Social networks and mind games: ethical concerns and ideas for proper usage


It is true that if we use social networks, we are the product.

Social network that want to push us advertisement need to learn more about us, what we like and what we do not like. They will push products, and now even news, and they will influence us on our decisions. As some colleagues say, “we are the product”.

We do not read

We instead rely on our network to trust the information, and we often absorb it whethere it is real or not. We just do nto spend the time to check every fact, and we are getting a lot of facts with social network, more than we can consume and more that we can evaluate and validate.

These news get in our heads

Ideally the social network only passes us true and verified information. But how can it do that? Humans are required to validate information, and humans have bias.

Human bias twists the information

All media have human bias, and it is the culture of a media channel that decides what the bias is and how much bias is added.

Then there is fake news

Fake information created for the purpose of manipulating people’s mind is unethical. But what is the difference between extreme bias and fabrication of information? How can we draw the line? We all know the may be one truth, but we also all know that there are many points of view of the same truth. Each one of us adds a bias. A pedestrian was hit by a car. Was it the pedestrian fault to walk at night with no lights? Or was it the car driver fault not noticing the pedestrian?

“consumers face a tradeoff: they have a private incentive to consume precise and unbiased news, but they also receive psychological utility from confirmatory news”

Regardless of the motive of why fake news is instilled in social network, we consumers need to pay more attention to sources and spend more time validating facts. The social network cannot possibly validate facts, because there is too much information flowing through the platform and not enough automated tools to do this. We yet do not have machine intelligence to verify news and information sources reliably. Social networks and all us free-speech advocates do not want, of course, to filter information, so we cannot afford to have imperfect machine intelligence tools to filter information. We need these tools to be at least a bit better than human-based filtering.

And then there is the echo chamber

Your social network also biases you towards people like you, removing you with potentially enriching dialogue with people that are not like your circle and have different ideas from you. Unlike the real world in social network you can carefully draft your circles, and this be more prone to this potential negative effect of living in isolated bubbles with less communication.

social networks can isolate as much as the can connect

Your data is thus important to you and social network to give you more of what you seek, but it also has to be protected, so we do not give social network and other parties the ability to control your mind.

algorithms that use your data are still not very good

Many people like myself and my group work on intelligent algorithms to mine and analyze data. And the machine intelligence revolution has just started, yet our tools are most likely very crude. Often deep learning algorithms based on neural networks have provided super-human abilities in focused tasks, examples: one, two, three, etc. But in other tasks, as for example behavior analysis, video understanding, action recognition, understanding of text and video — we are still in infancy.

Ideas for improvements

If you want to use social media and protect your mind from brainwashing, we suggest:

  • as yourself, where does this information come from? Can it be trusted?
  • limit the information you allow social media to use
  • ask for rules and regulation protecting our data
  • ask for regulations that set the data sharing to zero, so you can be in control of how much you want to share, not a default option
  • bring down the mightiest hammer on industry that abuse your data
  • teach ethics of social information to all people you can interact with
  • talk and learn about these issues — we all need to learn more
  • verify all sources of information
  • be aware of the bias that media sources come with, and allow multiple sources to affect your final understanding of information
  • do not rely on one source alone, use as many as possible
  • do not rely on friends and family to send you real information, always verify it yourself and correct them
  • teach friends and family ethical issues, that it is not ok to share fake news, and teach them about bias
  • protect your friends and social network: use the more conservative setting to prevent others to obtain information about your network
  • be aware reading anything affects your mind
  • be aware of our human biases that look for confirmation in thing we already believe in
  • be aware many things we already believe in may be fake or unreal
  • remember our human mind is imperfect and designed to live on the emotional space rather than the factual space
  • constrain your emotions when they collide with reality
  • read all you can on a topic before forming permanent biases
  • make a priority list of issues dear to you, and learn them one by one in depth
  • do not read little of too many topics, be more of an expert in at least some
  • in topics you are an expert, serve as judge for quality of information
  • in topics you are not versed, be curios and avoid quick sentiments
  • be human, but also be smart

good luck to us

I dream and build new technology