- Apr 2022
Before 2009, Facebook had given users a simple timeline––a never-ending stream of content generated by their friends and connections, with the newest posts at the top and the oldest ones at the bottom. This was often overwhelming in its volume, but it was an accurate reflection of what others were posting. That began to change in 2009, when Facebook offered users a way to publicly “like” posts with the click of a button. That same year, Twitter introduced something even more powerful: the “Retweet” button, which allowed users to publicly endorse a post while also sharing it with all of their followers. Facebook soon copied that innovation with its own “Share” button, which became available to smartphone users in 2012. “Like” and “Share” buttons quickly became standard features of most other platforms.Shortly after its “Like” button began to produce data about what best “engaged” its users, Facebook developed algorithms to bring each user the content most likely to generate a “like” or some other interaction, eventually including the “share” as well. Later research showed that posts that trigger emotions––especially anger at out-groups––are the most likely to be shared.
The Firehose versus the Algorithmic Feed
See related from The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, A Philosophy, A Warning, except with more depth here.
Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future—and to us as a people.
Algorithms creating the divide
Algospeak refers to code words or turns of phrase users have adopted in an effort to create a brand-safe lexicon that will avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by content moderation systems. For instance, in many online videos, it’s common to say “unalive” rather than “dead,” “SA” instead of “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”
Definition of "Algospeak"
In order to get around algorithms that demote content in social media feeds, communities have coined new words or new meanings to existing words to communicate their sentiment.
This is affecting TikTok in particular because its algorithm is more heavy-handed in what users see. This is also causing people who want to be seen to tailor their content—their speech—to meet the algorithms needs. It is like search engine optimization for speech.
Article discovered via Cory Doctorow at The "algospeak" dialect