Social media is not an even playing field. It is a commonly held misconception among rationalists that scientific fact and reasoned argument should win out over conspiracy theories in the digital ‘marketplace of ideas’. But the algorithms underpinning these platforms are designed to promote the most engaging content over all else, which often means false claims and inflammatory rhetoric are given undue prominence. Bad actors understand this, and have weaponised these platforms to do great harm over the course of the pandemic. The only viable solutions start with holding Big Tech accountable for this state of affairs.
Imran Ahmed is the founding CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. He is a recognised authority on the social and psychological dynamics of social media, as well as what goes wrong in those spaces—such as trolling, identity-based hate, misinformation, conspiracy theories, modern extremism and fake news. He regularly features in the media as an expert in online malignant behaviour and how bad actors weaponise online spaces. Imran regularly advises politicians in the US, UK, Europe and elsewhere on policy and legislation. He was raised in Manchester, England but now lives in Washington DC. He tweets at @imi_ahmed