Who’s to blame, Humans or Machines?

Hello all and welcome to our first Blog post! I decided to start off the blog series around the topic how Digital Media is causing politics to go wrong in terms of Brexit- a word which is echoed around our nation and never ceases to piss someone off.

 

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I’ve decided to be brave and state my own view on this Brexit disaster. From day one I was a firm believer in the remain campaign. I want to blame a large portion of the nation for not voting at all in the referendum as they ‘didn’t believe their vote would make a difference’ or didn’t believe leaving the EU would be an option.

Well, look at us now.

52% leave, 48% remain…

It’s almost been two years and we’re in a larger mess than we were in the first place.

But who’s really to blame for this chaos? The Nation or Digital Technology?

Digital Technology

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A collection of various social media sites | Pexels.com

In the last 25 years, digital technologies have transformed the world around us, for example how we find love, how we shop, where we look for news, how we socialize and what we do with our spare time. Just take a look at the most recent apps which have been opened on your phone, certain that for at least half of the readers its ASOS or Tinder.

Digital technologies have made life easier for data collection. Social media makes it easier to access people’s wants and like or dislikes without having to go through the tiresome process of making people vote.

In 2009 David Cameron described the Internet in his Data Speech as an “amazing pollinator” that

“turns lonely fights into mass campaigns: transforms moans into movements; excites the attention of hundreds, thousands, millions of people and stirs them to actions”

Unfortunately for David, this has turned against him when millions were motivated through the internet to vote for Brexit.

Social Media’s Relationship with the EU Referendum

 

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Through using the rise of digital technology, social media, in particular, the Leave campaign built momentum online. The leave campaign’s message was more intuitive and straightforward, elements which are important for social media campaigning. Brexit supporters have a more powerful, emotional message online and were more effective whilst using social media, in contrast, remain supporters chose to ignore the voice of the internet as something that had no connection with the real political world

Don’t worry I’m just as frustrated as you.

Remain supporters were adamant that Britain wasn’t going to leave the EU and redeemed social media as a

‘Playground for trolls and teenagers’.

The remain campaign continued to rely on traditional calculated rational arguments and economic forecasts, a strategy which was unsuccessful in the 21st century.

Brexit Propaganda

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Throughout the campaign, Twitter stated that there was evidence of a small role played by the Internet Research Agency, a troll factory based in St Petersburg. Twitter was able to identify 49 troll accounts and 942 ‘fake’ tweets which scored 461 retweets and 637 likes. In Particular, Kremlin based news channels such as Russia Today and Sputnik were responsible for heavily pro-Brexit coverage on social media.

The trolls were believed to work around 8am-8pm (Moscow time), the scale and speed at which the tweets were produced suggested that they were not legitimate or genuine.

Here we can all agree that the input from social media bots and trolls greatly influenced the pro-Brexit tone on social media, which arguably lead to the leading decision to leave the EU.

 

However,  behind the influence of the trolls was the mind of a man, therefore is it fair to blame Brexit on Machines rather than humans?

Concluding Thoughts

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I would like to end this post on a positive reflective tone: The EU referendum has taught us that the accelerating pace of technology makes it open to all and can be used to shape social change and public agenda.

With great power comes great responsibility,

A power we used in favor of Brexit… and Trump…

Next week we will continue this discussion, Trump edition.

As always, reliable sources provided

EU Referendum Analysis, 2016. Impact of social media on the outcome of the EU referendum. [online]. Word Press. Available from: https://libguides.bournemouth.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=31246291 [Accessed 3 December 2018]

Mortimer, C., 2018. If you saw these tweets, you were targeted by Russian Brexit propaganda. The independent [online], 12 November 2018. Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/brexit-russia-troll-factory-propaganda-fake-news-twitter-facebook-a8050866.html [Accessed 3 December 2018]

Quinn, B., 2018. Social media firms must tell users exposed to Brexit propaganda, MP says. The Guardian [online], 10 February 2018. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/feb/10/social-media-firms-must-tell-users-impacted-by-propaganda-mp-says [Accessed 3 December 2018]

Runciman, D., 2016. Politics has gone wrong. Is digital technology to blame? The Guardian [online], 31 October 2016. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/31/politics-digital-technology-brexit-donald-trump [Accessed 3 December 2018]