Jonathan Haidt Explains How Social Media Drives Polarization | Amanpour and Company

In a time of heightened political tension, Jonathan Haidt has a good idea of what’s driving this polarized atmosphere around the world. He is a social psychologist who believes social media has transformed in recent years to become an “outrage machine,” spreading anger and toxicity. He sits down with Hari to discuss this difficult problem and what the possible solutions could be.

Trump Campaign’s Superior Use of Facebook

There’s been evidence that the Trump campaign did a massively better job of taking advantage of Facebook than any other campaign, Republican or Democrat, had previously.

There’s also evidence that Facebook’s advertising models were a massive help — the Trump campaign and affiliated organizations were paying much lower advertising rates than the Clinton campaign + affiliates, largely because Facebook’s model prioritized the kind of controversy-and-outrage-generating stuff Trump was putting out there (since controversy and outrage drive engagement, and engagement is the metric Facebook cares about).

Facebook Only Cares About Facebook

Whatever Mark Zuckerberg says about human community or his legacy, his company is acting in its own interests—and against the public good.

Facebook’s crushing blow to independent media arrived last fall in Slovakia, Cambodia, Guatemala, and three other nations.The social giant removed stories by these publishers from users’ news feeds, hiding them in a new, hard-to-find stream. These independent publishers reported that they lost as much as 80 percent of their audience during this experiment.Facebook doesn’t care. At least, it usually seems that way… the company is now going ahead with similar changes to its news feed globally. These changes will likely de-prioritize stories from professional publishers, and instead favor dispatches published by a user’s friends and family. .. Many American news organizations will see the sharp traffic declines their brethren in other nations experienced last year—unless they pay Facebook to include their stories in readers’ feeds.

.. People say they’re interested in a broad range of news from different political preferences, but Facebook knows they really want angry, outraged articles that confirm political prejudices... Publishers in Slovakia and in the United States may warn of damage to democracy if Facebook readers receive less news, but Facebook knows people will be perfectly happy—perfectly engaged—with more posts from friends and families instead.

.. When people choose to subscribe to reliable news sources, they’re asking to go to the gym. With these newsfeed changes, Facebook threw out your gym shoes and subscribed you to a donut delivery service. Why do 2 billion people put up with a service that patronizingly reminds them that it’s designed for their well being, while it studiously ignores our stated preferences?
.. I think the only way Facebook will listen to people’s expressed preferences is if people start building better alternatives.
.. Right now, Facebook chooses what stories should top your news feed, optimizing for “engagement” and “time well spent.”
..Instead of telling Facebook what it should do, people should build tools that let them view the world the way they choose. If regulators force Facebook and other platforms to police news quality, they’ll give more control to a platform that’s already demonstrated its disinterest editorial judgment. A better path would be to force all platforms to adopt two simple rules:
  1. Users own their own data, including the content they create and the web of relationships they’ve built online. And they can take this data with them from one platform to another, or delete it from an existing platform.
  2. Users can view platforms like Facebook through an aggregator, a tool that lets you read social media through your own filters, like Gobo.
.. it either needs to learn to listen to its users stated desires, or it needs to make room for platforms that do.

Ask HN: Is Facebook dying?

it seems that, an ad and investor supported CMS for social, that becomes a public company, and applies a similar editorial algorithm to diverse cultures and demographics, needs must optimize for its most significant stakeholders. Investors want advertisers, advertisers want eyeballs, eyeballs can god damned be force-fed whatever content makes them click most. If Facebook news feed has become a rage-filled bubble-chamber that’s because powerful forces demand it become that: human psychology, the zeitgeist, demographics and economics.

.. outrage engages because outrage has become the main currency you can trade in for being right.

.. In a world that has exchanged old authority values for new authority values, there’s a transition period of authority looting which is where we are now. The crowd naturally gets a little mad and scared when the values that used to lead the crowd suddenly dematerialize, and in the age of authority looting everybody runs around trying to get as much authority for themselves as they can. And it turns out that the way individuals can loot authority for themselves in these troubled times is by taking it from others. So outrage engages because outrage let’s you pretend others are wrong so you can pretend you are right, thereby lootin some sweet authority for yourself. And social CMS systems are obviously an efficient arena for this.

.. It might be ugly, but Facebook is a reflection of us. It’s the interactive mirror. Some people don’t like looking in the mirror. It’s not surprising. It can be uncomfortable. To see your true Face.

Milo Yiannopoulos’s Cynical Book Deal

Though he is often described as a troll provocateur, he prefers the label “free-speech fundamentalist.”

.. Yiannopoulos, too, has suffered an exile—from Twitter, which finally banned him in July, after the Jones affair. Evidently, the episode boosted Yiannopoulos’s sense of himself as a man not to be trifled with.

.. Getting kicked off Twitter hardly stopped Yiannopoulos in his tracks, but it did deny him a major platform for his provocations. That he would parlay his notoriety into some sort of book deal is an unsavory, if inevitable, prospect. The rude surprise is that a major company like Simon & Schuster would be the one to give it to him

.. a man who has helped define the Trump moment’s flippant bigotry in the service of brand-building narcissism.

.. “I met with top execs at Simon & Schuster earlier in the year and spent half an hour trying to shock them with lewd jokes and outrageous opinions,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “I thought they were going to have me escorted from the building—but instead they offered me a wheelbarrow full of money.”

.. Yiannopoulos’s motivation is not so much ideological as it is fundamentally adolescent; he spreads his bile for the sake of seeing just how much bile-spreading he can get away with