Social networks have profound political, social, and psychological impacts, says expert | VTx

This week’s release of the “Facebook Papers” confirms that Facebook is fully aware of the fact that its social networks have had real life effects on individuals and groups – including how people talk about politics, who can say what on social media, and how people feel about an image their bodies, says Virginia Tech multimedia expert Mike Horning.

Quoted from Horning

The ‘Facebook Papers’ view tells us that Facebook appears to be OK with allowing some of these harmful effects to occur. The profitability of the algorithms appears to be giving an advantage over people, Horning says.

“Facebook researchers have discovered that their algorithms often direct people toward viral content,” Horning explains. “Groups that wanted to perpetuate misinformation sought to further spread this content and by doing so, they were manipulating the algorithm to spread more disinformation.”

Horning also says that the Facebook papers reveal that the social network is very interested in studying the effects of social media on teenage girls for advertising purposes and making them long-term users of their social networks.

“Perhaps most concerning is their research among teenage girls,” Horning says. Their internal documents indicate that a relatively large number of teens reported that Facebook apps worsen their mental health struggles and make them feel worse about themselves. “

“Facebook’s use of algorithms to flag viral content often ignores the unintended consequences of those algorithms,” Horning says. “This may lead individuals to ask deeper questions about how certain types of content appear in their social feeds.”

About Horning

Mike Horning is Associate Professor of Multimedia Journalism at Virginia Tech’s College of Communications and Associate Director of Social Informatics Research in the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. His research examines how communication technologies affect social attitudes and behaviours, with a current focus on the impact of “fake news” and disinformation on our democratic processes. His expertise has appeared on The Hill, in the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and in a number of other media outlets.

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