This week, we dissect the complicated cultural issue plaguing our social platforms. In the wake of new bans and mad-dash policy updates from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, it’s critical to understand the root causes and externalities. And as luck has it, the most famous of the de-platformed made a return on Wednesday.
Is social media ripping apart the fabric of society? Fears of the fringe and “the other”have prompted some to demand social platforms remove uncomfortable ideas, hoping that the very algorithms that entrap us will protect us from ourselves. The idea of uniting humanity through a global network is turning out to be more dystopian than utopic. At the center, a tribal battle has erupted online, and it’s just getting started.
Tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen famously said, “there are only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle.”
This bundle/unbundle process most commonly appears in the digital media and technology space. Successful unbundling requires product innovation that makes it an obviously better choice than its predecessor. For example, the ability to instantly download a single song of your choice from iTunes, versus driving to Tower Records to buy a full CD, is clearly the better option.
Consumer packaged food (CPG) brands been able to avoid the unbundling disruption, because innovation in the CPG space was stagnant. Innovation usually meant introducing a minor variation to a product line, such as offering a family size version of an existing SKU. This limited “innovation” worked as long as all of the large CPGs were playing the same game. But, when technology set its sights on the food vertical, disruption was inevitable.
Reality is shifting, and no one understands what’s real anymore.
A new version of reality has emerged and it’s manifesting itself in strange phenomena such as Frye Fest, fake news and synthetic influencers. This version of reality – the synthetic layer – sits on top of our senses and language, and has emerged thanks to our powerful digital landscape: social media, television, video games and the interconnected global community. These digital networks alter our perception of what’s real, and reinforce that position through likes, comments and shares. Synthetic reality is rapidly shifting our culture, and it’s time for brands and consumers to understand what is happening to the world around them.
The “front page of the Internet” is the latest battle ground in the fight over control of global culture. Chinese tech giant Tencent recently invested $150m in Reddit. This investment sparked virtual protests and outrage across the social platform, with images of Tiananmen Square flooding Reddit’s front page. The threat of Chinese censorship was feeling all too real on a site that had historically embraced the extremes of free speech.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman assured users that “Our governance didn’t change during this round, which means we didn’t add anyone to the board, and our policies won’t be changing either.”. That is likely true…for “this round”. The truth is, to really understand China’s influence over U.S. culture, Silicon Valley just needs to look south.
Recode wonder woman Kara Swisher interviewed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Twitter last night. It was, unsurprisingly, a terrible medium to conduct an interview. Recode republished the interview in order, which misses some of the nuance, but is the best place to catch up.
Jack has been on a strange media tour during past few weeks, including stops on both Joe Rogan’s and Sam Harris’ podcasts. All of these interviews have the same empty, passionless quality. The interviewers wanted concrete examples about what Twitter is doing, Jack only musters vague responses like “we’re better at prioritizing impact now”. The responses have all felt… slippery. And if you are going to be slippery (even if for good reason) why do a media tour?
There is an ocean of data on the Internet, growing every second from both humans and bots. Most of this data is meaningless and harmless. It’s noise. But some of the data is harmful, intended to influence and misdirect public opinion. This harmful data appears authentic (fake news) which is why it’s so effective. Deep fakes are about to make the problem much worse.
For a politician, deep fakes might be one of the most terrifying technologies to emerge since the nuclear bomb. The AI-based technology can create illusions that seem as real as the nightly news. In fact, they could recreate the news with a completely fabricated narrative. It is no surprise that Congress has introduced a bill to regulate deep fakes.