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Dieser Text erschien zuerst auf Piqd.de.
Wie Elon Musk Twitter verbessern könnte
Elon Musk kauft Twitter für 44 Milliarden Dollar. Theresa Bäuerlein hat hier bereits einen wichtigen Aspekt der Übernahme des Social Networks durch den Milliardär gepiqd, ihr ausgewählter Text behandelt die Frage der Konsequenzen für die Redefreiheit von Minderheiten durch den psychischen Druck aufgrund regelmäßiger Belästigungen.
Ich möchte einen Text von Bloomberg-Kolumnist und Wirtschaftsprofessor Noah Smith hier vorstellen, genauer eine ganze Reihe von Texten, denn der Mann arbeitet sich mit vielen, in meinen Augen sehr stimmigen Analysen, bereits seit einigen Jahren an Twitter ab. So bezeichnet er etwa die blaubehakte Medien-Elite, die sich auf der Plattform gegenseitig folgt, sehr treffend als "Shouting Class", beschreibt in weiteren Texten die toxisch-virale Empörungsmaschine, deren Mechanismen ich in den vergangenen Jahren als "Outrage Memetik" beschrieben hatte, oder arbeitet sich an der (laut blaubehakten Journalisten auf Twitter) angeblich nicht existierenden Cancel Culture ab, die in seinen Augen tatsächlich eine Cancel Technology darstellt.
In "How To Fix Twitter" bietet Noah Smith einen Überblick über seine Analysen der Plattform und einige Vorschläge, wie man sie verbessert, inklusive einiger radikaler Vorschläge wie etwa der Möglichkeit für User, Standalone-Twitter-Clones als Third-Party-Apps für alle möglichen Subkulturen zu erschaffen, um deren subkulturellen Codes zu bewahren und kulturelle Konflikte auf der Haupt-Plattform zu vermeiden. Ein interessanter Ansatz, der an Mastodon erinnert.
Im von mir gepiqten Text gibt sich Smith "vorsichtig optimistisch" und beschreibt, welche Probleme Elon Musk auf welche Weise lösen könnte. Ich teile seine optimistische Haltung und bin gespannt, was der reichste Mann der Welt mit dem einzigartigsten Social Network des Planeten anfangen wird.
The Shouting Class
Für den Newsletter will ich ein langes Stück aus Noah Smiths Essay “Shouting Class” zitieren, jedes Wort sitzt:
Who are the Shouting Class?
Everyone has problems with something in society. And everyone sometimes complains about those problems, which Albert Hirschman called "voice". But for many people, voice is contingent - as soon as the problems are satisfactorily resolved they stop complaining and go back to living their daily lives. But a subset of people will never stop complaining. When a problem becomes less severe, they switch to a different problem. And they will always find some problem that they feel requires their vocal complaint. That subset - the people who will never stop complaining and giving negative feedback - are the Shouting Class. (Of course, this isn't really a binary distinction; there are shades of gray, as always.)
There are several reasons people may be part of the Shouting Class:
Reason 1: Idealism. Some people feel an emotional need to feel like they're improving the world. Since the world is never perfect, and fighting for a better world is intrinsic to these people's motivation (and probably their identity), they will always continue to speak up. Notice that there are many, many idealists who are not part of the Shouting Class - some express their idealism by building homes for the poor, or volunteering at an animal shelter, or working as a civil rights lawyer, or being a politician. Shouting Class idealists are only those idealists who see shouting as a key way to bring about positive change.
Reason 2: Personal Unhappiness. Research shows that negative moods make people much more likely to engage in online trolling. We also have good reason to believe that some people are just generally unhappy people - though life events make them relatively happier or sadder, their baseline is a negative emotional state that changes only very slowly. In other words, some people join the Shouting Class because they are giving vent to the negative emotion that they are constantly experiencing for reasons mostly unrelated to the problems they're complaining about.
Reason 3: Sadism. Research shows that many trolls are sadists, who delight in making other people feel uncomfortable. Since recipients of complaints and negative feedback often feel uncomfortable, joining the Shouting Class can be a way of indulging sadism.
Reason 4: Argumentativeness. Arguing is an intellectual activity, and many people enjoy intellectual activity. Some people enjoy argument specifically, while others just use it as a break from other kinds of intellectual activities (writing code, etc.). A subset of these people are "mansplainers" who just want to show off how clever they are or listen to themselves talk.
This is probably not an exhaustive list; I'm sure you can think of others. But it's pretty clear, from research and from personal experience, that there are a few people in society who fall under one or more of these categories. (…)
Social media reduces the costs of joining the Shouting Class
Above I listed some of the possible reasons to join the Shouting Class - i.e., the benefits. But there are also costs. Time and effort are one cost. Reputation risk is another - if everyone knows you as a complainer, you may have fewer friends, build fewer useful business connections, or find yourself signing divorce papers. Also, trolling people in real life can lead to getting punched in the face.
Social media changes all this. First, there is no risk of getting punched in the face (though you may get doxxed). Posting on social media takes almost no time or effort. And with pseudonymity, there are no reputational consequences.
Twitter is obviously much more extreme than Facebook in these regards. It's a lot easier to be pseudonymous. Posts can get shared much more quickly. And you can talk to anyone you like, unless they block you. More importantly, you can talk to the followers of anyone you like - if I'm the first to reply to a Donald Trump tweet, most of the people who click on that tweet will see my reply as well. That's massive exposure.
So Twitter, especially, gives instant safe mass exposure to anyone who wants to complain about anything. In practice, this gives an enormous bullhorn to the Shouting Class, because they are defined as the people who want to use the bullhorn.
Consider life before social media. If you wanted to complain about something, you could do it in person, but you'd suffer reputational and other risks. You could write a letter to the editor, but it was subject to editorial filtering, and you could only get letters published occasionally. Same with calling in to radio shows. You could start your own media outlet and pass it around, but dominance of large newspapers, radio shows, and TV stations limited the circulation you could achieve. Even in the early age of the internet, shouting was a lot harder than it is now. You could make a website, but because of the lack of social sharing, it would be relatively hard to gain a large audience. Forums were highly fragmented and also lacked the sharing option.
In other words, shouting just wasn't nearly as easy in 1987 or even 2007 as it is in 2017. Social media, especially Twitter, has changed the game entirely.
Dall-E 1 imagining the “Twitter Shouting Class”:
Und aus dem zweiten Teil: The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels - New evidence to support my theory of social media outrage.
The anger of crowds
The second paper is “How social learning amplifies moral outrage expression in online social networks”, by William J. Brady, Killian McLoughlin, Tuan Doan, and Molly J. Crockett.
Here’s the abstract: ”Moral outrage shapes fundamental aspects of social life and is now widespread in online social networks. Here, we show how social learning processes amplify online moral outrage expressions over time. In two preregistered observational studies on Twitter (7331 users and 12.7 million total tweets) and two preregistered behavioral experiments (N = 240), we find that positive social feedback for outrage expressions increases the likelihood of future outrage expressions, consistent with principles of reinforcement learning. In addition, users conform their outrage expressions to the expressive norms of their social networks, suggesting norm learning also guides online outrage expressions. Norm learning overshadows reinforcement learning when normative information is readily observable: in ideologically extreme networks, where outrage expression is more common, users are less sensitive to social feedback when deciding whether to express outrage. Our findings highlight how platform design interacts with human learning mechanisms to affect moral discourse in digital public spaces.”
Now, importantly, this is measuring something different than the first paper — moral outrage, rather than hostility! So it’s possible — even likely — that these two papers aren’t actually explaining the same things. The main result of this paper is that social networks encourage people to act angrier online. But that doesn’t necessary encourage them to be meaner.
But in any case, this paper is another indication that the structure of social media shapes the kind of discussions that happen there.
First, they look at people’s Twitter histories, and classify their tweets as outraged or non-outraged. They find that when people got more likes for outraged tweets, they tended to write more outraged tweets the next day. But when they got more likes for non-outraged tweets, they tended to write more non-outraged tweets the next day. People respond to incentives and modify their behavior accordingly!
They also find that politically extreme people tend to express more outrage (surprise, surprise!), and that people whose Twitter networks are more extreme tend to get rewarded more for outrage, so when you start hanging around online with shouters you tend to become a shouter too. Little surprise there — this is just classic social group conformity.
Also, importantly, they find — as many others have found — that outrage tends to get more likes on Twitter. They confirm this with an experiment — when they send subjects onto Twitter and tell them to try to maximize their likes, they find that outraged tweets get more rewarded than non-outraged ones.
All this suggests that over time, Twitter is teaching everyone to express more outrage, and is helping to turn human society more outraged in general. There are many explanations for the recent period of unrest in America (and the world), but “It’s just Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook)” has to go on the list here.