The choices social media platforms make in the next days and weeks will — whether the platforms want to or not — shape the story of how humanity fought Covid-19.
If billions of people gain a “corrective lens” that enables them to see the exponential curve of what’s coming now and are offered radical ways to take immediate and coordinated actions that “flatten the curve.” Millions of lives are saved and economic calamities avoided.
But who could possibly race ahead of the exponential growth and reach billions of people with this corrective lens before the virus can? Only today’s major tech platforms are positioned to do so.
Until we have a Covid-19 vaccine, delivering this corrective lens to 3 billion people is our best hope.
What does that really mean, though? This corrective lens would require platforms taking a new position. Up until now, they achieved global dominance by avoiding ruffling political feathers and hiding behind the fiction of “neutrality”—that ‘neutral’ metrics, sorting ‘fairly’ by what we liked and shared the most, would result in the ultimate democracy. But not only was that fiction wrong, it was dangerous. It fueled the mass spread of disinformation, polarization, and ultimate breakdown of truth that dismantled our capacity to agree on this obvious threat in the first place. Using metrics to govern a global information system was always broken, but it’s taken a global pandemic to see how starkly that paradigm is inadequate.
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