How would you change the social networking algorithm to avoid "the social dilemma"?
Image credit: Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash
Shubhankar Kulkarni Sep 24, 2020
“If You're Not Paying For It, You Become The Product”
– The Social Dilemma, Netflix
Although social networking sites have brought about positive changes in the world, there are demerits and they are not a secret anymore (from screen addiction and depression to manipulating the elections). Several movements have sprung from the manifestations of the ill-effects of social networking. They are striving to change the algorithm and the laws to make social networking a better experience for everyone.
What changes would you make to maintain the benefits of social networking and simultaneously eliminate the negative side? Here are some examples -
- Decoupling social networking and marketing - Will this help? What are the disadvantages here?
- No long-term storage of the user data – Browsing data only from the last 15 days (or so) will be stored. Will this work?
What other changes can you think of? How would those help? Alternatively, what are the technological developments happening around the globe to avoid the social dilemma? For example, Tim Kendall’s app “Moment” that hopes to break social media addiction.
Blockchain-based Internet Browsing and Access Through the Verified-Accounts Only
J. Sep 24, 2020
A person or a company can access the internet (and thus social networks) only through one registered and verified account that is unique and tightly connected to the identity (ID, driving license, or passport verification). Every keyword, browsing history, edit, or comment on the internet is extremely private, legally protected but built on a blockchain technology that locks the process in time, and is non-changeable. This way, the hacker breaches, online frauds, manipulations, or stealing of personal data could be easily connected to the verified accounts, legally proven by the blockchain technology, and would help to have a more secure online browsing experience. Social networks would become safe environments where privacy is the highest priority.
Maybe the governments should step up
Subash Chapagain Oct 02, 2020
Well, the social dilemma- if it is a dilemma of any sort- was a problem created by the algorithm, and the solution to it possibly lies in the design of a new, updated algorithm that doesn't compromise on the user privacy and decouples content-feeding from acute marketing. However, will Facebook and Google do so? It is highly unlikely that they will. After all, they are profiteering corporations and they have their reasons not to comply with these propositions. Hence, one possible solution to this asymmetric power accumulation could be regulation and intervention from the governments worldwide. States could introduce regulations to overhaul the business models that rely on attention-grabbing and manipulation and call for protection of rights to privacy. Maybe every government across the world should start building up state-funded capacitive systems- specific to data usage and social media management- so as to effectively regulate these platforms.
One such idea could be to establish a governmental corporation that looks over the nature of all algorithms before approving them for wide-scale usage by these corporations. Another probable solution would be for the governments to invest heavily and take over data accumulation, hence taking away the concentrated ability of data-power usage from the tech giants. For example, rather than directly giving the data to the corporations, the government funnels all the user data, and the corporations can use it (after legal and ethical clearances) for their specific services/ products. This might sound a bit far-fetched, but could work if planned and implemented strictly.
There may not be just one single solution to this new age problem. It is a systemic and structural issue that can be addressed only with the mix of political, legal and engineering solutions.
Enabling users to sort the feed
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 09, 2020
Instead of "feeding" the users what the platform wants to feed, the users can choose how to sort their feed. Options for sorting can be - chronological, based on popularity (likes, comments), or the personalized feed that is currently invariably provided.
It will, firstly, tell the user that the personalized feed is, in a way, a manipulated/ changed version of the real chronological feed. Secondly, they are free to switch across the sorting methods and do not rely on the algorithm to make that decision for them.
It can also be done for the search engines - the sorting of results by a search engine can be controlled by the user. The search engines can provide sorting options like chronological, based on popularity (number of site visits), or the personalized feed that is currently invariably provided. Moreover, every region (city, state, country) can have a personalized version for that region, which will be standard (not based on any single user's search history) and this can also be one of the sorting options. A standard version for a region will be specific enough for the users from that region but not so specific that it will be different every user. Region-wise personalization will provide specific results associated with the region's history, climate changes, politics, developments, etc. which might benefit the users.
Disabling advertisements for premium users
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 09, 2020
Levy a small fee for premium users who do not want their social feed interspaced with advertisements. This may be a win-win for both the platform and the users. Again, this will also indicate to the user that their feed is being manipulated by adding advertisements. Educating the user regarding the working of the tool is more important.