Big Data Tools Lead to New Social Media Science

Author and journalist Jamie Bartlett will be the closing keynote speaker at the Infosecurity ISACA North America Expo and Conference, which will take place November 20-21 2019 in New York City. Bartlett recently shared some of his insights into how technology is reshaping society.

Jamie Bartlett has been reporting on digital trends and their impacts for much of this decade, with a special emphasis on social media. From covering emerging political movements to authoring a book-length exploration of the underground cultures driving the dark net, Bartlett’s work has chronicled various tipping points in the digital age.

Those experiences led Bartlett to a role with the think tank Demos, serving as director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media until January 2019 (he is currently a senior fellow at the organization). During his tenure, he was part of a team that used big data tools to analyze social media and create a new discipline.

“I was excited by the prospect of using machine learning and AI to build research tools,” Bartlett said. “When I set the center up in 2011, not many researchers in the social sciences were using big data tools. This was very exciting because it felt like I was at the frontier of a new research discipline – social media science – and therefore able to help create the rules and methodologies. Others have caught up now, but of course, new fields open up: like the use of Internet of Things data.”

Through his data research, Bartlett is now drawing some ominous conclusions about the general health of the social media landscape. He believes the downsides of polarizing social media interactions are outweighing the benefits of social engagement.

“In its current format and style, I’m afraid I do now,” Bartlett said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of good things taking place, because obviously there are. However, I think the cost of people’s focus, concentration and willingness to engage in constructive discussion rather than slanging matches, has had an extremely negative effect on the health of our political debate. That doesn’t mean we should shut it off of course – but we may need to rethink the business model (and our education systems) so they encourage a better and healthier form of politics.”

Addressing this issue, in 2018 he released the book, The People vs. Tech, contending that the internet is killing democracy. He believes new approaches are needed to address the new and ever-evolving social landscape created by rapid advances in technology.

“It’s quite a simple argument: that the institutions of democracy – the legal system, election law, education, an informed public willing to compromise – have been created for an offline world,” Bartlett said. “Yet now so much of our political life takes place online, and all the systems we have to keep democracy running don’t seem to work well anymore. More to the point, in the future, this disconnect will worsen.”

Bartlett also shared his thoughts on cybersecurity trends as we near the start of a new decade. He expects data analytics and emerging technologies to play a larger role in the automation of crime, impacting criminals, victims and law enforcement.

“Many industries are thinking about automation – driving, clerical work, fruit picking, factory work, legal analysis, even journalism,” Bartlett said. “So why would criminals not think the same? They are always on the lookout for new ways of saving time and making more money. I expect far more automatic tools that scan and auto-hack software, more sophisticated AI-powered personalized phishing emails, and so on. This, I think, will change quite fundamentally how we understand risk in cybersecurity in the next few years.”

To help enterprises and security professionals better leverage data analytics to enhance cybersecurity, the Infosecurity ISACA North America Expo and Conference 2019 offers a diverse lineup of learning sessions for building your security knowledge from 20-21 November 2019—register now!

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