It’s true. With Tim Berners-Lee recently stating that the world-wide web is in a “downward plunge to a dysfunctional future”, there’s doubts about how much we can trust what we read. Data can be manipulated, misinformation can spread easily and it’s skewing the results of elections and referendums.
Sir Tim invented the web-page system that you’re reading right now, but he’s concerned about how hacking and harassment has increase, plus the fact that business models easily reward cash-for-clickbait. This means that there’s unintended consequences, such as aggressive or polarised discussions. This, in turn, causes opinions.
A few years ago this video appeared on the web and it’s reappeared recently via Twitter..
Now, we’ve covered this before. It’s very easy to create a bot and side-step checks on comment sections with websites. Opinions can be altered easily with many shares, re-tweets or likes on Twitter or Facebook too. It’s all too easy and it doesn’t really cost a great deal.
The click farm shown above, if you pay them, can do everything from boosting your profile to sharing a post or promoting a product. They can also submit product reviews from thousands of different accounts.
Meanwhile, and particularly relevant today, Cyber-security firm F-Secure has announced that lots of “inorganic” activity was located after the Brexit Referendum. The firm analysed 24 million tweets posted from December 4th last year until February 13th this year. They found that foreign Twitter accounts promoting Leave included “excessive” retweeting from bots or fake accounts. This “amplification” occured during the night, when UK residents were asleep and, although there’s no proven corelation between fake news and voting preferences, it’s worrying to see just how easily it’s happening.
In addition to the “click farming”, there’s also something called “phone farming”, where you setup a stack of smartphones – all running apps like rewardable TV – which give you cash in exchange for watching pre-roll video ads and the like. You’re not going to earn a lot of money (and your WiFi bandwidth is going to get hammered), but this is another way that smartphones can be used to inflate or “amplify” something. In this case, it’s advert clicks, earning you cash.
After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes