Interesting if accurate January 5, 2017Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
So I think we can say that while the net may not have been a sufficient condition for Trump’s victory, it was definitely a necessary one. Most commentators, hypnotised by Trump’s mastery of Twitter and the prevalence of “fake news” on Facebook, attributed this entirely to social media. But again, this was an overly simplistic view, for it turns out that there was a deep structure underpinning most of what went on in social media and it needed some fairly intensive network analysis to reveal it.
But this is, in a way, more important again. Discussing research into the alt-right network of sites, and taking into account how informal all this is can the following possibly be correct?
What emerges from his work is a fascinating picture of what is effectively a rightwing propaganda machine built from more than 300 fake news sites and containing something like 1.3m hyperlink connections. Albright also mapped the hidden online trackers hosted by these sites. This is similar to the tracking ecosystem behind most commercial websites. But in the rightwing case, these trackers are coming away with information not about consumption preferences but about the possible political or ideological predilections of site visitors.
One’s first reaction to Professor Albright’s maps, after the sharp intake of breath at the scale and intensity of the online activity implied by them, is to ask what would the comparable leftwing ecosystem be like? His tentative answer is that it appears to be significantly smaller and much less interconnected than the “alt-right” ecosystem.
And Naughton makes a troubling point here:
Which is where the really interesting questions begin. Why is the political extreme right so established and dominant on the net? The answer is probably that its members have been effectively excluded from mainstream political discourse for a long time. So the internet, with its intrinsic permissiveness, was, for them, the only available option. (Indeed, it still is.) And they went for it.
I don’t know if this is correct, but it is difficult not to agree with the idea that there has been a slow steady dominance of parts of the internet by voices who in other circumstances would not be making news. Moreover that these have at times demonstrated some technological and political acuity in terms of shaping events. And however marginal they are, and however much they remain constrained simply by dint of being online rather than organising offline, they have been able to subtly and not so subtly shape conversations and dynamics. Their reach may exceed their grasp, almost certainly in fact. Trump is destined to disappoint them. But they seem to have a cohesiveness and a presence they lacked previously. That has to be a problem.