A Good Question and an Obvious Answer: Maybe Traffic and Money?

July 19, 2021

I read “Euro 2020: Why Is It So Difficult to Track Down Racist Trolls and Remove Hateful Messages on Social Media?” The write up expresses understandable concern about the use of social media to criticize athletes. Some athletes have magnetism and sponsors want to use that “pull” to sell products and services. I remember a technology conference which featured a former football quarterback who explained how to succeed. He did not reference the athletic expertise of a former high school science club member and officer.  As I recall, the pitch was working hard, fighting (!), and a overcoming a coach calling a certain athlete (me, for example) a “fat slug.” Relevant to innovating in online databases? Yes, truly inspirational and an anecdote from the mists of time.

The write up frames its concern this way about derogatory social media “posts”:

Over a quarter of the comments were sent from anonymous private accounts with no posts of their own. But identifying perpetrators of online hate is just one part of the problem.

And the real “problem”? The article states:

It’s impossible to discover through open-source techniques that an account is being operated from a particular country.


Referencing Instagram (a Facebook property), the Sky story notes:

Other users may anonymise their existing accounts so that the comments they post are not traceable to them in the offline world.

Okay, automated systems with smart software don’t do the job. Will another government bill in the UK help.

The write up does everything but comment about the obvious; for example, my view is that online accounts must be linked to a human and verified before posts are permitted.

The smart software thing, the government law thing, and the humans making decision thing, are not particularly efficacious. Why? The online systems permit — if not encourage — anonymity because money maybe? That’s a question for the Sky Data and Forensics team. It is:

a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.


Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2021


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