Trolls (2016)

Why Trolls Won in 2. A decade is all it took, more or less, for the internet to become unmanageable. In that time, a handful of online communities went through unprecedented expansion, scaling the experimental, self- organizing colonies of the Web 1. Facebook and Twitter that grew out of Web 2. The warning signs have been easy to spot for regular users, but 2.



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The tech industry. This was the worst year yet. How Did It Get So Bad? The starting gate can be hard to pinpoint, but between 2. Facebook; Reddit came in 2. Twitter hobbled into the spotlight in late 2.

You. Tube was scooped up by recently IPO. Google is number one. All three have treated their users as numbers, quantities to be attained rather than individuals experiencing much of their day- to- day lives through the products they. This year that insincerity and backwards thinking cause the shit to hit the fan. Gizmodo followed Facebook. That first discovery led to the Trending News team.

The replacement was as buggy as the original, human- run model was susceptible to editorial bias. And the resulting product, without the ability to accurately discern legitimate websites from utter nonsense, exacerbated the prevalence, reach, and potential profit to be gained by sharing bullshit passed off as news. The cure, as the saying goes, was worse than the disease. Investing in more users has always been a higher priority than investing in the infrastructure to keep existing users safe. Twitter. The platform makes fertile soil for hate to grow: many personalities associated with the so- called . Coordinated online harassment first entered the mainstream consciousness through the brutal salvos launched by Gamer.

Gate near the start of this decade. Though the movement itself has all but fizzled out, its tactics have unfortunately crystalized into the norm. Gizmodo reported on the systematic gaming of Reddit. They made attempts at filtering, but ultimately faltered in taking any real stand, an outcome that should surprise no one familiar with the company. His puerile revenge, he explained, was a direct result of coordinated harassment he received from the very same Trump subreddit he would later fail to ban.

Can it be more deafeningly obvious that something is fundamentally broken? A gunshot might complete the metaphor. None of these communities exist in a vacuum, and what spreads on one is bound to end up on the others.

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Earlier this year, Edgar Welch, armed with multiple weapons, entered a DC pizzeria and fired, seeking to . A brief interview with the New York Times revealed that the shooter had only recently had internet installed in his home. There were far more incidents this year than any sane person would have the time or emotional fortitude to catalog exhaustively. But the through- line of these fuck- ups. Human intervention is still necessary, perhaps more than ever, and in digital city- states like these moderators are the backbone of online law enforcement.

As more users flock to these major online hubs, the level of mayhem has gotten worse then ever. Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. A Pew Research study from 2.

That figure reaches a staggering 7. Reddit. An interview with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman revealed that three teams handle moderation to varying degrees on his site: the community team, the trust and safety team, and the . One former employee told Gizmodo that, as recently as late 2. In that same interview Huffman stated with regard to harassment on the 1. Not much has changed since Jack Dorsey took over Costolo. A lengthy Buzzfeed expose revealed Twitter has done little to help protect its users from the deluge of cruelty the platform. While far less susceptible to targeted harassment than platforms that thrive on anonymity, Facebook has borne the lion.

Last month, it was revealed that a sizable amount of that disinformation was the byproduct of teens in the Balkans writing whatever they felt was mostly likely to resonate with readers. Not only was the removal of such sites eminently possible, Gizmodo learned earlier this year that the tools to do so were built and not deployed for fear of conservative backlash.

While the company has publicly committed to curbing the spread of fake news, a cursory glance at any of the dozens of right- wing Facebook groups like Trump Friends or The Trump Deplorables shows no obvious change in the frequency with which stories like . This inner circle of top- ranking officers has the power to make or overturn moderation decisions seemingly at their discretion. It. Though Reddit and Twitter are far from profitable, all three are thoroughly in the business of content. Your willingness to be mined for content that makes the site more attractive and data to better serve you with advertisements are the price of admission. What meager protections they offer now outweigh the cost. Inaction has been a tacit endorsement of trolls and bigots by these companies for years. Investing in more users has always been a higher priority than investing in the infrastructure to keep existing users safe.

The tensions between . Meanwhile, internet influence and political power have began to merge. For the past year, newcomers to the internet were immediately exploited, capitulating in the election of a troll for the President of the United States. What started as an experiment had slid into an abusive dystopia. Other than those in the burgeoning tech industry, the earliest public incarnation of the internet. It also had little to no moderation. Each September, new college students would get easy access to the network, leading to an uptick in low- value posts which would taper off as the newbies got a sense for the culture of USENET.

Eternal September when AOL began to offer USENET to a flood of brand- new internet users, and overwhelmed by those who could finally afford access, that original USENET culture never bounced back. Similarly, when Facebook was first founded in 2. Harvard students. Early human users included employees Chris Slowe (Harvard) and Aaron Schwartz (Stanford), and venture capitalist Sam Altman (Stanford). The trend has remained fairly consistent: the wealthy, urban, and highly- educated are the first to benefit from and use new technologies while the poor, rural, and less educated lag behind. That margin has shrunk drastically since 2. Americans. Reddit now reigns as the .

Twitter is the preferred communication vehicle for the rich and the famous, including the President- elect Donald Trump. According to Pew Research, 6. US used the internet in 2. By 2. 01. 5 that number had skyrocketed to 8. The shift is not a matter purely born from mass migration, as USENET.

Bad actors are intentionally exploiting the vulnerabilities that these massive companies have laid bare. Twitter has been fully weaponized by hate groups who descend on users for ideological differences with impunity. Facebook made fake news profitable. Relative newcomers to these online ecosystems were beset by exploitation from above and within. Profiting off these corporate cities were magnates with neither the resources nor inclination to protect users, clinging to an inaccurate and outdated image of their companies as neutral conduits for communication. And steadily gaining traction on them were outlets like Breitbart and Infowars and loathsome pundits, training the new arrivals into their own troll armies, whipping them into a frenzy with whatever flavor of hatemongering helped them earn a buck along the way. Donald Trump, an outsized internet bully himself whose political clout and wealth further insulated him from leveraging these platforms to spread misinformation and push his agenda.

Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook are forced to reckon with what thoughtless acquisition and gutless non- intervention have fostered within their products. Both sides of this new digital class war are maintaining uneasy relationships with the exceptionally wealthy: Donald Trump, Peter Thiel, Rex Tillerson, Andrew Pudzer, and Gary Cohn on one side; Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergei Bryn, and Tim Cook seemingly on the other. Less than a month from Trump. Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently accepted roles on Trump. Meanwhile, Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon left his post to join Trump. While in media, Milo Yiannopolis, who we mentioned earlier, was Bannon.

Alex Jones, creator of Info. Wars, is counted among the few people Trump has said something positive about, a bizarre endorsement that took place while he was a guest on Jones.

The present excuses no longer hold water and users have drawn the battle lines. Anyone with a shred of empathy can see which side is the overwhelming source of these new and dangerous problems.

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