Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube exploit our tribalism to keep us watching ads. That makes them a perfect target for trolls, conspiracy theorists and scammers.
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Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are designed to satisfy the basic preferences and desires of their users: find out what information people enjoy and then show them more. That is a great way to keep people online, but it also makes these platforms the main target for scammers. People are naturally attracted to sensational and inflammatory news, regardless of whether they are true or not. So bad actors, conspiracy theorists, trolls and fake news writers, have had tremendous success in using these platforms to spread false and divisive content that exploits people's tribal instincts.
In 2016, it was the Macedonian teenagers who earned thousands of dollars publishing false stories about Hillary Clinton. After the shooting in Parkland, the random YouTubers became viral by accusing students of being crisis actors. Even the Russian trolls who meddled in the presidential elections did so by publishing highly emotional and low-quality content on social networks, content they knew would go viral.
The problem with these social networking sites is not that some bad apples are ruining the fun. They are designed to reward rotten apples. And as long as scammers can use these platforms to take advantage of people's most basic desires, social networking sites will continue to reflect the worst of human nature.
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