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Orchestrating info warfare was easy, fixing businesses is much harder

The truth of Russian meddling in global politics through social media platforms is starting to emerge. It isn’t just, as we humourously suggested in EV#86 a group of bored, but digital savvy teenagers in Veles, Macedonia.

3 min readNov 9, 2017


It’s becoming clear that it is much more widely orchestrated, not just by Russia and their agents but by social networks (Facebook, and punching above its weight, Twitter) abetting them.

I used to run PeerIndex, which analysed 316m users on Twitter in real-time, predicting behaviours and scoring their trustworthiness and resonance in a highly granular fashion. My experience is that flagging, tracking and identifying bots or implementing mechanisms to audit who is buying ads is a pain, but is far from technically insurmountable.

This boils down to business decisions, the sorts of things Mustafa Suleyman alluded to in last week’s Exponential View:

We also need to rethink the standard metrics our industry uses to measure progress — investment round valuations, “active users”… and revenues are the crudest of proxies for company success, and largely ignore externalities…

In any case, Facebook has admitted as much. Taking steps to mitigate abuse will hurt its profitability. In their recent earnings announcement, Zuckerberg says the company was shifting its focus to “time well spent”. Tristan Harris, the promulgator of the ‘time well spent’ movement doubts Facebook’s intention. (See EV#33 for a discussion on Tristan Harris and time well spent.)

My friends at The Economist pull no punches, either:

Facebook, Google and Twitter were supposed to save politics as good information drove out prejudice and falsehood. Something has gone very wrong and… [the] stakes for liberal democracy could hardly be higher.

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Entrepreneur, inventor and creator — curator of The Exponential View