January 10, 2019

The Internet is a WMD (Weapon of Mass Delusion)

Some thoughts on the Internet as the root problem, based on this Washington Post Op-Ed.

When I was a kid, I remember reading about Robert Oppenheimer's work on the atomic bomb and his thought that scientists developing technologies that could be weaponized had some responsibility to counter its misuse. It was probably in the phase of reading bios.

If the Internet, the Web, social media, analytics and targeted advertising have been weaponized, turned into weapons of mass delusion, what are we doing to effectively counter this threat?

I see some focus on decentralization, but that doesn't seem to mitigate the problem. 
IETF, ISOC, ICANN, W3C, ACM, somewhere else? where?

 It seems like this isn't a problem that can be solved by fixing a handful of sites. Or applying sanctions to individuals and companies. how can we counter the susceptibility of mass communication systems to this kind of manipulation and the continuing escalating arms race of hacks and prevention hacks?

Pseudonymous postings seem to be essential, with an increasing sophistication of operational techniques. 


  1. Anonymity without accountability is our problem, is what we have facilitated. Any kind of power without accountability is in a human a path to evil, to wrong, to hurting others or denying the needs of others for one’s own personal gain.

    Decentralization, owning one’s data, these are attacking a different problem, a first-world intellectualentsa’s problem, when the larger problem is with people who don’t really know what data is.

    We need to bring about a culture in which links are tracked back to their sources and whose origin can be verified, where copy and paste carries metadata forward; that’s not enough, because it doesn’t verify the original (dis-)information, but it’s a minimum, to enable that verification. So after that we need, perhaps, distributed networks of trust. We would be fighting the people whose interests are furthered by spreading lies, so legislation there might be impractical. But once attribution became _de rigeur_, a trust network can be added.

    i wonder, too, whether the distributed identity work (DID, verifiable credentials, etc) will help this or hinder.

    1. saying "we need to bring about a culture" is recursive.
      How? My question is more what are Web 3.0 requirements that would reduce the weaponizability.