Jabari Brooks, Forrest Haydon
Crowdsourcing: Negative Effects on Society
Crowdsourcing is just one of the offspring of accelerating means of socialization. It started with a simple website Kickstarter but it has now coalesced into a myriad of different applications. To date, there are countless websites that use it in order to gain information and so on. One classic example of this would be Yahoo Answers, or Wikipedia. Essentially crowdsourcing makes it easier for information to be collected and showcased. In addition, the speed of crowdsourcing is significantly increasing as well. In merely a few years bio printing has been engendered. However at this alarming rate the potential of crowdsourcing technology definitely proves problematic. The problems that arise can be argued how crucial they are though, but there is a problem none the less.
The potential for crowdsourcing technology may have benefits, but more importantly the applications of this technology can prove to be very dangerous and outweigh the benefits. Many of the downsides of this can be found with the potential for 3D printing of weapons, the use of social media networks aiding terrorist communications, human-based computations through blogs that distribute information on how to make homemade weapons, and the leakage of secret government documents through crowdsourcing.
To begin, there are many negative aspects to the modern day phenomenon of sharing information called crowdsourcing. One of these major aspects is that of a modern invention called the 3-D printer. Now in essence the 3-D printer was created without incorporating crowdsourcing. In fact crowdsourcing, like 3-D printing, was not created recently (Ponsford).
A man named Charles Hull created it roughly 30 years ago. He made this invention originally from acrylic ink that would turn solid in the presence of UV lighting. Mr. Hull did all of this from a small lab in a business he was apart of during that time. After his invention others took the idea and built upon it. However, it was extremely limited by the technology accessible around the time of the late 90’s. With modern technology, in the turn of the 21st century, has allowed this technology to be adopted by various companies with limitless capabilities. (Ponsford)
To better understand first 3-D printing and how it works, its functionality will be discussed. First off, like regular printing it starts from a 2-D realm. This entails making a model from scratch on a computer, or writing a program for the printer to follow. Then the program will splice the model into thousands of layers for the printer to recreate. Once this is done the printer will then begin to print. With a laser, or other forms of high intensity light, a beam will melt and mold a layer of material into a certain shape. After that the printer will continue layering materials upon each other until the model is created, seemingly from thin air. Different materials can be used including, plastic, metal, chocolate, nylon, and even living cells. Of course the capabilities of this machine become endless. When you add crowdsourcing to the fray interesting things begin to occur. (Fleming)
One example of how the potential for this technology to go in a bad direction with crowdsourcing is the printing of guns. At first the possibility for this technology to be used to create a gun was deemed unlikely. However this was proven wrong when the first gun was created out of plastic. Furthermore, the plastic material meant that the gun would be undetectable in airports and other facilities. What is scary about this is that the Undetectable Firearms Act banning weapons that cannot be sensed do not apply to 3-D printing according to Steve Israel, A Congress Representative. Essentially then anyone can enter buildings and areas that can usually detect weapons, and have an edge. (Doherty)
The ramifications of that type of weaponry are very serious; just imagine what terrorist organizations could do with that. However, that is a very extreme. One immediate thing to consider is that once crowd sourced anyone with a 3-D printer can easily access the schematics for a gun. The question arises, how can someone regulate millions of people accessing this then? When that question is asked alarming ideas should arise because there are no true ways to regulate who can access them. Thus anyone can easily gain access to a gun. Does that mean that more incidents like the Sandy Hook one will come into fruition? Does it mean that gang members and murders will easily be able to bypass protocol and just download a gun? These questions demonstrate just how deadly such a simple innovation can easily become deadly.
Now with crowdsourcing an even sinister dimension is added to this. There are a lot of sites that give countless programs for weapons including guns. These programs can easily be accessed and downloaded for printing, endangering the public as a whole.
In addition, crowdsourcing in the form of social media has recently popularity by people all around the world to broadcast their ideas and communicated with others. This has opened the door for illicit activities by extremist groups. Now, you can go on the internet and go on a social media site such as Facebook or twitter and find that terrorist organizations have accounts which they use in order to advertise and communicate with other criminals.
Jack Dorsey founded twitter in 2006. He originally came up with the idea, as smart phones were just starting to gain popularity. He wanted a way to be able to send short messages, almost like a text, to a group of friends (about.com). Thus Twitter was created, and is now one of the biggest sites to find crowd sourced data. Now in age every organization, group or institution has a social media account. This includes many terrorist groups, who have set up accounts. One of the most recent examples of this is the militant group from Somalia, Al-Shabaab who attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. They used twitter right before the attack and during their attack to broadcast their goals. Twitter learned of this and proceeded to terminate the account. A few hours later when Al-Shabaab entered the mall and began shooting people and causing mayhem, they created another twitter account where they had a live feed running to give real-time updates of what was going on while they were conducting this attack (Prasant).
Moreover, there are various other activities on twitter by infamous groups. Al-Qaeda was also on twitter using the pseudonym Shamukh al-Islam, in which they “tweeted” about religious proclamations and other things such as death tolls due to their attacks. This twitter page had close to 2,000 followers before it was suspended. These suspensions rely on someone to report the accounts, because we don’t have the technology to identify who real threats are, especially if groups are using false identities. According to Dan rivers, a Senior International Correspondent for CNN, the main problem is that although these accounts are reported, there are many private chat-rooms where terrorist leaders from around the world exchange information and tactics. Hence, crowd sourced sites may not be completely safe if they are diffusioning extremist ideology(Rivers).
In addition, crowdsourcing can help give false information through social media sites. Many times, when a important event happens. According to Roland Paris, Former Director of Research at the Conference Board of Canada, there have always been false rumors spread, but now in age it is much more difficult to find the truth because when one person shares it, it is quoted by people everywhere even though it might be false. In July there was a terrorist attack in Norway, and at first there was no information about the perpetrator of the attack. Originally experts said that the terrorist was an Islamist Militant from a Jihadist organization, but after the attack the identity of the attacker was an caucasian anti-Muslim reactionary. Many experts were then put under fire for their false and seemingly bias claims, but in reality it is not entirely to blame (Paris).
Right after the attack, people turned to social media and began sharing information with nothing to back it up. News reporters are increasingly pressure to be the first sources of information, and to use social media to interact with people when a newsworthy event happens. Many reporters went on to social media, and due to a lack of patience, and began claiming the attacker identity and affiliations to certain organizations. Having no information to report on, they used made up intelligence created by civilians who are sharing their opinion and theories on the matter, thus creating mass confusion due to false intelligence shared by crowd sourcing (Paris).
In spite of all of the information given there are still some those who believe that the benefits for the crowdsourcing technology potential outweigh the negatives. In terms of the the 3-D printed guns there are many who believe them to be harmless, many thought it would only be used to print simple things such as toys or other ordinary everyday items. In fact before the first printed gun was made most people did not think it could even be possible. Most people have only created small semi functional guns that break upon the first couple of shots, due to the ballistic strength of the bullet would destroy low integrity of plastic 3-D makeup of the gun. Therefore, it was projected that it would take years for a fully functional gun to be printed . (Bilton)
Then to add to that, as Richard D’Aveni, a business professor at Dartmouth, basically said that 3-D printing would lead to the drastic decrease in cost of production for various objects (D’Aveni). On another note with the terrorist extremist groups police and law enforcement are not too alarmed. Most believe that their information can be easily tracked since it is own crowd sourced internet technology. At the same time governments have also been using crowdsource technology to search for and apprehend large scale criminals as well. Thus all of the benefits in terms of crowdsourcing for most people overshadow the bad truths lurking in the shadows. However as stressed all throughout this paper these truths should not just be ignored for the tell of the grim futures that lie in store if these issues are not addressed now.In Conclusion, crowdsourcing has had, and will continue to have a negative impact on society. There are guns that undetectable and outside the reach of the law due to 3-D printing technology. Social media has aided terrorist and other extremists to gain support and followers on a large scale due to the world wide web. There continues to be many negative aspects including sharing of intelligence in blogs, that could potentially cause damage to the public. For gods sake, even secret government document have been leaked that endanger the lives of millions.