My colleague Adrienne LaFrance has named the fundamental assumption, and danger, of social media megascale: “not just a very large user base, but a tremendous one, unprecedented in size.” Technology platforms such as Facebook assume that they deserve a user base measured in the billions of people—and then excuse their misdeeds by noting that effectively controlling such an unthinkably large population is impossible. But technology users, including Donald Trump and your neighbors, also assume that they can and should taste the spoils of megascale. The more posts, the more followers, the more likes, the more reach, the better. This is how bad information spreads, degrading engagement into calamity the more attention it accrues.
This isn’t a side effect of social media’s misuse, but the expected outcome of its use. As the media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan puts it, the problem with Facebook is Facebook.