Major philanthropies like
the Hewlett Foundation
and the Omidyar Network,
have advertised for proposals to counter the threat of antisocial media
that is allegedly contributing to recent increases in political polarization worldwide. Xenophobia is growing worldwide, as witnessed by the election of many extremist leaders and the increasing frequency of xenophobic violence including the assault rifle shootings at Charlie Hebdo in 2015 and in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month. These trends if left unchecked pose multiple existential threats to civilization including nuclear war and winter, whose most likely outcome would involve the deaths of 98 percent of humanity, most from starvation.
I believe that the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedians more generally are ideally suited to reverse these trends by developing and encouraging the use of noncommercial social media platforms that would challenge the hegemony of commercial and other elite-controlled social media. The funding of these commercial and other elite-controlled social media depends on microsegmentation, i.e., Balkanizing and exploiting the body politic to benefit the elites, who control their funding. A project to develop alternative noncommercial social media, e.g., a Wikisocial, to counter this trend could start by reviewing and comparing existing noncommercial social media platforms, like Mastodon to name only one. We could then partner with major activist groups whose use of the platforms might help the activist groups make faster progress toward their objectives, because suitable noncommercial platform(s) could help them build bridges between competing groups rather than the separating and polarizing approach of those trying to exploit them to benefit their funders. This effort might involve someone like Daniel Kahneman, whose deep understanding of how people think and make decisions might help drive improvements in the social media platform(s) used. Further software development could be funded and supported in other ways by philanthropies that have already called for proposals for work in this area.
Goal 17. Partnerships for the goals: By creating and helping deploy noncommercial social media designed to help people understand and bridge competing perspectives, in contrast to existing commercial and other elite-controlled social media, whose funding depends on microsegmentation, which is a form of Balkanization required to facilitate the exploitation of the body politic by the elites who control media funding and governance.
Goal 13. Climate action: Because the social activist groups most likely to be early adopters of innovations in social media might be youth groups like Extinction Rebellion and the Sunshine movement.
Goal 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions: Because groups like Peace Action and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability understand (a) the need to appeal to the youth and (b) the need for better media (and because the author of this workshop proposal already has connections with these two groups as well as some connection with Extinction Rebellion). If these groups get good results from using new noncommercial social media, similar groups like the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons could likely be interested in promoting further deployment of such noncommercial social media.
All the other Sustainable Development Goals, because progress on all these issues is obstructed, because every SDG measure threatens someone with substantive control over the media: If we can produce more democratic media, we can overcome these major impediments to progress in all these areas.
At the end of the session, the following will have been achieved:
Participants will have discussed what they might do to further the development and deployment of noncommercial social media to increase the rate of progress toward accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals and other purposes consistent with the mission of the Wikimedia Foundation. With alignment of intentions, some of the participants will commit to action in this area, including the following:
Testing and comparing existing noncommercial social media platforms [like Mastodon, to name only one], and posting their comparisons in related articles on Wikiversity, which is a reasonable platform for crowdsourcing collaborative work of this nature.
Promoting the benefits of using noncommercial social media by the activist groups they support, probably including but not limited to Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise movement, and documenting what these groups would want and need to make it easier and more attractive for them to use one or more of those noncommercial social media platforms in their organizing efforts.
Working with paid staff of the Wikimedia Foundation to seek grant funding from philanthropies like the Hewlett Foundation and the Omidyar Network, both of which have already called for proposals for work to address the growing concerns about “antisocial media”.
Iterating to improve our understanding of alternative noncommercial social media and what would be needed to develop and deploy noncommercial social media platforms that could potentially overtake Facebook and Twitter, to name only two, as platforms for political organizing and action to build a better future for all of humanity.
Each Space at Wikimania 2019 will have specific format requests. The program design prioritises submissions which are future-oriented and directly engage the audience. The format of this submission is a:
↑Kelly Born; Nell Edgington (2 November 2017), Analysis of philanthropic opportunities to mitigate the disinformation/propaganda problem, Hewlett Foundation, Wikidata Q55673421.
↑Anmitra Deb; Stacy Donohue; Tom Glaisyer (1 October 2017), Is Social Media a Threat to Democracy?, Omidyar Group, Wikidata Q55674332.
↑E.g., Siva Vaidhyanathan (12 June 2018), Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-084118-8, Wikidata Q56027099. I've seen reports of more recent work that seems similar, but I do not currently have citations for that other work.