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We The People v/s Technology

It is irrefutable to deny that Democracy is at gunpoint thanks to the rapid development and growth of Silicon Valley technologies such as Social Media, Artificial Intelligence, Bitcoins and various other so called Numerical Algorithm’s which has empaneled in it a person’s entire information and which actually knows more about him/her than what he/she actually know about themselves. The trajectory which social-media has taken inflames regulatory & ethical concerns.

We rightly celebrate how the internet gives us a platform, allows new movements to form, and helps us access new information. These are good things, but don’t be blinded by to the other problems the same technology is creating. Our democracy relies on lots of boring stuff to make it actually work as a system of collective self-government that people believe in and support: a sovereign authority that functions effectively, a healthy political culture, a strong civil society, elections that people trust, active citizens who can make important moral judgments, a relatively strong middle class, and so on.

It is inexorably true that if we do not find a new settlement between tech & democracy then more and more people will simply conclude that democracy no longer really works, and look for something-else thereby striking the wrong chord for embarking toward a perilous path called the Benevolent Data Dictatorship.
  • The Genesis of Cyber-Space
    At the very nib of the origin of cyber-space the world was presented with 2 visions of Internet Technology Space:
    1. California Libertarianism
    2. Chinese Authoritarianism
       
    Our country which bares the title of Republic & Democratic choose the libertarianism approach. The ironical part about this model was that it showed great success but in these contemporary times it has become subject to what one can say Internal Contradictions.
     
  • Computational Propaganda
    Computational propaganda is a term and phenomenon that encompasses recent digital misinformation and manipulation efforts. It is best defined as the use of algorithms, automation, and human curation to purposefully distribute misleading information over social media networks.[1]. Computational propaganda involves learning from and mimicking real people so as to manipulate public opinion across a diverse range of platforms and device networks. Bots, the automated programs integral to the spread of computational propaganda, are software intended to perform simple, repetitive, robotic tasks.[2]

    They are used to computationally enhance the ability of humans to get work done online.[3] Social media bots are automated identities that can do mundane tasks like collect information, but they can also communicate with people and systems.[4] They are deployed to do legitimate jobs like delivering news and information. They also are used for more malicious activities associated with spamming and harassment.

    Whatever their uses, they are able to rapidly deploy messages, interact with other users’ content, and effect trending algorithms all while passing as human users. Political bots, social media bots used for political manipulation, are also effective tools for strengthening online propaganda and hate campaigns. One person, or a small group of people, can use an army of political bots on Twitter to give the illusion of large-scale consensus.[5]

    Regimes use political bots, built to look and act like real citizens, in efforts to silence opponents and to push official state messaging.[6]Anonymous political actors harness key elements of computational propaganda such as false news reports, coordinated disinformation campaigns, and troll mobs to attack human rights defenders, civil society groups, and journalists.[7] Thus Computational propaganda is one of the most powerful new tools against democracy for the reason being that it acts like an effective propaganda which attacks the “Pathos” of the people and which ultimately shadows their very ability to reason.

    False news reports, widely distributed over social media platforms, can in many cases be considered to be a form of computational propaganda. A very contemporary example for this would be the tweet which was surfaced by a notable medieval history writer Tom Holland. People mistook him for being the actor Tom Holland and because of that they started a computational wave called “Boycott Spiderman”.

    This example clearly shows how vulnerable people are that they do-not even go into the nitty-gritty of the said information and start ostracizing a person who is not even the actual perpetrator of that tweet. This clearly portrays that how the social media has contoured the people in a manner that they have implicit faith in what is shown to them without even checking as to whether it’s true or not and has made people completely dependent on them.

    Bots are often key tools in propelling this disinformation across sites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and beyond.[8] These social media platforms have served significant volumes of fake, sensational, and other forms of junk news at sensitive political moments over the last several years.[9] However, most platforms reveal little about how much of this content there is or what its impact on users may be.[10]

    The World Economic Forum recently identified the rapid spread of misinformation online as among the top 10 perils to society[11]. Prior research has found that social media favors sensationalist content, regardless of whether the content has been fact checked or is from a reliable source[12]. When junk news is backed by automation, either through dissemination algorithms that the platform operators cannot fully explain or through political bots that promote content in a preprogrammed way, political actors have a powerful set of tools for computational propaganda. Both state and non-state political actors can deliberately manipulate and amplify non-factual information online[13].
     
  • Algorithm’s not subject to Accountability.
    A healthy democracy needs informed citizens is no less than a gospel truth in today’s 21st century. The media essentially contribute to the functioning of democracy since they set the agenda, provide background information and represent different viewpoints with regard to political issues.

    Based on this, citizens are supposed to form their own opinions and participate in democratic decision-making processes[14]. Although the fundamental question which needs to be asked is how the algorithm curation influences the character and quality of our democracy. To answer this question the trajectory of focus should be on 1) Increasing fragmentation and polarization of the audience 2) The radicalization of public discourse (through disinformation/fake news).

    Fragmentation of the public agenda prevents people from sharing a common experience and from understanding one another. In view of this, social media may dangerously reduce the common core of topics for public discourse in a democracy. Traditionally, fragmentation research focuses on a shared issue or agenda rather than on like-minded opinions, which is why the theory is more closely linked to the concept of filter bubbles than to the concept of echo chambers[15]. Polarization” refers to the ideological division of a society into different (extreme) political camps. Polarization can be categorized into 1) Division of citizens’ attitudes[16] 2) The divergence of their emotional attitudes to specific (social) groups[17]. From a normative point of view, polarization is regarded as problematic because it makes compromises, which are existential for democracies, more difficult and in extreme cases impossible.

    At a societal level, the violation of the above-mentioned political rights threatens democratic discourse[18]with harmful consequences for democracy as a whole. Democracies require a fruitful public discourse characterized by a diversity of trustworthy and therefore correct information to function properly. If the prevalence of disinformation reaches a level that distorts the public discourse by essentially replacing and suppressing truthful information, the foundation of democracy becomes unstable[19].

    In addition to these indirect effects, disinformation may also have direct negative effects on democracy. Disinformation campaigns, for example, may threaten the integrity of elections[20].Incite polarization on conversely debated issues (e.g., migration) and undermine trust in democratic processes, and the “common meeting ground” of shared facts, issues, and values[21].

Conclusion:
We had for several years seen how social-media was helping democracy grow in vertiginous fashion but unfortunately that learning curve where the advances & excitement that comes from the activities have transitioned or transmogrified into tools of control for dictators. Alas! it has today indeed made social media weak like a Compromised Immune System.

End-Notes:
  1. Woolley & Howard, 2016
  2. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk
  3. Forelle, M., Howard, P., Monroy-Hernández, A., & Savage, S. (2015). Political Bots and the Manipulation of Public Opinion
  4. Howard, P. N., Kollanyi, B., & Woolley, S. C. (2016). Bots and Automation Over Twitter during the US Election. Computational Propaganda Project: Working Paper Series
  5. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk
  6. How Social Media Is Killing Democracy a research by University of Oxford
  7. Ibid
  8. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk
  9. How Social Media Is Killing Democracy a research by University of Oxford
  10. Ibid
  11. World Economic Forum, 2014
  12. Vicario et al., 2016
  13. comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk
  14. Katz, 1996; Tewksbury & Rittenberg, 2008
  15. Fletcher & Nielsen, 2017
  16. Fiorina & Abrams, 2008; Prior, 2013
  17. Iyengar, Sood, &Lelkes, 2012
  18. Jaursch, 2019, p. 8
  19. Bayer et al., 2019, pp. 77–78; Jaursch, 2019, p. 8
  20. EC, 2018a, p. 5
  21. Jaursch, 2019, p. 8.

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