Publish Novella 5 Jun 2022
Amid backlash from questionable authenticity, an eccentric billionaire offers to purchase and revamp a massive social media company, until data reveals a disturbing discrepancy.
Twit Ticker, arguably the most popular social media platform, is suppressing internal turmoil as it tries to reboot itself amid competitors. Users are losing confidence in platform reliability and human interaction.
Vocal members having many followers can shapeshift news and perception of reality. Amid freedom-of-speech criticism, prominent members are ousted.
User membership is free, with revenue coming from advertisements. The company is unsuccessfully testing features for which users may be willing to subscribe. Then a potential lifeline arrives.
With multiple successes in the tech industry, free-speech advocate, Ellen Moss ascends to the world’s wealthiest person. As the company’s largest shareholder, she offers to purchase Twit Ticker outright. The board of directors scramble to discuss the buyout.
Behind closed doors, the chairman, Ravi Kumar questions, “Will Ellen Moss reinstate members we have banned?”
“It is uncertain, but given her stand on free speech, quite likely,” the corporate secretary responds.
“Do we retain current positions or will she replace the board? If we’re ousted, will we receive our golden parachutes?”
“Ellen Moss is known to be a mover and shaker. Our severance packages are legally binding. With a buyout, we will not have to want for finances—even if we’re replaced. She has a contingency stipulation to identify the number of members that are fake or bots,” Kumar replies.
“We could verify a random sampling of 100 users and see where we are on that.”
“Good suggestion. Can you take the lead on the report?”
“Certainly, I will work with our IT department.”
“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, our big payday is eminent. Let’s not blow this.”
The internal report reveals less than 5% of 200 million members are fake. Twit Ticker shares the exciting news with Ellen Moss. But Moss, has suspicions. She has her rocket scientists evaluate a random sample.
Her preliminary results show many as 90% of members are fake. With such a wide disparity, she puts a hold on her bid to purchase Twit Ticker. The chairman of the social media giant convenes with her to discuss the difference.
“In a large ocean, there are areas of clear water, oil contamination, and plastic waste. It depends on where you dip the bucket. Overall, it is still mostly water,” Ravi Kumar explains.
“But in your analogy, the ocean is the entire body of social media. I am worried that your footprint is standing in the mire,” Ellen counters.
“That’s an over exaggeration. We can test a larger sampling of 1000 users.”
“I fear that with your internal knowledge of member profiles and usage, your sampling is more selective than mine. When I choose 1000, it’s truly random. With different samplings, we can expect a degree of deviation among our results, but not an 85–90% discrepancy.”
Subsequent tests that the two entities separately perform are not much better. More than half the members are fake robots. An accurate count is difficult since many human users utilize bots to schedule posts, view RSS feeds, or respond to hashtags.
Ellen argues, “The amount of bots skews results of your entire revenue stream. The followers and clicks you promise are from bots.”
“Twit Ticker is fundamentally a place for cliques (as in groups), not clicks (as in ad revenue),” Kumar explains.
As Twit Ticker gets a better idea of Ellen’s goals for the company, the takeover becomes more tenuous. She wants to make it an opensource free-speech platform.
“Twit Ticker has become the Westworld of social media. I see a future where bots control most media. They write the news, post messages, and add likes to social media platforms without human interaction. It’s not a direction the internet should go, but it’s inevitable.”
With what she generously sees as half the number of active users, Ellen Moss revises her bid to 50% of her original offer. The Twit Ticker board of directors balk. Negotiations falter and eccentric Ellen redirects her focus on other ventures.