Tech Firms Address the Challenge of Limiting Disinformation “Superspreaders”

Editor’s note: Peter Singer, Strategist at New America and co-author of LikeWar, a comprehensive analysis of the weaponization of social media, addresses the impacts of social media companies’ suspension of U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts this week, following his violation of social media policies. In “Superspreader Down: How Trump’s Exile from Social Media Alters the Future of Politics, Security, and Public Health,” Singer looks not only at the broad range of influence Trump’s Tweets have had on perpetuating conspiracy theories and extremism, but also looks at the fundamental shift that private industry’s decision to block such a “superspreader” represents. In part, it shows that social media firms are not just looking at whether users violate their policies, but also at what effects users’ communications could have on people off the network, Singer says in the Defense One piece.

“It certainly seems that the firms have finally come to the realization that they have a whole new set of responsibilities. They are not just tech creators or even the equivalent of news-media editors. After years of dodging it, they get that they are running information warzones. And there is a key change that comes from understanding that social media is not just a communication space but a conflict space. In Clausewitzian terms, the forces of toxicity now face a whole new type of “friction.””

While such decisions about use of private-sector owned social media sites have come to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic due to efforts to control misinformation, the latest ban on the President’s Twitter account is a significant change that could change the way such sites are used and moderated in the future.

Read the full piece at Defense One here.