IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 17

COMMENTARY

Sun Sun Lim

Roland
Bouffanais

Tuning Networks for
Prosocial Behavior

ocia l media have
been seen to accel-
erate the spread of
negative content such
as disinformation and
hate speech, often unleashing a reck-
less herd mentality within networks,
further aggravated by malicious enti-
ties using bots for amplification. So
far, the response to this emerging
global crisis has centered around social
media platform companies making
reactive moves that appear to have
greater symbolic value than practi-
cal utility. These include taking down
patently objectionable content or
manually deactivating the accounts of
bad actors, while leaving vast troves
of negative content to circulate and
perpetuate within social networks. Gov-
ernments worldwide have thus sought
to intervene using regulatory tools, with
countries such as France, Germany,
and Singapore introducing laws to
compel technology companies to take
down or correct erroneous and harm-
ful content. However, the relentless pace
of technological progress enfeebles
regulatory measures that seem fated
for obsolescence.
In view of this ceaselessly evolv-
ing technological climate, we believe
that a more enduring solution to the
spread of negative content via social
networks is to consciously design
and tune networks so as to advance
prosocial behavior. We therefore
propose a more proactive approach
of tapping local perturbations in
social networks to trigger prosocial

S

From Senseless Swarms
to Smart Mobs

responses and positive action. By
tuning and tweaking the topology
of social networks to favor prosocial
behavior, we can more effectively
contain the spread of negative and
deleterious content and forge a
more robust information landscape.

Smart Mobs or Senseless
Swarms?
In his prescient book Smart Mobs
published in 2002 [1], Howard Rhe-
ingold postulated that when people
are connected by devices with both
communication and computing ca-
pabilities, they can collaborate and
coordinate action to effect positive
transformations. He highlighted po-
litical demonstrations that toppled
oppressive regimes, the emergence
of Wikipedia, and open source collab-
orative software development, col-
lective citizen response to disasters,
and citizen journalism. Rheingold
was farsighted, predicting the likes
of the Arab Spring protests of 2010,
the Occupy Wall Street movement of
2011, or even apps to help refugees
such as RefAid and REFUNITE. While

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2019.2948437
Date of current version: 2 December 2019

DECEMBER 2019

∕

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

social scientists such as Rheingold
and Manuel Castells [1]-[2] have rec-
ognized the limitations of these net-
worked social movements, they have
also acknowledged their potential for
empowerment.
And yet, even as the strength of
networks and wisdom of crowds
have been mobilized with salutary
results, we have also witnessed their
vast potential for negativity. Hither-
to, it does seem as if the banes of
social networks have been far more
salient than their boons. For every Ice
Bucket Challenge that successfully
raises funds to battle disease, there
are many risky social media trends
such as the Tide Pod, A4 Waist, or
even Choking Game memes that
can cause severe harm to individu-
als and society at large. Online false-
hoods too have been empirically
proven to disseminate further and
faster than accurate information.
Notably, an M.I.T. study found that
false rumors are 70% more likely to
be retweeted than true rumors [3].
Disturbingly, the intensifying use
of social media platforms such as

17



IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

Contents
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - Cover1
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - Cover2
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 1
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - Contents
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 3
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 4
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 5
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 6
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 7
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 8
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 9
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 10
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 11
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 12
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 13
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 14
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 15
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 16
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 17
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 18
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 19
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 20
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 21
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 22
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 23
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 24
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 25
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 26
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 27
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 28
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 29
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 30
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 31
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 32
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 33
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 34
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 35
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 36
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 37
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 38
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 39
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 40
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 41
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 42
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 43
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 44
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 45
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 46
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 47
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 48
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 49
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 50
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 51
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 52
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 53
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 54
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 55
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 56
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 57
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 58
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 59
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 60
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 61
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 62
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 63
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 64
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 65
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 66
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 67
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 68
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 69
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 70
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 71
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 72
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 73
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 74
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 75
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 76
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 77
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 78
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 79
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 80
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 81
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 82
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 83
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 84
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - Cover3
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2013
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com