who want to solve for the greater good. We’re deeply hopeful about our collective opportunity here to think bigger and more creatively about how to reduce misinformation, inspire connection and strengthen our collective humanity all at the same time.

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country.

Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday.

A former Facebook moderator in Kenya, Daniel Motaung, is suing the company claiming poor working conditions.

Motaung said that while working as a moderator he was exposed to gruesome content such as rape, torture and beheadings that risked his and colleagues’ mental health.

He said Meta did not offer mental health support to employees, required unreasonably long working hours, and offered minimal pay. Motaung worked in Facebook’s African hub in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource Ltd.

Following the judge’s decision that Meta can be sued in Kenya, the next step in case will be considered by the court on Mar. 8.

Meta is facing a separate court case in which two Ethiopians say hate speech was allowed and even promoted on Facebook amid heated rhetoric over their country’s deadly Tigray conflict.

That lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators to adequately monitor posts, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it responds more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

The Associated Press and more than a dozen other media outlets last year reported that Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in several places around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal Facebook documents leaked by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.

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Mayor Woodards to Present 2023 State of the City Address

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Mayor Woodards to Present 2023 State of the City Address





This year’s theme is “Building Tomorrow Together.”

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Mayor Victoria Woodards will present the 2023 State of the City Address at the Mount Tahoma High School Auditorium (4634 S. 74th St. in Tacoma) on Thursday, March 16, at 6:30 p.m. This year’s theme is “Building Tomorrow Together.” Topics covered during her address will include community safety, affordable housing and homelessness, and Tacoma’s ongoing recovery from the global pandemic.

 

Community members wishing to attend this free, public event in person can visit cityoftacoma.org/stateofthecity for additional information and to register. Ample free parking is available at the venue. Event doors open at 5:30 p.m. 

 

There will be American Sign Language interpreters at the State of the City, which will also be available in Spanish, Vietnamese and American Sign Language via Zoom. It will simulcast in Spanish live on VT Radio Universal at vtradiouniversal.com, on TuneIn Radio and on the VT Radio Universal Facebook page.

Follow the State of the City Address Live on TV Tacoma and Facebook

 

Woodards’ remarks can be viewed on TV Tacoma or tvtacoma.com, and on Facebook Live at facebook.com/cityoftacoma.

 

On Rainier Connect, TV Tacoma is available within Tacoma city limits and in Pierce County:



·      

On channel 512 in high definition



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On channel 12 in standard definition



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On channel 21 in standard definition in University Place

 

On Comcast, TV Tacoma is available:



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On channel 321 in high definition within Tacoma city limits and in Pierce County



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On channel 12 in standard definition within Tacoma city limits



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On channel 21 in Pierce County



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Not available in University Place

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John Carmack Has Some Great Advice About Games Preservation

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John Carmack Has Some Great Advice About Games Preservation

Screenshot: Star Wars | Kotaku

Doom co-creator John Carmack, legendary game designer, rocket guy and VR enthusiast, left Meta/Facebook late last year after a decade working on the company’s virtual reality efforts. Just because he’s gone, though, doesn’t mean the company’s decisions are out of his thoughts.

Accompanying the news last week that Meta had blown through almost $14 billion on failed VR bullshit was the announcement that Echo VR—a game first released on the competing Rift system before its developers were bought by Facebook—would be shutting down.

It was far from the only game to be killed off last week, with Rumbleverse and Knockout City suffering similar fates, their collective departures helping remind us that modern video games have a serious longevity problem, in that once discarded by publishers they’re extremely vulnerable to simply disappearing forever.

It’s a problem that Carmack recently addressed, sending a lengthy statement to UploadVR last week that covers all kinds of angles surrounding Echo VR’s shutdown. The stuff I’m mostly interested in, though, are all the bits about how it’s important for studios to keep old games alive, and that cost and manpower shouldn’t be the only things they’re thinking about when making those decisions.

“Even if there are only ten thousand active users, destroying that user value should be avoided if possible”, he says. “Your company suffers more harm when you take away something dear to a user than you gain in benefit by providing something equally valuable to them or others.”

Of course, his experience with this stuff is largely built on his time at id Software, whose older games—like Doom and Quake—were slightly more popular than some random VR game with only a few thousand users. His basic point is valid though! As he expands on here, with some tips built not just around good PR, but solid development fundamentals as well:

Every game should make sure they still work at some level without central server support. Even when not looking at end of life concerns, being able to work when the internet is down is valuable. If you can support some level of LAN play for a multiplayer game, the door is at least open for people to write proxies in the future. Supporting user-run servers as an option can actually save on hosting costs, and also opens up various community creative avenues.

Be disciplined about your build processes and what you put in your source tree, so there is at least the possibility of making the project open source. Think twice before adding dependencies that you can’t redistribute, and consider testing with stubbed out versions of the things you do use. Don’t do things in your code that wouldn’t be acceptable for the whole world to see. Most of game development is a panicky rush to make things stop falling apart long enough to ship, so it can be hard to dedicated time to fundamental software engineering, but there is a satisfaction to it, and it can pay off with less problematic late stage development.

To its credit, Knockout City—one of the games I mentioned above—is doing exactly this. When its existing version shuts down later this year, a new standalone release will drop that will allow for private servers, in effect letting people keep and play the game until the end of time.

Like Carmack says, there should be more of this, please!

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