Twitter as toxic High Frequency Trading for News
Schöne Metapher von Rafael Behr im Prospect Magazin in einem Text darüber, wie Twitter die Politik vergiftete (Original-Artikel hinter Paywal). Er vergleicht den Effekt, den Twitter auf die politische Berichterstattung hatte, mit dem des High Frequency Trading an der Börse, und ich möchte anfügen: mit dem Unterschied, dass wo HFT mit Aktienkursen und Bewertungen arbeitet, der 24/7-Twitter-Newscycle-Hurricane nun vor allem über Emotionen und psychologische Eigenschaften des Hiveminds geleitet wird. Social Media als Radikalisierungsmaschine der Massen.
Prospectmagazine: How Twitter poisoned Politics
Twitter has had an effect on political news akin to the impact high-frequency trading had on financial markets. Just as algorithms there can subordinate judgment to trend, intensifying the move in the market in whichever direction it already happens to be heading, so with Twitter we can see volatile intra-day trade in an individual’s political stock. The system can then be gamed by organised campaigners who tweet and retweet in a quasi-robotic frenzy, and it can be manipulated by actual robots—bogus accounts that typically amplify partisan opinions, on behalf of the Russian security services or anyone else who might wish to cause trouble. One study estimated such “bots” might constitute 9-15 per cent of all Twitter accounts. It can be hard to distinguish between a mechanical troll working to a wrecking algorithm and a human maniac sitting in pyjamas firing off outrage through the night.
Part of journalists’ professional vanity is the belief that we can observe a herd while detaching ourselves from its movements. We suppose we can be on Twitter without belonging to Twitter. We see its flaws while flattering ourselves that it doesn’t prejudice our work. This is untrue. We cannot un-see the things to which we are exposed, nor insulate ourselves from peer pressures and taboos. It is no easier to look at Twitter without being influenced by it than it is possible to jump into a river without getting wet. It doesn’t matter that you claim to be swimming against the flow. You are still in the water. […]
In place of the old top-down message discipline, Twitter brings bottom-up policing—a kind of ideological vigilantism as swarms of loyal adherents to one position or another impose whatever the crowd has settled on as orthodoxy. That raises the prospect of parties too divided to present voters with coherent, unified programmes and leaders so beholden to doctrinaire followers that there is no scope for the kind of compromises and consensus-building that are necessary for stable government. […]
Otherwise mild-mannered and reasonable people turn deliriously combative on Twitter. Cycles of aggression flare up over nothing. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Twitter can inflict mental injury on people working in politics.
And the rage appears endemic to the platform, regardless of the issue. It is unsurprising that disciples of radical ideologies—both far-left and far-right—express themselves ferociously. But it is extraordinary to see how many self-styled centrists have adopted extremist manners. The #FBPE (“follow-back, pro-European Union”) hashtag can turn formerly sober and unassuming europhiles into virtual stone-throwing yobs. A mob with moderate slogans is still a mob.
Twitter, it seems, can radicalise anyone. That is deleterious on an individual level, but profoundly corrupting of the collective political process. The website is a vast polarising machine—a centrifuge that separates politics into the most extreme iterations of any given position. When the ideal conception of politics might be rival teams, advancing competing policy prescriptions based on some common set of facts, Twitter turns us into quasi-religious cults, looking at the world in terms of righteous believers and despicable blasphemers.