This is provocative, erudite, historically informed, and worth reading for anyone who thinks about "disinfo."

I think it's also deeply unsatisfying and I have a couple of specific critiques. But the questions it raises are ones that deserve raising.…
Off the bat, @Bernstein absolutely nails the unspoken, unexamined assumptions of a lot of the less-sophisticated hand-wringing over our "broken" modern information sphere. It has never not been broken.…
This is perceptive on a sort of symbiosis between Facebook and its loudest critics: Both rely on the premise that social media is an effective persuasion machine. Is it really? (This piece hints at "no," though I think the boring true answer is "it depends / hard to say.")
One somewhat minor gripe is that @Bernstein repeatedly conflates content policy with "the algorithm." I know these references to "the algorithm" are winking/ironical, but there's a real distinction between amplification and moderation, and this analysis kind of blows past it.
@Bernstein Some of the best punches @Bernstein lands are against the conveniently naive assumption that "misinfo" is something that we can feasibly define, identify, and root out, if we just look in the right places, chastise the right tech execs, and twiddle the right knobs.
@Bernstein But this is where I think it's crucial to distinguish between what social media *amplifies* or *incentivizes* vs. what it simply *makes visible* or *allows.* You don't have to be a techno-determinist to see that FB/Twitter/YT don't just passively host content. They also shape it.
There's an ungenerous reading of @Bernstein's piece in which its own unspoken premise is something like, "What if platforms really are neutral after all? What if they really are just a mirror to society?" Obv that's not what he's saying, but I think it risks that misreading.
A veteran journalist once taught me always to consider the "null hypothesis"--that what looks like a shiny new trend or causal relationship might be illusory, an artifact of some cognitive or epistemic bias. I think @Bernstein rightly holds up that lens to the disinfo field.
Ultimately I hope this @Bernstein piece serves to puncture some of the lazier, more puffed-up proclamations about social media and misinfo--but doesn't dissuade critics from continuing to probe the specific ways that modern platforms mold and influence the way we all communicate.

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More from @WillOremus

18 Aug
Facebook is launching its own answer to @kevinroose's popular @FacebooksTop10 account.
@kevinroose @FacebooksTop10 Facebook has long complained that @FacebooksTop10, dominated by right-wing sources such as Dan Bongino & Daily Wire, represents a skewed picture of what's popular on its platform. I wrote about this debate in depth last year:…
For his part, @kevinroose has long called on Facebook to release more data to back up its claims. It looks like Facebook is now doing that. How satisfying that data turns out to be, it's not clear yet. The concern would be FB cherry-picking the metrics that suit its interests.
Read 8 tweets
22 Jul
Facebook and YouTube spent a year fighting covid misinformation. It's still spreading, @rachelerman & @GerritD report.…
@rachelerman @GerritD How are people evading social media's vaccine misinfo policies? One way is coded language, like calling the vaccine "Maxine" and the dangers of "dancing" with her. One FB group called "Dance Party" has 40k members.… by @BrandyZadrozny & @oneunderscore__
@rachelerman @GerritD @BrandyZadrozny @oneunderscore__ Stories like this-and the price we're all paying for the antivaxx movements that incubated & spread on FB/YT-should put to rest the notion that content moderation alone is the answer.

Without structural reform, platforms will always be misinfo machines.
Read 4 tweets
21 Jul
We hear a lot about the magic of TikTok's "for you" algorithm. This brilliantly done @WSJ video is a great introduction to how it actually works. Like most algorithms, the answer involves a lot less magic than it might seem.…
@WSJ A few quick thoughts: First, the algorithm isn't quite as "secretive" as @wsj makes it out to be. In fact, a lot of the mechanics addressed in the video were laid out by TikTok itself in a blog post last year:…
@WSJ Second, even as @wsj successfully deconstructs and demystifies the algorithm, its focus on depression-related content risks making it seem a bit more sinister than it typically is. While there are caveats, one could come away thinking TikTok is mostly MAGA and suicide content.
Read 7 tweets
13 Jul
I'm back in hazy, steamy, downtown Wilmington for day 2 of Elon Musk's testimony in a Delaware chancery court trial. He's accused by some Tesla shareholders of buying a struggling solar company run by his cousin, which Musk partly owned, for more than it was worth.
This am the plaintiffs' lawyer pressed Musk as to whether he played a role in negotiating the acquisition price of SolarCity. Musk at first said "not materially so, no." Baron displayed notes from a banker showing Musk at one point proposed a sale price of $28.50 per share.
Baron appeared to show fairly clearly this am (imo) that Musk personally pressed both SolarCity & Tesla to accelerate the deal before SolarCity ran out of cash--including shortening the due diligence period by Tesla's bankers.
Read 29 tweets
12 Jul
I'm in a chancery court in Wilmington, Delaware this morning for @elonmusk's testimony defending Tesla's 2016 acquisition of SolarCity for $2.6B. Musk chaired both companies at the time; some Tesla investors allege the deal amounted to a bailout of SolarCity.
@elonmusk Plaintiffs' attorney Randy Baron started his questioning of Musk by playing clips of Musk saying in prior depositions that the lawsuit was "wasting everyone's time," and that the next few quarters would vindicate the SolarCity deal. The next few quarters, we now know, did not.
@elonmusk Musk is arguing that the reason SolarCity's growth didn't take off as planned following the acquisition is that Tesla ended up in crisis to meet deadlines on the Model 3, and had to shift focus. And then the reason it didn't take off after *that* is because of the pandemic.
Read 14 tweets
24 Jun
Remarkable that big tech has managed to advance the narrative that a suite of antitrust bills which emerged from a two-year deliberative process with half a dozen hearings, a 450-page committee report, and hard-won bipartisan support is somehow "rushed."…
Here are three CA dems coming out against parts of the antitrust package on the grounds that it would hurt tech workers. But it seems a lot more plausible that it would hurt the tech giants who are spending zillions on lobbying. The workers would be fine.… Image
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, joins big-business Republicans in opposing the bipartisan antitrust measure that would restrict dominant internet firms from competing on their own platforms. She calls it "very extreme," suggests Big Tech has been good for the economy on balance. Image
Read 6 tweets

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