Our so­cial me­dia is a hot­bed for dis­rup­tion

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­press.co.za Kuzwayo is the founder of Ig­ni­tive, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency

’’ So­cial me­dia is open to the fla­grant spread of panic and ma­li­cious ru­mours. This is where the real threat lies. It is fer­tile ground for cultists and con­spir­acy the­o­rists who prey on the young and the vul­ner­a­ble

Face­book is plan­ning to add 1 000 peo­ple to its global ad­vert re­view team to help pre­vent the abuse that char­ac­terised last year’s US elec­tion, which was won by the men­ace-in-chief, Don­ald Trump. This is af­ter the com­pany ad­mit­ted that it found more than 5 000 ads from “in­au­then­tic ac­counts”, most likely from Rus­sia.

It’s a tough en­deav­our, like try­ing to clean all the world’s oceans with a sin­gle sieve.

Face­book has more than 1.9 bil­lion users and more than 5 mil­lion busi­nesses ad­ver­tis­ing on the site ev­ery month.

Now imag­ine try­ing to po­lice ev­ery ad­vert in ev­ery coun­try dur­ing mu­nic­i­pal, re­gional and na­tional elec­tions. Im­pos­si­ble.

This prob­lem is not unique to Face­book. Other so­cial-me­dia com­pa­nies such as Twit­ter and LinkedIn, prob­a­bly thought: “Thanks, Face­book, for tak­ing one for the in­dus­try.”

Con­sid­er­ing how new this tech­nol­ogy is, it is safe to as­sume that many coun­tries still lack the tech­no­log­i­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion to de­tect ma­li­cious po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing.

Now the ques­tion arises – how safe is democ­racy in the age of so­cial me­dia? And, by ex­ten­sion, can global in­sti­tu­tions such as the UN still ful­fil their pri­mary role of keep­ing the world safe from disease and war?

Judg­ing by the con­flicts that are go­ing on to­day, it is clear they are los­ing the peace. But why? Could there be a more sin­is­ter, in­vis­i­ble force, such as the de­fence in­dus­try, stir­ring up con­flict and mar­ket­ing war for profit?

“The only se­cu­rity of all is in a free press,” said Thomas Jef­fer­son, the third pres­i­dent of the US.

But what hap­pens when the press can be ma­nip­u­lated through con­tent farms in a for­eign land and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence de­signed to de­ceive? Is so­cial me­dia tak­ing us back to the time when sin­is­ter cor­po­ra­tions could pay a rebel army to cap­ture a state if the elected gov­ern­ment posed a threat to its com­mer­cial in­ter­ests?

Rest as­sured – if so­cial me­dia posed a threat to politi­cians and their liveli­hoods, it would have been banned a long time ago.

To il­lus­trate the point, the re­tire­ment age for or­di­nary cit­i­zens is 60 for women and 65 for men, but politi­cians are not gov­erned by the same mad­ness. No won­der par­lia­men­tar­i­ans treat the leg­is­la­ture like an old-age home.

So­cial me­dia is open to the fla­grant spread­ing of panic and ma­li­cious ru­mours. This is where the real threat lies. It is fer­tile ground for cultists and con­spir­acy the­o­rists, who prey on the young and the vul­ner­a­ble.

On Septem­ber 23, the fol­low­ers of “con­tactee” com­puter pro­fes­sional Nancy Lieder claimed the world would come to an end when it col­lides with a way­ward dwarf planet called Planet X, or Nibiru.

I vis­ited a Face­book page called Nibiru. The last con­tent was posted two days be­fore the ex­pected apoc­a­lypse. It is a video of a speed­ing car with the sun set­ting in the back­ground.

One of the visi­tors to the site who is op­posed to this wrote: “Peo­ple like you all should be banned on Face­book! Look like you have a sick plea­sure at mak­ing peo­ples scared of death. And to prey on ig­no­rant peo­ples pho­bia. I know one per­son that com­mit­ted sui­cide when she see this post You should be ashame of your­self. When you time come, re­mem­ber you will be judge by my fa­ther ... that is GOD! [sic]”

Af­ter the La Ve­gas mas­sacre this week, an­other cultist, Sherry Shriner, wrote on her Face­book page: “Hor­rific pyra­mid mas­sacre in Las Ve­gas warned is chill­ing mes­sage to Trump [sic].” Ear­lier this year, one of her fol­low­ers was shot dead by his girl­friend and fel­low cultist. Shriner claimed the North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion killed him.

This is what so­cial-me­dia com­pa­nies must look out for.

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