We already know that social media has the power to radicalize those who use it regularly. For example, there is a widespread perception that African Americans are far more likely to be involved in drug-related crime than their white counterparts. But the opposite is true: African American kids are less likely to engage in substance abuse than Caucasian kids — even though they are more likely to grow up in an environment that makes procurement easier.
You already know that African American kids are far more likely to spend time in prison for related crimes, though.
One major issue with social media is tunnel vision. We tend to surround ourselves mostly with people who are similar — meaning we don’t always see or hear viewpoints that contradict our own. Social media algorithms are more likely to show us profiles and posts based on what we’ve already watched before, which makes us all the more susceptible to radicalization.
Once upon a time, watching a stream of Fox News posts on YouTube would be followed up by automatically played videos about conspiracy theories. When YouTube was heavily criticised for this algorithm, its shadowy overlords changed the equation so that automatically played videos were less likely to provide radical content.
Netflix recently released a documentary called The Social Dilemma. It shows how sites like Facebook and Twitter can promote misleading information over the truth, in turn leading to more partisan, unbending viewpoints.
Former Facebook platform operations manager Sandy Parakilas said, “We created a system that biases towards false information. Not because we want to, but because false information makes the companies more money than the truth. The truth is boring.”
This is a huge problem for minorities, who have been the targets of hate crimes more often in recent years. The conservative branch of politics has been positioned to believe that Black Lives Matter is the enemy of the police, which creates a conflict of interest — as conservatives have always seen police as allies. This problem is only getting worse.