”Throughout the history communication and information have been fundamental sources of power and counter-power, of domination and social change.This is because the fundamental battle being fought in society is the battle over the minds of the people. The way people think determines the fate of norms and values on which societies are constructed.“ This quote from sociologist Manuel Castells opens one of the most mindblowing research documents produced so far by Share Labs about “Mapping and quantifying political information warfare”, a first hand report about new forms of algorithmic propaganda in Serbia.
Vladan Joler is one of the founding members of this research team based in Yugoslavia, among other technologists, artists, activists and lawyers. They set out to explore how humans and data are changing the contemporary public sphere, probably for good. To do so they explore the highways of the electronic frontier, as well as hidden, invisible roads and deep waters of information flow in order to better understand the new challenges to network neutrality, privacy-related issues and security.
In their first data investigation, “Invisible Infrastructures“, they used various network topology, data mining and data visualization methods to create a tentative atlas of the network architecture that make the internet possible. The purpose of those cartographies is not only to map, but also uncover and independently monitor the technological and political implications of the new technological layer that private and public organizations are deploying all over the planet.
In “Facebook Algorithmic Factory”, Share Labs used data analysis and some smart reverse engineering to expose and visualize the quantification, targeting and exploitation process hidden behind Facebook’s friendly user interfaces, the real black box of the World’s largest social network.
One of the most recent Share Labs’ research field is political data warfare. A hidden internet interventionism recently started to plague the neverending reality show of online media. Far from being an arena where any user will enjoy freedom of expression and autonomy, social media have become a secret battlefield, where discussions are hijacked by bots and trolls, content is taken down by opaque DDoS attacks and where individuals are victims of targeted operations.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.