New age media challenges – muzzling the opposing views


Organizations like Twitter, FB (social media) or Search organizations need to share what is the way they decide what is right/wrong on their sites beyond legal words. How they decide which view of which participant is muzzled. 

In Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says people have to assume information will be available to all. Emphasis on word assume.

In Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey
recounts his becoming the entrepreneur. He exhorts people  to join the movement and question everything.

Earlier populace had to depend on media – printed media to take the views of people
to the leaders and vice versa. Unfortunately like the incestuous relationship of
auditors and companies in private world – lot of give and take was done and watchers
became the mouthpieces. Overtime interest groups realized they need to control the
media to shape viewpoints and pushing of their agenda. Now we have overt politically biased media houses catering to their captive audiences.

Social media birth and evolution helped cement itself as one tool for people to
exchange ideas, information and possibly form opinions. Sadly it also came with tools
to analyze what is being said and ways to block the “opposing” view by simple

Corporations, ruling entities could easily circumvent or block an unpleasant

Challenge is tool like twitter has not made lot of things transparent. It is like the
chinese firewall but controlled by few people sitting somewhere in CA. Just like
uber, AirBnB we have little commitment or understanding of issues and claim to
disruption without iota of responsibility.

There was move to get old-media folks as editors? or advisors in some of the social
media organizations. Ideas like protecting the source of information, ideas like
allowing questioning not hate filled agenda – who decides what gets on timeline Who
makes these decisions? An algorithm ? People – Who are those ? What are their
political, religion, institutional biases ? Good way to see these biases is to
compare an Al-jazeera and guardian , BBC, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC, Xinhua, Google news  for an event in Gaza, Europe-Russia events, China or India.

For events which are called terrorist events – a certain section will paint it as
“suspected gunmen”. Some organizations will put a religious tone by including larger
context and attaching religious imagery with words, groups, faith adherence. Or
sometimes there is complete blackout of news as in some “controlled” countries.

Tools like Google news twitter, facebook and others need to come clean on
– what is the ranking for feed– really what is it that you decide our world is –
whether a search engine, timeline or the wall . Are you providing governments,
organizations way to control what we see/hear even before it comes online or muzzle.
– what is ignored , what is given more weight
– what is blocked – at least a notification that you have been blocked without
disclosing , in case of search results – just how do you decide to show what is on those pages. what got ignored/blacklisted.
– how is unfolding of “non-popular” but obscure important stories, events, views
done? Is there a metric here for people to follow?

This is to avoid biased coverage like the printed media does because of any
affiliations (owner – fox/aljazeera or network18 here locally).

What does this mean?
As originally said we will need to be ready to withstand opposing and unpleasant
viewpoint. And let laws which are less stringent than french laws for questioning
others be more prevalent. This has geopolitical connotation – earlier media could be
controlled easily by not allowing airwaves or print media or import of books. Sadly
digital world is much more easily controllable and its disappearance is much more
silent. Your search results can disappear, your tweet could be muzzled or facebook

This also means the role of PR/Media advisors and tools which do topic and sentiment
analysis(however broken) needs to become “auditable” across organizations with laws
backing up.

The tough challenge is digital media allows photographs, videos and other assets to
be put online which have much more shocking impact on people watching them. They are also considered powerful propaganda material which organizations, governments want to control.

Examples a sadist organization like IS using it to recruit, influence a
section of people. These organizations balance out “negatives” with “posts of
positive” actions – “helping the neighbourhood etc”.

The reason government carry out muzzling is to either favor curries for the ruling or
the perception of being right. This could have deep festering origins – China still
seething from opium trade or indignities of Nanking. India not liking the questions
around favor to near-dear ones of the ruling section or certain actions of police or
investigation agency somewhere. Or worst to control the opinion or questioning

Other stronger reason is throughout our history we have had specialists who claim know
economics, foreign policies and certain people control political agendas. Only
certain agencies and people are considered competent to know and take actions on
certain things.
For instance I personally think it was brave of American folks to question methods of
its intelligence agency against snowden and other revelations. Not every country
either has the guts or desire to explore those depths because of perceived guilt or
affront to pedestal status of being right. Sadly other countries and people who are
saying “we said so” – have much more corrupt and unaccounted actions. See Turkey or
Saudi Arabia or for that matter developed country’s surveillance and treatment of
prisoners (political/ideological/war) or any other UN country. Because war and intelligence and interwined and latter is important for lot of things. Some of the police organizations in other countries are more tougher and have unspeakable tactics than compared to the agency which was admonished. But that fact was never bought out by mainstream media or the digital folks.

Folks adept at misusing will do so and have potential to misguiding populace over
religion, language and perceive impact of abortion/gay marriage on local customs.
End of the day it Us-Vs-Them is the end tool in politics, corporations or local
communities and these tools should not become pawns for these purposes. There are
countries which chose to import few things, viewpoints and want to control others. It
is amazing to see Obama who is leftist and has unleashed more drone based attacks and
ended few wars painted more unpatriotic in that country. Almost every right-side
everywhere across considers themselves more patriotic and leftist/liberals are

New tools focus on dissemination of information but this control right now neither
rests with governments (at least not explicitly) or people who are fed these. We do
not have oversight of good editors who decide serendipity, local context, issue
weight/counter opinion. Everything is instant – trends for today, popular now and
immediately just like that incidents are pushed off the main screen. Although
language constructs prevent semantic or topic based search. The dominance of few
firms in each country and region prevents healthy conversation and next steps to open
them up for everybody.
I heard locally – local city folks do not want agencies or themselves on social media
as they need not be answerable or keep countering the viewpoints. It is easier to
control physical news a/v, print media by buying them out or dumping few ads. It is easier to overcome digital media by not being on them.

Sadly we need not choose this future as we see some good possibilities of traffic police on
social media.

But beyond this a common man needs a way to know why his voice was muzzled. Context
– I asked
@PMOIndia it is time to have swachpeople first and speak less with more
@PMOIndia about use of very colorful and respectful language threatening
mothers, sisters and death by ruling party MLA against a Medical officer for
reinstating his “corrupt” relative.

– I asked @economist About their language use for response to Boko Haram. Verbatim
text – “the group has been boosted by the impotent reaction of regional governments”.

In former case I duly expect cells of the ruling party, PR teams finding “offensive
viewpoints, questions” to be reported and blocked. This is very similar to PR teams of corporates who have to contain the “percieved damage” and “move on”. Which they duly did by “saying suspension is enough” but no police action required for person who has done this earlier too.
In latter case a respected news organization which should ideally have just expressed
regret over the language and moved on as “macho” responses are more acceptable across the cultures and has different connotations in perpetrators and victims. Offcourse in new scheme of things person with help of software decided my question was neither worth answering nor thinking but effectively requires banning. Sadly Twitter abetted it.

Sadly twitter failed me in both places, it did not bother telling me my tweet was
“blocked/banned” or just wiped off. It lost its credibility in objective evaluation
and rather let a machine algorithm take precedence. I am sure a celebrity like
Appelbaum’s views will not be muzzled (just a guess) but some obscure person
somewhere is an ok target.

We are back to owners and listeners and the incestuous relationships of auditors and
their clients. Our owners across media , corporations and governments have found new
ways of aligning their mutual interests. This unfortunately technology can’t overcome
by “RideWithX” or “IndiaWithxx” tags and self congratulating themselves. We have
darker future where information can be taken off without a trace and viewpoints
created with bunch of hired hands.

New age media challenges – muzzling the opposing views

Where is monetization/relevance for Social (search via friends)

Update – 13 Nov 2012 – At sometime in october 2012, one of my friends reached out for a job in java world. I tried out linkedin echochamber. Only few friends responded but surprisingly linked in could not guess the question in the post and redirect interested folks to me? I would have expected that linked-in showing how my question/ask for help has reached x people who might be interested and I should connect with them or they having option to send back automatic requests for information/job advertisements. I personally think linked in is the most data driven company for very specific need and they can and will overcome that barrier.

Update – 23 OCt 2012 – One more thread on Facebook Bangalore foodies indicates “need for social site monitoring and effective monetization” . There is two fold possibility. Sensing Contributor statement as question or comment – push relevant stuff to him/her. When just viewer comes in & spends active time on thread – push stuff to him in near real time with relevance. “Refrigerator with deal x” located y km from where you are :).

Will  refrigerator ad not be relevant here for "Reader"
Will refrigerator ad not be relevant here for “Reader”

Update- 6 July 2012 – There is SearchBuddy – MSR research project which talks about “embedded bot kind of service”  to identify & answer questions. It is little sparse on how, time span limit, relevance quality.

I follow a group for my interests (what else – but food) – on facebook. It is pretty active, honest community and I respect the folks who spend time here.

First is a specific food suggestion –

Next is the generic ask for a good location for large bunch of people

Following is a very specific ask about getting herb(seeds/plants) from specific locations

Now the generic advertisements which are thrown when I am looking at that page


One has to respect FB(Mark), Twitter(revenue guy) for accepting they do not know yet what to do.  There are folks like bloomreach/reclabs who are trying to bring relevance for merchants.  Just how does one surface context sensitive piece based on who is the person? Search is easy – you are looking for information.

But just browsing – wall, timeline – there are chances that some of these you explore. Some of  them you ignore. Main issue is kind of information one shares/looks for in each of the networks. Then offcourse one has linkedIn(which should buy stackoverflow) which many folks keep segregated and others aggressively integrate and send same information everywhere. Quora is extremely high value site where people who are part of the network add that “dash” by providing real answers. Each one of them serves different need.

Apart from segregation of “interest” – major issue is trust – search engines are explicit – they sell our intent probability. But moment fb/twitter start doing something which voilates that trust – people might switch back to closed network – phone call/email.

Personally I have never clicked on ads. Ever.

Where is monetization/relevance for Social (search via friends)