Note — Aug 19, 2018

How Social Media Took Us From Tahrir Square to Donald Trump

A very useful exercise by zeynep tufekci, weaving the arab spring, social media, security, the NSA, 45, Putin, and algorithm together. Basically, we (especially the US) left our security too unattended, let too many parts of our society rot and wither away, while letting Facebook and Google move us to a unhealthy attention focus, to then let our media and ourselves be hacked into extremes of disagreement. The first five sections, up to and including the lessons learned are most relevant here while the last point is a damming review of everything that Russia did not do, everything that that created the setting for the Putinning of our politics.

He hadn’t understood that in the 21st century it is the flow of attention, not information (which we already have too much of), that matters. […]

Power always learns, and powerful tools always fall into its hands. This is a hard lesson of history but a solid one. It is key to understanding how, in seven years, digital technologies have gone from being hailed as tools of freedom and change to being blamed for upheavals in Western democracies—for enabling increased polarization, rising authoritarianism, and meddling in national elections by Russia and others.

It was a shift from a public, collective politics to a more private, scattered one, with political actors collecting more and more personal data to figure out how to push just the right buttons, person by person and out of sight. […]

Dissidents can more easily circumvent censorship, but the public sphere they can now reach is often too noisy and confusing for them to have an impact. Those hoping to make positive social change have to convince people both that something in the world needs changing and there is a constructive, reasonable way to change it. […]

Our cognitive universe isn’t an echo chamber, but our social one is. This is why the various projects for fact-checking claims in the news, while valuable, don’t convince people. Belonging is stronger than facts. […]

Security isn’t just about who has more Cray supercomputers and cryptography experts but about understanding how attention, information overload, and social bonding work in the digital era.