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Inauthentic Internet | 2207

It’s ironic that Boomers spent the 00’s telling kids to not believe everything they read on the internet. Now the situation is reversed.

Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2022/02/19/301-2207-inauthentic-internet/

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Inauthentic Internet

A post called Google Search Is Dying travelled around my little corner of the internet this week. It’s worth checking it out.

The post is also a wonderful reminder of the web we lost. The original post was updated with links to the discussion referencing it happening around the web. Hacker News, Reddit, etc. 

At the time of writing, the post has 7 appendices and 6 updates that even include responses from Google.

The TDLR is that Google search didn’t used to be bad, but it has gotten progressively worse. To the point of being terrible. A screenshot shows the search ‘Retool slack integration’, with an entire screen of ads in the results.

The post explains how Google is now extracting more and more revenue from its core business model to the detriment of its utility.

The post goes deep on how advertising brings about misaligned incentives for search engines. It even quotes Brin and Page speaking in 1998 “advertising income” they said “often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results”.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a degradation in the usefulness of Google search results too. Particularly over the last two years or so. I switched to Ecosia as my search engine of choice during 2020 and haven’t looked back. I also fully migrated away from Chrome last year and use Brave browser exclusively. I’m also experimenting with Brave’s own fledgling search service. 

The main outcome of the ‘Search Is Dying’ discourse has been to broaden the discussion out to the wider web. With many concluding that it has become too inauthentic to trust. For example: contrast search engine optimised tech websites with reviews of the same laptops from people who actually own the laptop on Reddit.

Reddit, it seems, has become one of the fastest growing search engine destinations on the web. Why? Because reviews on Reddit are (mostly) authentic. Because it’s content is (mostly) made up of real people. Moderated (mostly) by real people. And for better or worse, houses opinions of (mostly) real people too.

The wider web is awash with SEO’d low quality click bait. Content farms that make it impossible to find anything or trust it when you do find something. Phone and product reviews exist in a shit swallowing feedback loop of influencer marketing. I’m sure we have all come across aspects of this. Not just laptop reviews, but well, everything. Fake amazon reviews, fake hotel reviews on trip advisor. 1000’s of words of bonkers personal anecdote before a recipe. BOT armies posting hashtag spam, youtube comments, and thoes weird youtube videos for children – the list goes on and on. 

Tiktok and the introduction of short video formats everywhere have become a festering wound on the cultural psyche. Taking the 15 second audition pioneered by the X Factor to the peak of cultural importance. Content farms are out of control. Advertising, pop ups, requests for cookies and permissions are out of control too. The web has become an unnavigable ocean of questionable bullshit.

I’m 100% onboard with Search Is Dying’s idea of the inauthentic internet. Obvious since the JTRIG Art of Deception presentation dropped as part of the Snowden docs. It’s crazy, 8 years on we have the recent news that Netflix is hiring Condé Nast and Time Inc. journalists to build a quote unquote ‘fandom engine’.

The press release and articles all read as excitable puff pieces about the creation of a corporate psyop division. Synthetic fandoms or perhaps fando-turfing is something I’d like to talk about in more detail in future. It’s not all that far away from world running. 

It’s not too hard to believe that the majority of social media’s trending tags are just the flotsom thrown up by the churning sea of automated psyops, and counter psyops. Nation States, oil companies, and now even media companies. Everyones at it. How many reply guys on the internet are even real? Who knows. 

Which brings me on to Dead Internet Theory

Dead Internet Theory

The conspiracy theory that the whole internet is now fake. Writing on the subject in 2021 for The Atlantic Kaitlyn Tiffany observes:

Dead-internet theory suggests that the internet has been almost entirely taken over by artificial intelligence. Like lots of other online conspiracy theories, the audience for this one is growing because of discussion led by a mix of true believers, sarcastic trolls, and idly curious lovers of chitchat.
suggests that the internet died in 2016 or early 2017, and that now it is “empty and devoid of people,” as well as “entirely sterile.” Much of the “supposedly human-produced content” you see online was actually created using AI, IlluminatiPirate claims, and was propagated by bots, possibly aided by a group of “influencers” on the payroll of various corporations that are in cahoots with the government.

Now I don’t know about you but this sort of stuff is like crack to me. It captures the very real and observable phenomenon I’ve already touched on. And does so in a dramatic and batshit way.

It’s ironic that Boomers spent the late 90’s and 00’s telling kids to not believe everything they read on the internet. Now in the 2020’s the situation is urgently reversed. The internet has always been full of grift and spam, only now the ocean is much wider and deeper. And our current tools for navigating it are failing us.

The inauthentic internet is a real problem. It’s why I advocate that everyone get off algorithmically mediated platforms, start a blog or newsletter and read stuff via RSS. Islands of authenticity amidst these churning social seas. 

I wrote in 2020 in my chapter for the Unsound Intermission book that “our most urgent task moving forward is to practice and encourage discernment” – the ability to judge well.

Only the living can discern anything amidst the shamelessness of the dead internet.

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The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.

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About Author

Jay Springett is a Solarpunk, and consultant strategist, currently specialising in the distributed web, metaverse, and world running. He is currently writing his first public book: Land as Platform.

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