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Online Platforms Have Become Chaos Machines. Can We Rein Them In?

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Online Platforms Have Become Chaos Machines. Can We Rein Them In?

Image: HBR Staff. Article by Ramsey Khabbaz. Harvard Business Review – February 03, 2021.

Summary. MIT Sloan’s Sinan Aral, author of The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health—and How we Must Adapt, speaks with HBR about what the world needs to do to contain the chaotic consequences of online platforms.

In January, a Reddit message board called r/WallStreetBets sent the stock of a beleaguered video-game retailer, GameStop, skyrocketing, costing some Wall Street hedge funds billions of dollars. Wild as the story of retail traders rocking markets may be, we’ve seen this kind of thing happen before: The saga is just the latest chaotic consequence of people’s ability to communicate and coordinate, en masse, on online platforms. Its recent precedents vary dramatically, from the relatively benign (thousands of teens coordinating on TikTok to inflate attendance expectations for a Trump rally, for example) to the malignant (insurrectionists using the platforms Gab and Parler to plan and execute their attack on the U.S. Capitol). It’s a story that we’ll likely see repeated in new ways, with increasing regularity, from here on out.

The question now is: How do we — as citizens, corporations, and governments — responsibly wield the burgeoning power of online platforms and reckon with their real-life consequences? […]

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