The ‘commodification of influence’ and its implications for democracy

The ‘commodification of influence’ and its implications for democracy

One of the things that we are most concerned with at Murmur is the impact that social media has on society. We believe that the utopian promise of social media as a force for good can still be realised but we have to first understand the ways in which that promise has been diverted.

Having measured social media landscapes in countries around the world, one of the dynamics that we always see is the ongoing fragmentation, or polarisation, of the societies we measure. All countries are in some state of fragmentation; some are better off; some are worse. Often times, this polarisation is hastened along by geo-political players working in unison with local actors.

A key contributor to polarisation in society is the ‘commodification of influence’ whereby a country’s important political debates are distorted by networks of paid influencers. Today, we share an investigation into the influence-for-hire industry in South Africa, two days ahead of that country’s National Elections. The investigation was funded by the Henry Nxumalo Foundation and published by The Daily Maverick.

This phenomenon is not unique to South Africa though. We’ve tracked it all over the world, from Ghana to Indonesia, and to ground-zero in the United States. Give it a read to understand the ways in which online content and behaviour that is often mischaracterised as ‘fake news’, ‘disinformation’ and ‘bots’ really works.

Here’s a diagram from The Daily Maverick article:

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Murmur Intelligence

We leverage our extensive knowledge in building AI products and data analytics tools to provide our clients with a bird’s eye view of what is happening within the social and digital landscapes they operate within.