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Platforms' Election 'Fixes' Are Rooted in Flawed Philosophy

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Noam CohenTo
Donald Trump
Mark Zuckerberg
Elizabeth Warren
Richard P. Gabriel
Robert Johnson
Brett Carlsen
Ethan Miller
Johannes Simon

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Silicon Valley
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Election Day

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The New York Times
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It’s a hefty price, and our acceptance of it begs the question: Is worse better?I emailed Gabriel, nearly 30 years after his essay first spread among programmers via early email, to ask if he saw worse-is-better thinking in the way Facebook approaches problems like the 2020 election. And, more importantly, why you are wrong, and move on to the next thing.”The fatal flaw at Facebook and the prominent companies that followed this move-fast-and-correct-quickly philosophy isn’t simply the rapidity or all the broken stuff, but that by involving itself so deeply in divisive politics, it is applying a programming philosophy to a system that is not nearly as resilient as computer code. In the latter case, fixes sent out from headquarters are likely to be inadequate.“I didn’t design ‘worse is better’ to be a moral approach to designing and making things,” Gabriel wrote in an email, but rather as a way for a community “to help design and build a thing that works for them.” However, he wrote, “when the ‘test’ includes either directly or indirectly ad revenue, paid content, political considerations, patronage, and corruption, the evolutionary arc of the platform can go haywire.” He said that, had Facebook limited this fast-moving technique to matters of back-end programming, we wouldn’t be in our troubling situation involving free and fair elections and the social networks.

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