3. Backlash builds against "likes" and "retweets"
Critics are speaking out against using endorsements such as "likes" and "retweets" to surface content on social media platforms. The criticism comes in light of special counsel Robert Mueller's latest round of indictments on Friday, which cited Facebook more than any other platform as a tool used for Russian meddling.
Our thought bubble: While Mueller's indictment did not touch on the commercial incentives for bad actors to use some platforms over others, it's becoming obvious that gaming social engagement was a part of the Russians' strategy and will be something Facebook and Twitter will need to address moving forward.
- Mark Cuban tweets: "The quickest way to reduce the impact of bots and trolls is to remove the number of likes and retweets shown on Twitter posts and likes on FB. They are easily gamed by bots, but are seen as indications of authority."
- Holly Schroth, a senior lecturer at the Haas School of Business who specializes in social psychology behind interactions, tweets that social psychology backs what Cuban says. "Twitter and FB likes give the trolls/bots the 'illusion' of authority and normative social influence pressures increase conformity of opinion by users."
- Snapchat's Evan Spiegel criticized the "likes" system on social media for spurring fake news in an Axios op-ed last year.
Why it matters: Open platforms that give prominence to content based on popularity rankings as opposed to personal or professional recommendations are now facing the reality that these rankings can be easily manipulated, sometimes by only a few bad actors, inflating the authority of some content.
Worth your time: WSJ's Christopher Mims has a must-read piece on historical examples of this kind of "hierarchical" platform abuse, dating back to the printing press during The Reformation.