Our crystal ball: how we see social media in 2023

14 minutes
Our crystal ball: how we see social media in 2023
Image: "Crystal ball to predict future, tech background, digital art", interpreted by DreamStudio.

2022 was a turbulent year for social networks and platforms. The Russian invasion of Ukraine forced platforms to take sides and intervene on the digital front of the conflict; Spotify faced pressure to moderate content for the first time; Twitter's biggest troll became the company' s CEO; Meta and other companies in the sector had to lay off thousands of employees around the world; and at the end of the year ChatGPT appeared, an artificial intelligence tool ahead of its time that kicked the board on several fronts-education, design and programming, to name a few. 

With this panorama, the curtain opens on 2023. Futurology articles are the order of the day, so at Circuito we take a look at several of them and take out our crystal ball to identify the key topics that will move the conversation on social networks and platforms. 

Twitter problems continue

Elon Musk will continue to seek attention, though perhaps not in the way he wants. Although Twitter's new CEO has been trying to gain support through the release of the Twitter Files - a series of threads that independent journalists have been publishing to reveal alleged wrongdoing at the company under the previous leadership - the traditional media has not been giving Musk the attention he was asking for. Analyst Kara Swisher summed up the allegations as a "nothing sandwich."

What the press will be watching for are the company's failures. The massive layoffs Musk has executed since his arrival, which have halved Twitter's workforce, will impact the company in 2023. Some media outlets have already pointed to these casualties as one of the possible causes of the increase in hate speech on the platform during the World Cup in Qatar, as well as the dissemination of radical content that called for the January 8 insurrection in Brazil, which ended in invasions of government buildings, looting and arson.

Twitter's decision to once again allow political advertising on the platform - which it had banned in 2019 to curb misinformation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections - may revive old questions about the platform's role in electoral processes. 

The issue takes on a greater dimension if one takes into account the decrease in Twitter's workforce -which has impacted the moderation teams- and the vision of its new owner, who has expressed his intention to control less content on the platform. For the time being, the measure will only take effect in the United States, where the 2024 campaign is already being prepared. If expanded to the rest of the world, the return of political advertising on Twitter could have an impact on the local and presidential elections that countries such as Argentina, Colombia and Spain have scheduled for this year.

Twitter replacement

Elon Musk's arrival at Twitter has put the platform's survival on the line, to the point that in November last year there was speculation that the world's largest microblogging company had only a few hours left to live. The collective panic was overcome, but the problems remain. With Musk's purchase, Twitter is obliged to obtain much higher profits, but at the same time, the new owner's decisions have led advertisers - its main source of income - to curb their spending on the platform.

In the face of the crisis, Mastodon, a decentralized social network and to some extent analogous to Twitter, has become the port of arrival for more than a million users who resolved to leave Musk's platform. However, the initial enthusiasm has faded and its number of active users has plummeted in recent weeks.

The void could be filled by one of the leading social networking companies. As reported by the New York Times, Meta began looking for ways to capitalize on Twitter's decline last November. On the table are new Instagram features for users to share small text notes in the manner of tweets, or a new text-only social network. For trade journalist Casey Newton, Meta has the product, design and moderation capabilities to create from scratch a new platform that would seriously compete with Twitter. 

ChatGPT: the debate of the year

As we said, 2022 closed with the launch of ChatGPT, a tool developed by the artificial intelligence company OpenIA that allows to solve complex questions and write coherent and natural texts. The launch filled the social networks with jokes, users testing the model and all kinds of experiments (including an interview we did with the tool itself to tell us about its risks).

Since then, alarm bells have been ringing about the uses of such a powerful artificial intelligence model: from plagiarism and disinformation to the replacement of human labor and the reproduction of discriminatory stereotypes. This year will be the stage for all these questions to come to the surface and be publicly discussed, while AI systems continue to advance.

It is possible that just as has happened with social networking companies over the last decade, developers of artificial intelligence tools will begin to be subject to demands for transparency and content moderation. For researcher and technology consultant Katie Harbath, as with all developments in the digital world, models such as ChatGPT will bring as many benefits as they will nefarious uses.

In addition to these discussions, one of the main companies in the sector is particularly threatened. In December, it became known that Google launched a red alert to define a strategy to counterbalance ChatGPT, as the tool's ability to answer questions may affect the validity of the world's most popular search engine, the source of the largest amount of revenue for Alphabet, Google's parent company.

New moderation and online work rules to be introduced in Colombia

Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court will have to decide on the case of adult film actress Esperanza Gómez, who sued Meta to recover her Instagram account, which was suspended for allegedly violating the platform's community rules. By her own admission, the reasons for the sanction were never explained to her, nor did she have the opportunity to properly appeal, according to Meta's own processes.

Like most countries in the world, Colombia does not have laws regulating the work of influencers or defining their rights in the field in which they work: social networks. Historically, the Court has been of a guaranteeing nature, so it is likely to recognize that influencers have legitimate economic expectations that grant them some protection at the time of receiving a sanction. 

It would not be surprising, then, if the court ordered the reinstatement of Esperanza Gómez's account. All in all, the question is how far the Court will go in imposing content moderation standards on platforms, which already have a lot of problems implementing their own guidelines and processes.

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