What Happens When the Entire Internet is a “Bad Actor”
An op-ed on the decline of the internet.
Trust in social media is in a steady state of decline. Misinformation, cybersecurity breaches, digital Ad companies putting profits ahead of people, all hurt our trust in the internet.
Our trust in the internet is not just in malaise, it’s become an epidemic.
While social platforms like Reddit, Twitter and Instagram become more toxic, we’re leaving them.
Why We are Leaving Apps
We’re leaving them because they are actually hurtful to our lives. Selena Gomez knows a thing or two about how Instagram makes women feel about themselves.
So while Facebook blames bad actors for “widespread inauthentic behavior”, we have to start questioning Google and Facebook as leaders of what the internet has become.
If our trust in the internet has failed, doesn’t that mean they have failed as custodians of the internet?
Elizabeth Schulze of CNBC mentioned that, in a report published Friday, the EU found evidence of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on online platforms ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.
We live in an Inauthentic Internet Circa 2020
The EU said it found “continued and sustained disinformation activity” by Russian sources. EU officials said Facebook, Google and Twitter should “step up their efforts” in fighting fake news.
The entire attention ecosystem of Instagram that promotes vanity metrics and fake follower bots and black hat tactics is sort of inauthentic, is it not? Are fame, recognition and vanity really the drivers we want on the most popular platforms?
Facebook’s Bad Behavior is Well Documented
Facebook’s foray into apps has been mostly about cloning the products of others (e.g. Snapchat’s stories), acquiring (WhatsApp & Instagram), addicting users and killing their competition. Is that good behavior? Because someone tell me, how is that not being a bad actor for the health and innovation of the U.S. internet?
I have trouble liking what the internet has become, and I don’t think I’m alone.
While consumers trust News from Twitter and Facebook less, shareholders still reward Facebook for their aggressive tactics and PR rhetoric and mostly just their high profit margins and growth. Growth at all costs, the American way. Is that being a good actor?
We found out in 2018, even AOC can hack Twitter, incredible content but is that being a good actor?
Facebook has had so many poor reviews from the media, but Facebook already crippled North American media, with local media dying out in many places. Is that being a good actor?
Ads Aren’t “Good Actors”
Advertising makes the internet an inauthentic place, because money is put ahead of people and doing the right thing. Google and Facebook don’t have to innovate because they have such a big share of the mobile and digital advertising market.
Is blocking the digital innovation of others being a good actor for America’s future?
YouTube and Facebook are unable to regulate themselves or even protect their users from harmful content. Is that being a good actor?
We are leaving social media and spending less time on intrusive apps, but Facebook wants to pivot and centralize all of its chat-like features in WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram to advertise to us even better, even when it has been shown young people dislike Ads. Is that being a good actor?
American Values of Endless Growth Are Problematic
The American internet is so entirely broken. As a futurist, this is why I’m looking at the Chinese internet, with much more consumer centric and service friendly utilitarian online-to-offline convenience, as being superior.
Advertising and corruption might have doomed the American internet from the start. Facebook and Google might decline as companies simply because they did not understand the consequences of what they created, all in the name of short-term profits.
Digital Dopamine as a Weaponization vs. our Time
Facebook thinks removing page or fake accounts or extreme views online is being a good actor. But how do you regulate or fix an internet that’s broken? An internet based on the wrong pillars and foundations? An internet out of tune with the values of young people?
Facebook’s family of apps display all that you don’t want the internet to do to your brain. Digital dopamine as a product to monetize users is harmful. If the value you provide is fake, eventually users realize they have been duped.
Consumers Choose but What if the Freedom to Choose is Gone
So what do we do about an entire internet that’s a bad actor? They say consumers choose which businesses win and which lose, but what if the entire internet is a set up?
What if the internet just isn’t as real and positive as we make it out to be. Is it really worth all the time we give it?
So what do we do about an entire internet that’s a bad actor?
You cannot fix it. You can only leave it.
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