Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine
While I don't agree with most of the examples and recommendations in the linked article, I do fully agree that algorithms that drive engagement also drive polarization and radicalization. More so, traditional media is now incentivized to produce clickbait - as engagement is the only metric that leads to news monetization in the digital space.
A hypothetical example, two camps argue over which flavor of ice cream is better - chocolate or vanilla. Over time, nuance becomes unacceptable, so each newcomer to this argument is forced to pick one of these flavors regardless of the actual preference for another taste. Even if you like strawberry ice cream, you end up picking a side you hate least or risk everything turning into chocolate or vanilla.
Now imagine that people arguing for chocolate ice cream, no matter how aggressively or in bad faith, do not get penalized on social media. This is largely because among people that built social media nearly all tend to like chocolate ice cream and few ones that like vanilla tend to keep this fact to themselves.
As a consequence of this, arguing for vanilla is heavily policed - any misstep and you are banned. As a consequence arguments (but not preferences) for chocolate dominate all online discourse. This misleads people arguing chocolate into mistaken belief that vanilla is marginal preference and can be further marginalized as far-vanilla fringe views.
Take it even further - you now starting to take down most prominent and successful advocates for vanilla using every excuse or pretext you can find. They try to form an alternative social media, where they can freely discuss vanilla, but you use your technological dominance to make it much harder for them to get hosting, kick them off your advertising network, work with your chocolate-flavor allies to get them banned from any and all services, including search and payment processing.
In such scenario you still can make a self-hosted website advocating vanilla, but it won't have visibility, reach or ability to attract funding to expand and do more. As a result, while some advocacy of vanilla flavor ice cream would remain present, the prominence of it will be greatly diminished with time. Eventually you will be able to claim false consensus that most people clearly prefer chocolate flavor.
Unfortunately, society does not work this way and preferences do not go away simply because they are silenced. Instead, the unintended consequence is that vanilla preference will get hyper-polarized and militarized. At some point what started as a resolvable disagreement ends up in a violent insurrection and the way social media operates is directly to blame for it.
How to Put Out Democracy’s Dumpster Fire
A former design ethicist at Google who now leads the Center for Humane Technology, put it more bluntly. “News feeds on Facebook or Twitter operate on a business model of commodifying the attention of billions of people per day,” he told us. “They have led to narrower and crazier views of the world.”
If you discard "this is all Trump's fault" obligatory proclamations this is insightful article.