The use of algorithms for information bombardment, which causes the so-called “Infoxication”, due to the quantity, diversity and consumption of content on social networks, was one of the topics addressed in the Virtual Forum on Social Networks, Manipulation and Journalistic Freedom that took place recently, organized by the Mexican Academy of Communication, AMDC, chaired by Ricardo Homs.

The journalist Fernando Belaunzarán took part in the Social Networks and Reputation work table, coordinated by the specialist Fernando Gutiérrez, director of the School of Social Sciences of the ITESM and Academic of Number of the AMDC. the general director of Metrics, Ximena Céspedes; the director of the Digital Institute of Reputation, Guillermo Perezbolde; the director of the Anemone Group, Ramón Modragón; Luis Ángel Hurtado, of Applied Political Communication and Enrique Bustamante Martínez, President of the Advisory Council of the AMDC

At this work table it was mentioned that the Internet is practically promoting the return to Babel, since the ordinary citizen with a smartphone “becomes a broadcaster in a great agora that is the reflection of society, in which everything is allowed and the one that amplifies the message ”.

This situation has been exacerbated by the use of algorithms in social networks. But how does this resource influence the amplification of messages? Why has its use become important?

In dissemination strategies on social networks, it is not enough to create a community and maintain a loyal following. You also have to deal with the algorithms of the different social networks.

Algorithms are the set of programming rules that will make a publication show a lot or instead the platform hardly shows it to any user. And also the decisions of who and when the posts will be shown. If social networks were the cover of a newspaper, the algorithm would be what would decide what the cover topic takes, what will go in each column, the article that will have only a brief or what will be left out. Therefore, it is important to know the algorithms very closely and even to know what to do to put them on our side.

The content of the different social networks is governed, in addition to what we actively search for, by the invisible hand of algorithms. In the most used social networks, which allow much more interaction with content and between users, they work somewhat differently.

Until a while ago, when we talked about search algorithms in digital marketing we always referred to search engines in general and Google in particular. For a time, social media had much lighter algorithms. But it has been years since they improved and, more importantly, they now know very well how to give more visibility to some content or others. There are even cases where they are said to have killed the essence of some platform.

One of the attractions of social networks lies in the naturalness of user behavior. Being used by such a high volume of people who express their tastes and hobbies, they present an ideal breeding ground for companies seeking to reach as many potential recipients as possible.

Social networks were forced to establish a series of « restrictions » on corporate content so that users do not feel harassed in a space that must be comfortable and relaxed. This is when the fearsome algorithms emerge. Each network uses one tailored to their particular characteristics and they change them so frequently that it can be difficult to keep up with them.

Another widely questioned use of algorithms on social media is for propaganda in political campaigns.

Catherine Helen O’Neil, an American mathematician and author of the blog and the book Weapons of Math Destruction, among others, refers in this publication to the « non-sancto use » of social media algorithms. Detailed knowledge of the profile of its users allows politicians to tailor their propaganda to each individual, enhancing the demagogic practice of telling everyone what they want to hear, and, much more dangerous, manipulating their emotions for electoral purposes.

The irrationality underlying the num numerical rationality ’refers us to the GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) principle, that is, if you enter bad data into a computer, bad data will come out. This is what happens with models that, according to O’Neil, « are opinions embedded in mathematics, » usually racist and class prejudices. The algorithms’ condition of commercial secrecy, which removes them from public scrutiny, guarantees the opacity of these « weapons of mathematical destruction ». People ignore how their data is processed and why it is classified in this or that way with a pernicious impact on their lives.

« Our age demands legislation that protects citizens from the abuses perpetrated through data mining, » says O’Neil. The author warns that big data exploits « the mixture of fear and confidence that people feel for mathematics to avoid asking questions. » O’Neil believes that it is crucial to detect biases in search engines and job seekers online. He says that « just as the appalling conditions in the factories of the Industrial Revolution forced the imposition of labor laws, » our time demands legislation that protects citizens from abuses perpetrated through data mining. « 

The Tower of Babel, a biblical illusion that tells of the pride and pride of man, and of an angry and vengeful god in the face of a sea of ​​confusion, paradoxically takes effect again in the face of technological evolution.