by Antônio F. Oliveira
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
The transformation of society by the use of artificial intelligence into social networks and its relationship with state power: ethical challenges and risks to democracy and culture.
The target audience for this research would include professionals and academics from the areas of computer science, artificial intelligence, politics, law and sociology, as well as individuals interested in the impact of technology on democracy and society in general. It would also be relevant to political decision makers, business leaders and other professionals involved in making decisions related to the implementation and regulation of artificial intelligence.
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Author: Antônio F. Oliveira E-mail: [email protected] Phone: +5511988541485 Address: São Paulo, SP – Brazil We strive to respond to all questions and comments as quickly as possible, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance. Thanks for reading our article!
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an area that has expanded rapidly in various sectors of society, including politics and democracy. However, it must be recognized that its application can bring significant impacts on the way public opinions are formed and on democracy itself. This article aims to analyze the impacts of AI and algorithms on society, through a revision of the scientific literature and presentation of qualitative data. The purpose of this article is to present a complete analysis of the negative impacts of algorithms on social networks and other areas of society. For this, the text will be divided into six sections with a specific focus. The first section will bring a review of scientific studies that prove the harmful effects of the algorithms. The second section will address real cases of manipulation and decision- making through social networks. In the third section, a case study of the Brazilian Supreme Court and the involvement of left ideologies with the Big Techs will be presented. In the fourth section, the involvement of US state powers with the Big Techs will be explored. The fifth section will bring an objective analysis of manipulation tactics on social networks from the perspective of computer science. Finally, the sixth section will present possible technical and social solutions to the problems presented in the article. This study is expected to contribute to a better understanding of the negative impacts of artificial intelligence, state powers and algorithms on democracy, culture and society and provide subsidies for the development of public policies that can mitigate these harmful effects.
To perform a comprehensive and deepened analysis of the impacts of artificial intelligence, algorithms and the involvement of state powers on social networks, this study will use a mixed approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research techniques. For this, systematic searches will be performed on various scientific databases, such as Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar and others, using relevant search terms such as “IA”, “algorithms”, “social networks”, “manipulation”, “democracy” and “political”. The selection of studies for analysis will be based on strict inclusion and exclusion criteria, considering scientific articles, theses and dissertations, government reports and non -governmental organizations, as well as news and articles from specialized magazines. The data collected will include statistics and real examples of how AI and algorithms are being used to manipulate public opinion, create false content, increase state power and increase the visibility of certain ideas and opinions. The techniques of segmentation of the public and direction of specific content, such as microtargeting, as well as the psychological profiles that are created and used to manipulate individuals will also be investigated. To perform data analysis, the tools for analysis of computer science and political science will be used, allowing an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach to AI-related problems and algorithms. The ethical and legal implications of these practices will be discussed, as well as possible solutions to mitigate their negative effects.
Section 1: Literature Review
The study “Algorithms, Manipulation and Democracy,” authored by a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge, including William Allen, Ravi Naik, Jamie Susskind and Alina Polyakova, was published by the university in 2021. It examines the effects of algorithmic manipulation on our democracies. The authors argue that while the internet and social media have the potential to increase participation and improve political transparency, the algorithms that power these platforms can be easily manipulated to change public opinion and influence election outcomes (Allen et al. 2021).
The report highlights how algorithms can be used to create filter bubbles that restrict users’ exposure to information contrary to their beliefs. This can lead to polarization and division among different groups in society. Additionally, algorithms can also be used to amplify extreme voices, giving the impression that the majority supports certain political positions (Allen et al. 2021).
The authors contend that governments should regulate the use of algorithms on social media platforms and ensure transparency in the algorithmic decision-making process. They argue that technology companies should be accountable for the social and political impact of their platforms and algorithms (Allen et al. 2021).
Reference: Allen, William, Ravi Naik, Jamie Susskind and Alina Polyakova. 2021. “Algorithms, Manipulation and Democracy.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy. doi: 10.1017/cjp.2021.11.
The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” addresses several issues related to the use of social media and the power they have over our lives and society. One of the main issues highlighted in the documentary is the manipulation of opinion through the personalization of content displayed to each user. This is done through algorithms that collect data about our interests and preferences and use them to display content that keeps us engaged and leads us to click on ads.
Another problem addressed is the polarization of opinions, as social media puts us in bubbles of content that reinforce our existing opinions, rather than exposing us to different opinions. This can lead to a more divided society and increase hate and intolerance.
The documentary also highlights how social media can be used to influence elections and manipulate public opinion through fake news and misinformation. It also presents how social media can negatively affect people’s mental health, leading to problems such as anxiety, depression and social isolation.
Source: https://www.netflix.com/br/title/81254224 (“The Social Dilemma.” Netflix, directed by Jeff Orlowski, Exposure Labs, 2020.)
“The People Vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It)” is a work that presents a profound reflection on how Internet technology and social media are jeopardizing the stability and integrity of democracy. The author, Jamie Bartlett, convincingly illustrates how technology companies hold unprecedented power in society and how current regulations are unable to deal with threats to democracy. The book addresses the problem of information manipulation, the rise of misinformation and political polarization, showing how such factors contribute to the weakening of democracy. The work proposes innovative regulatory solutions to protect privacy and freedom of expression and to ensure that technology is used to strengthen, not corrode, democracy. (Bartlett, 2018)
In addition, an example of artificial selectivity was the 2018 case in which Facebook was accused of restricting the display of job and housing-related ads to a specific demographic group, violating US civil rights laws (New York Times, 2019).
Reference: New York Times. (2019, March 28). Facebook Engaged in Housing Discrimination, HUD Says. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/us/politics/facebook-housing-discrimination.html
In summary, studies on social media manipulation have highlighted a number of concerning issues, including the selective amplification of opinions and ideas, the use of personal data to create accurate profiles of individuals for the purpose of manipulation, audience segmentation and targeting of specific content to each group, manipulation of public opinion through algorithms and the negative effects of growing polarization and intolerance in democracies due to possible biases in social networks. Social media manipulation can lead to a growing distrust in traditional media and political leaders, as well as imbalances of power caused by the use of data collected by technology companies to influence political, commercial and/or economic decisions. These problems are exacerbated by the lack of transparency and regulation of algorithms, as well as possible conflicts of interest between technology companies and governments. Social networks are important platforms for the dissemination of opinions and ideas, but they have been questioned due to their potential to manipulate public opinion and influence political and social decisions with the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms. Social engineering is a technique that uses principles of psychology and sociology to manipulate perceptions and behaviors, and is even more powerful in the digital age, with algorithms collecting and processing large amounts of data. The algorithms of social networks maximize user engagement and offer personalized content, but can also be used for negative purposes, such as the manipulation of public opinion. This was evidenced by the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which proved the predisposition of social media algorithms to favor controversial and polarizing content, distorting people’s perception of political and social issues.
Social platforms have been subject to criticism regarding their ability to selectively censor or privilege political groups. An investigation carried out by the new Twitter team, acquired by visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk at the end of 2022, revealed a clear bias towards progressive content at the expense of conservative content (Twitter Files 2022). This type of social engineering can have a significant impact on elections and public policies, as it can influence people’s perceptions. Furthermore, the lack of transparency and adequate regulation of algorithms and artificial intelligence used for dubious purposes is currently a source of concern. These algorithms are opaque, making it difficult for people to understand how they are used to manipulate them. The new social engineering, which uses algorithms, artificial intelligence and even state powers, presents a series of ethical and social challenges. One of the main challenges is the conferment of selective privileges to certain groups, while others are marginalized, as was the case with the discrimination that occurred with right-wing groups in American politics who were prevented from exposing the infamous Hunter Biden Laptop case. Furthermore, currently, social media has been a platform for the widespread dissemination of prejudice against whites, heterosexuals, mothers and men. In addition, it is frequent to see attacks on blacks and homosexuals who identify with a more conservative political perspective. The result is that these groups end up perpetuating the same type of discrimination they suffer, by using their experiences of prejudice to generalize and foment hatred and prejudice in society against entire groups of people. By doing a quick search on Twitter using terms like “white men,” “right-wing blacks,” “Uncle Tom,” and “conservative gays,” it is possible to find several examples of explicit prejudices against these groups, even by people who preach equality, respect and diversity. Some examples of this include:
The verified user @maritegon stated: “Of all things in the world, Mount Rushmore is the most tacky, 4 white men carved in stone. Not even Narcissus did such a thing.” February 1, 2023, 1:15 pm
The verified user @marcogomes tweeted: “Gabeira suffering from ‘if I don’t know it, it doesn’t exist’, which is a cognitive disease that mainly affects white men aged 30+.” February 5, 2023, 7:06 am
The verified comedian Paulo Vieira (@PauloVieiraReal), who received criticism from another user (@maiconsulivanbr) for making jokes about the extreme right, responded with a racist insult: “Go ahead, you little house slave.” February 12, 2023, 5:04 am
The user @Carlos_0000CE, who tweeted: “As if we needed this: conservative gay… that’s why Bolsonaro sank this country.” February 11, 2023, 8:04 pm
We are facing a new culture that privileges certain genders and ethnicities over others, driven by laws, policies and social networks that paradoxically claim to fight against inequality. This trend spreads through social networks, where privileged groups prevail with impunity over others, generating serious social implications and exacerbating the problems arising from these inequalities. What we see is a selective cancel culture, where people who supposedly fight against inequality end up practicing explicit prejudice and good hate. They criticize the objectification of women, but at the same time idolize celebrities who perform nearly naked in sexual choreographies in exchange for easy money or sell their bodies on soft pornography websites like OnlyFans. However, when dissenters decide to expose such cognitive dissonance, they are promptly canceled, with their careers destroyed and sponsorships revoked. Often, these people are legally persecuted by courts and federal powers that have joined these canceling groups. Therefore, it is crucial to rethink this culture and seek fairer and more egalitarian ways to deal with social inequalities, to build a more equitable and prosperous society for all.
For more in this article, see:
- Prologue and Section 1: Literature Review
- Section 2: Data and real examples
- Section 3: Abuse of Power on Social Networks
- Section 4: Elon Musk exposes Twitter files
- Section 5: Behind the scenes of manipulation: techniques used to influence public opinion
- Section 6: Exploring solutions to the challenges presented: a critical review
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