In the article, “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media” by Carole Cadwalladr, Cadwalladr discusses the power of social media.
For example, Facebook can be used to predict a person’s personality. This is done by measuring 150 “likes”. “[W]ith knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse.”
Similarly, Twitter can be used to predict stock market moves. This is done by measuring public sentiment and then modelling it.
But what is even scarier than social media’s predictive power is its manipulative potential. Social media can now be used to cast a very large shadow. To quote Game of Thrones: “Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.”
Cadwalladr writes that Facebook was the key to the Trump campaign.
Facebook was the key to the entire campaign… A Facebook ‘like’, he said, was their most “potent weapon”. “Because using artificial intelligence, as we did, tells you all sorts of things about that individual and how to convince them with what sort of advert. And you knew there would also be other people in their network who liked what they liked, so you could spread. And then you follow them. The computer never stops learning and it never stops monitoring.”
Given how social media can be weaponized, how should our legislatures respond? How do we ensure that social media doesn’t get abused? Who decides when social media has been abused? What role should social media have in practicing the law?
Currently many legal technology companies are building predictive models for the law. Generally by using a database of case law. But perhaps these start-ups should be incorporating social media with case law to predict outcomes. By measuring the current zeitgeist, outcomes may be easier to predict.
(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)