Post-Truth Politics and Parenting

Some of you might have noticed that there’s some kind of voting thing taking place in the US today. And as ever there’s a battle raging to mobilise supporters of both persuasions to get out today and vote since whoever gets the voters out, wins the election. It’s easier said than done. But’s it’s kind of the way things work…

But a couple of things to consider. Let’s start with Time Magazine’s Word of the Year for 2016, ‘Post-Truth’. We’ve already seen Twitter take action in deleting 10,000 bot accounts and Facebook has blocked, er, 115 accounts that were attempting to influence the results. But if all that is happening is that you are managing to get people out to vote who have been misinformed by fake news, then does that ultimately deliver us a better world?

It’s become a real issue and yet another thing to add to the list for any parent as they try to guide their offspring into a world that is vastly different from their own experience of youth. Surveys have shown that often it’s the youngest who can be attracted to populist positions (see cynicism, authoritarianism, nativism and xenophobia) and it’s obvious that the YouTube algorithms will reward the most extremist views in front of anyone, not just the young.

Without going in over my head into the depths of political science, I did find this idea of continuous voting by Steve Randy Waldman fascinating. Part of the problem is that elections are predictable – you know they’re coming and that gives the power brokers the ability to attempt to manipulate the narrative by crafting a variety of high-profile and factually inaccurate media stories in the run-up which reflect favourably on a particular candidate.

This thought experiment suggested having 5% of the electorate vote each month on candidates; then the results of such elections only being delivered according to the random flip of a virtual coin resulting in heads. Put simply: no politician knows when he or she may be replaced, which encourages each one to work with his or her constituency to provide value over the long terms, rather than focusing on the more superficial ‘marketing sprints’ that we tend to see in democracies around the world these days near election time.

How Facebook Means The Internet For More People

I’ll save my update on what has been an amazing few days being immersed in building ideas for blockchain businesses with the Chiasma until I can do it justice.

Instead, here’s a fascinating story that shows just how powerful Facebook is becoming in some developing countries. To summarise, it transpired to those studying survey responses that there are millions of Facebook users in Indonesia have no idea that they’re using the internet. Indeed, the majority of respondents in Nigeria, India, Indonesia and Brazil all agreed with the statement “Facebook is the internet“.

Of course, Facebook and others have been instrumental in building the foundations for this ubiquity, with Facebook Zero focused on providing access to those with only basic phones and the provision of Facebook-only data plans in India, for example.

But the reality is that now the platform is so important that regulators and public bodies can do nothing other than engage with citizens where they are – namely on Facebook. And whilst the gradual exodus continues from the open web to a closed proprietary platform, we continue to move further away from the original benefits – and intention – that powered the original concept of the internet.