What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson : — The Message — Medium
Ferguson is about many things, starting first with race and policing in America.
But it’s also about internet, net neutrality and algorithmic filtering.
But those very factors often make it less likely such places make the news, except as trouble spots. Places to be ignored. Avoided. “We” hear it only through official statements, often dismissing local concerns, painting them as looters, thugs, troublemakers.
Yes Ferguson will make news, another friend tweeted, because… well, here you go: Twitter.
This unfolded in real time on my social media feed which was pretty soon taken over by the topic — and yes, it’s a function of who I follow but I follow across the political spectrum, on purpose, and also globally. Egyptians and Turks were tweeting tear gas advice. Journalists with national profiles started going live on TV. And yes, there were people from the left and the right who expressed outrage.
And then I switched to non net-neutral Internet to see what was up. I mostly have a similar a composition of friends on Facebook as I do on Twitter.
Nada, zip, nada.
No Ferguson on Facebook last night. I scrolled. Refreshed.
This morning, though, my Facebook feed is also very heavily dominated by discussion of Ferguson. Many of those posts seem to have been written last night, but I didn’t see them then. Overnight, “edgerank” –or whatever Facebook’s filtering algorithm is called now — seems to have bubbled them up, probably as people engaged them more.
This isn’t about Facebook per se—maybe it will do a good job, maybe not—but the fact that algorithmic filtering, as a layer, controls what you see on the Internet. Net neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention, coverage and control.
But maybe in the future, they don’t have to bother to arrest journalists and force cameras off. In California, legislation is being considered for “kill switches” in phones — a feature I honestly cannot imagine a good use for this in the United States.
But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue.