ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : SocialMedia, TheProblemWithFacebook, PlentyOfRoomAtTheBottom, BangTheRocksTogether

Quora Answer : Is there a logical and ethical way for free society to shape policy so that fake news, anti-vaccination information, and other socially harmful lies/misinformation can be dealt with both quickly and efficiently w/o ceasing to be free?

May 24, 2019

I think social media like Facebook, Twitter etc. have to take more responsibility.

But I see the argument that they can't set themselves up as the arbitrary deciders of truth.

So here's what I think they should do.

Whenever a meme or image or video or link or news story is shared on social media, it should be possible for others to report it as fake or harassment.

That happens already, but currently "reporting" is a big thing, with a high threshold for something to be taken down or for a user to be banned.

These are serious penalties and so the barrier to applying them should be high.

Instead I propose that when a meme is reported as a lie or bogus or intimidating, anyone who posts or shares such a meme is given a small penalty in the form of a very short term block or delay to their further posts.

For example, for posting or sharing a meme that gets two complaints against it, you get a 5 minute ban on posting or sharing.

If you are reported as doing it again during the same 24 hour period, the ban time doubles to 10 mins. A third time, 20 minutes. And so on.

The most worrying thing about fake news, particularly the kind that is causing trouble in the world, is the speed at which bad memes can exponentially explode across the internet. At a speed which outpaces ordinary events. A fake news meme can blow up two days before an election, sweep through the population, and change the outcome, long before the current mechanisms of identifying and weeding out lies can close it down.

My proposal, on the other hand, would throttle the speed at which fake news and bad memes could spread through the network.

For ordinary users who might occasionally be fooled into sharing a piece of fake news, or who might just feel angry enough about something to post anyway, this small punishment would be almost unnoticed. A slight delay in how they live their online lives. A tiny fine for a tiny transgression. But something that hardly inconveniences them.

Even if you are wrongly accused of something occasionally, you suffer very little.

But it would put the professional trolls and meme farms out of business as soon as they got started. Within minutes of trying to post dodgy materials they would find their delay punishment had escalated to hours. (TrollFarms)

It makes organized mass trolling unviable.

It would also stop the rapid spread of the bad memes. Right now, in a ten minute window, an angry, impassioned user can forward dozens of memes to hundreds of users. Who in turn spread it to hundreds more. With my solution even if every user inclined to spread a bad meme is delayed by only 5 minutes, this cuts down the spread of the meme considerably.

Bad memes will no longer be able to outpace more serious deliberation. And without that speed, I think the harm they would do, given that people have more time to think about them seriously, would drain away. Without actually stopping anyone from expressing the things that are really important to them.