Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Problem with the Internet - People

And God said, “Let there be bytes,” and there were bytes. God saw that the bytes were good...Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image" ... and everything started going wrong.



The Internet is not inherently bad, broken or evil. The technology and platforms are neutral. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo are not evil. Reddit maybe a little evil and 4Chan - well there will always by problem areas. Ah, but you say you have seen bad things on Yahoo News, Bing and Google search results. Yes. And that is not malice, just a program or algorithm doing impartially what it is meant to do.

All the technology on the internet works on variations of a simple formula; if "A then  B". If you make an event "A" (click a box, enter a URL, search a word), an action "then" is taken (open a form, redirect  user, deliver an ad) and a result "B" happens (form for new members delivered, sent to a traffic report website or get an ad for ice cream). This formula why a picture on your phone goes straight to your Instagram or why Google knows what you ordered from Amazon. The reality is much more mind bendingly complex. Hopefully you get the idea. 

It all works fairly well until you add people into the equation. People cannot leave well enough alone. Comment sections on news articles and forums were once hailed as the gateway to a new form of democracy, then people learned they could curse, be abusive and post links to get rich quick schemes. 

Malefactors come in all shapes, sizes, ages and sexes. Agendas range from lofty and altruistic to mercenary, exploitative and truly bizarre.  We The People clog the internet with hate, racism, rumors, innuendo, bad financial opportunities and cat pictures. Us. Not the technology. Not the companies. Not the platforms. 

But the internet cannot exist without people. Maybe Facebook's news feed had bias. So what. Some human bias infects whatever we touch;  Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times and any content with editors, moderators or curators. We are human. We bring our biases with us, no matter what. 


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