Simulated Social Network
Frances Haugen has always said that any solution to social media that is dependent on her, is a solution that will fail. We urgently need to expand the global pool of experts and concerned citizens who can meaningfully design and critique social platforms. The Beyond the Screen Simulated Social Network is a platform to study and interact with the complicated dynamics of social networks in a simulated, safe environment.
The Duty of Care project will clarify how we can prevent harms, but we need a safe, independent way for academics to conduct experiments on social media dynamics so that we are not forced to “just trust” the platforms.
Teaching classes based on the Simulated Social Network will create a new generation of experts who intuitively understand how design choices and product interactions lead to or prevent online harms. Students will be able to study things like how recommendation systems lead to online harms, like the proliferation of hate speech and depression in teenagers.
Developing this field and the tools to study and understand the “physics” of social platforms is particularly critical since the new generation of decentralized peer-to-peer social networks will tend towards end-to-end encryption by default, meaning that decentralized platforms will not be able to study social media dynamics with their own systems. This is particularly critical considering that the foremost experts in the operations of social platforms were all trained inside large legacy social networks. The next generation of decentralized and encrypted social media platforms will not be able to train up this workforce internally.
The Simulated Social Network will allow parties to independently confirm the insights articulated in the Duty of Care project, fostering greater credibility and consensus.