I have belatedly joined the masses in seeing the Netflix documentary. I was surprised that throughout the presentation the issue was framed as one of individual (recreational) choice and of manipulation of interests and inclinations: such a way of seeing the dilemma completely elides the extent to which the platforms have penetrated the workplace, providing compelling market incentives in favor of participation for work reasons to those who are perfectly aware of what the tech companies are doing. Much like the rebuttals to Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism argue, the problem with the analysis is not technological, but social and economic.
Yesterday I attended an online panel organized by the Atlantic Council with government (Matt Masterson of CISA), think-tank (Alicia Wanless of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Clara Tsao of the AC’s DFRLab) and industry figures (Nathaniel Gleicher of FB and Yoel Roth of Twitter) on steps being taken to guarantee the integrity of the electoral process in the US this Fall. The general sense was that the current ecosystem is much less vulnerable to disinformation than the last presidential cycle, four years ago, and this despite the unprecedented challenges of the current election. However, the most interesting panelist, Wanless, was also the least bullish about the process.
Yesterday, I attended the webinar for the public launch of the Election Integrity Partnership between Stanford, U Dub, Graphika and the Atlantic Council. Quite serious and professional public-interest work being done, and clearly timely.
The definition of electoral disinformation the Partnership adopted as their operational target seemed quite well-tailored and manageably factual (e.g. information such as voting hours and poll locations, the presence or absence of massive queues, mis-documented instances of fraud…).
What struck me as remarkable, however, is that there would be plausible user cases in which this type of factual information would be sought first and foremost, or with greater assurance and trust, on random posts on social media platforms: this really speaks to a gigantic lack of authoritativeness or communication ability on the part of election officials.