Any Social Media site who completely controls a mechanism of popularity measurement (likes, followers, subscribers, etc) has a powerful tool indeed.
- It is a major ingredient in the bricks and mortar of the “walled gardens” which keep people from leaving the platform: if you leave the platform, you stand to also leave a large chunk of your popularity behind there as well.
- It can be a social lever to make their services much more desirable; addictively so, considering people’s powerful psychological need for attention and validation (especially in adolescents and teens).
- It can be monetized, by violating privacy, and collecting demographic data (as well as highly personal data) to sell to advertisers - nay - anyone willing to pay for such data, for whatever reason, no matter how nefarious the intent behind such purchases
All such closed-source, proprietary mechanisms of popularity measurement should be deeply mistrusted by default, since they readily lend themselves to the whims and manipulations of bad actors (human, or AI). Any mechanism which has a federated, Open Source design or protocol of interoperability should be strongly favoured instead, which exposes and disincentivises any bad actors from “gaming the system”.