Home Tech Conspiracy, monetisation and weirdness: this is why social media has become ungovernable | Nesrine Malik

Conspiracy, monetisation and weirdness: this is why social media has become ungovernable | Nesrine Malik

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Princess of Wales reveals she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy – video

OOn TikTok there is a short clip of what an AI voiceover claims is a so-called ‘ring glitch’ in the video where Princess of Wales reveals her cancer diagnosis. It has 1.3 million views. Others, in which users ‘dissect’ aspects of the video and analyze the saga with false evidence, also generate millions of views and shares. I’ve subsequently seen them appear on

Something has changed in the way social media content is presented to us. It is both a huge and subtle shift. Until recently, content types were separated by platform. Instagram was for photos and short reels, TikTok for longer videos, X for short written posts. Now Instagram reels post TikTok videos, which Instagram reels post, and they all get posted to X. It often feels like a closed loop, with the algorithm taking you further and further away from discretion and choice in who you follow. All social media apps now have the equivalent of a “For You” page, a feed of content from people you don’t follow that, if you don’t consciously adjust your settings, defaults to the homepage. The result is that you have less and less control over what you see.

And the less control you have, the more these platforms become a crowding market for attention seeking and selling. Sometimes the product is clear, it looks like an old-fashioned advertisement, although you often have to look closely to realize that. Content creators link articles they like to “storefronts” and it seems like they’re just helpfully recommending things you might be interested in paying for, when in fact they earn a commission if you buy something. Other times, the simple act of viewing, sharing, and engaging is enough to generate revenue for the users who posted it. The result is a system that encourages the creation of high-engagement content, and few achieve that better than conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories online are not new, but they seem to have migrated in content and source from sensational to down-to-earth, from something you sometimes encounter to something that appears as part of your daily feed. I don’t know exactly when this started happening, but in my user experience it was bursting at the seams with the new X regime under Elon Musk. The change to the verification rules means that people who pay for blue ticks (rather than receiving them based on profile and credibility) will receive preferential treatment in how their posts are viewed by non-followers, and have come to understand that their style should sound authoritative.

And so the tone of the conspiracy has become gentrified. Now people just ask ‘questions’, post grainy videos and ask, ‘What do you notice? If you thought the Baltimore Bridge collapse was an accident, there are now several posts from verified users implying that’s simply not true.

There is a tendency to treat all online behavior – even that which is justifiably questionable and justly disrespectful – as the manifestation of genuine ‘mafia’ activity, of collective meanness and moral failure. But the internet just isn’t that easy to get your head around. There’s no simple formula, but monetization is now generating more content than you realize from a cursory scroll.

Princess of Wales reveals she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy – video

Social media in the past was just that: a social place, one that primarily intersected with building personal brands and professional ambitions, insofar as it helped increase a user’s public profile. It’s now a job, a place where users can get paid and become full-time “content creators.” The virality of videos or tweets increases users’ ability to monetize and grow followers, which then attracts brands and partnerships, and the better that model works, the more revenue it brings to social media platforms, which in turn charge fees to generate revenue. employ.

Consider the claims that a Kremlin-connected network was involved in fueling conspiracy theories about Kate Middleton; according to a report in the New York Timesthe motives were likely not just political, but also commercial, with Russian networks taking advantage of interest in the Middleton story to increase their own traffic.

Older media obviously look down on all this and avoid uncomfortable questions. The cynical manipulation of news stories, twisting them and presenting the results as fact for click and share is in many ways an evolution and refinement of what has been going on for decades in the pages of the tabloids and right-wing media – especially when it involves celebrities and members of the royal family.

The Princess of Wales is “too good for evil Little Britain,” the Telegraph reported in mid-March. Ten days later, the newspaper headlined a story about Sean Combs’ indictment with “Prince Harry Named in Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ Sexual Assault Charge,” even though he was only referred to in passing. (The headline appears to have later been changed to “Prince Harry dragged into…”) When sections of the press admonish social media users for speculating about the royal family, the insinuation seems to be: that’s our job.

This is just a small example of how the old system of mediation between the palace and the media, directing the public on who to love and who to hate, is now gone forever. Part of that is because of the way the profile of the royal family has changed since Queen Elizabeth’s death. The family has been relegated to grosser celebrity status, with the added twist of feeling like we owe them more than other famous people we don’t pay for. We are at a new moment in social media activity that has only brought the Middleton case to the surface.

It’s not just some nasty place that we can easily assume harbors the worst human behavior, derailed by anonymity and an incentive algorithm. There are new commercial players simulating and then trying to replace outdated media by attacking them as purveyors of stories that keep you guessing. They are disparate, atomized and uncontrollable, and their posts and videos deceive users with a dizzying virality that a static front page could never achieve. And it is much more difficult and much more burdensome for the established media to take into account how this happens in all its complexity than to reduce it all to the moral failings of the public.

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