Friday, October 13, 2023

To stop disinformation, stop astroturf

(this is a version of an excerpt from my book, if you like it please let me know)

There's a lot of discussion of removing disinformation as censorship lately. I think this gets the problem wrong. The problem is using many accounts that you control to act like a megaphone for your speech. Platforms can prevent disinformation by preventing bad actors from astroturfing popularity using faked crowds.

Governments regulating speech is fraught with peril. But disinformation campaigns don't work by using normal speech. They work by creating thousands of controlled accounts that like and share their own content, creating the appearance of popularity, which algorithms like search, trending, and recommendations then pick up and amplify further.

There's no right to create x1000 accounts for yourself and shout down everyone else. That's not how social media is supposed to work. And it's definitely not how wisdom of crowds is supposed to work. In wisdom of crowds, every voice has to be independent for the result to be valid. Search rankers, trending algorithms, and recommender systems are all based on wisdom of the crowds.

Regulators should focus not on specific posts or accounts, but on manipulation of the platforms by creating many accounts. It's fraudulent manipulation of platforms by spoofing what is popular. Astroturfing causes disinformation, not individuals posting what they think.

No comments: