Behavioral Scientists Reveal Interesting Solution to the Toxic Impact of Social Media

Social media has been at the heart of some of the most pressing controversies taking over the world of tech with all things having been considered and taken into account. In spite of the fact that this is the case, not all that many efforts have been made in terms of reining in its harmful impacts. According to Mark Zuckerberg, policing content on social media simply isn’t possible, but a pair of behavioral scientists just proposed a solution that might make it easier than might have been the case otherwise.

The scientists, named Marian-Andrei Rizoiu from the University of Technology Sydney and Philipp Schneider from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, published a paper on their findings. In this paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on how the Digital Services Act of the European Union has the potential to mitigate some of the supposed harms of social media.

Human flaggers will be a core component of this legislation, with any major social media company having to hire them if they want to operate within the EU. Their main role will be to flag any harmful social media content that they come across and remove it within a 24 hour window. However, it bears mentioning that this is a very long period of time. Misinformation shared on social media can end up going viral in a manner of minutes, so the authors of this study are suggesting that the Digital Services Act needs to go a few steps further.

The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether or not the Digital Services Act would be as effective as it needs to be. Schneider and Rizoiu used two metrics in this regard, namely the level of virality it can attain as well as the amount of time it requires to reach the halfway point of its lifecycle.

Twitter, now known as X, turned out to be the worst platform of all, with a half life of 30 minutes. Facebook was second with a 100 minute half life. Now, this seems to suggest that moderating content on X is next to impossible given its short half life, but the researchers found that as long as the post is taken down within 24 hours, it can still decrease its virality by about 50%.

It is certainly a far sight better than just allowing the content to spread unchecked. This just goes to show that any moderation whatsoever is better than nothing at all, and it will be interesting to see how other countries like the US respond to this especially with America’s push for unrestricted freedom of speech.

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