Human networks & social division — TEDxOxford

Sketchnotes of David Troy’s TEDx talk

David Troy’s session was just before lunch and really the darkness descended over us, I mean it was pretty scary learning about dark posts on Facebook used during the US election and Brexit campaigns, which target specific people based on their OCEAN personality profile — feeding them tailored campaign messages and fake news to influence their behaviour. As the posts are targeted to a subset of followers of a page and do not show up on the posting page’s feed — it’s impossible to know who’s been sent the posts or what was contained within them. Influencing only a small change in behaviour can have a dramatic outcome as the US election and Brexit results show.

Even more alarming, a UK company Cambridge Analytica, was behind the data crunching algorithms which led to creating the ‘best’ campaign messages and strategies to resonate with specific personality types.

Before he got to that point though, David told us about the data analysis he’d done with Twitter to see how social groups were connected, whilst also showing the social divides between different groups. For example in Baltimore, the hip hop crowd is pretty distanced from the geeks, showing very few connections. Why this matters is that we can operate in quite closed circles and not necessarily get a variety of perspectives, and we can be targeted based on our choices and associations.

The opening of the speech started with the rural v. urban divide in voting patterns seen during the US election and UK referendum. With the population increasingly moving to cities, what will be the impact on democracy in the future? As he wrapped up he reminded us how democracy is so fragile.

He left us with hope and empowerment with seven practical things we can do to protect this precious right:

Seven things you can help with to bring us back together

So try not to lose all hope just yet!