The Conspiracy Capitaliser: A deep dive into AI, social media, and profit

The Conspiracy Capitaliser is a tool for investigating and understanding the intersection between AI, social media and profit. As a non-human participant, it allows the user to explore a wide spectrum of untruths which can be produced by AI systems and to experience, first-hand, the ethical dilemmas ahead of us as a technologically entangled society.

The Conspiracy Capitaliser emerged as a concept during the author’s investigation into the rise of right-wing activists on Irish social media in the years before the Coronavirus pandemic and throughout the lockdowns. Many of these actors tended to repeat conservative talking points and hashtags which generally came from media outlets and influencers in North America. As their messaging began to stagnate into amorphous tropes, each would try new talking points in an effort to be the one to break new conspiracy ground and attract more followers – as the de facto oracle of outrage. This became very apparent during the early stages of the lockdown, as these actors explored a variety of themes – 5G, GMOs, bioweapons, Bill Gates – in desperate efforts to be the one with the “answer” and a new army of followers.

Working with Tactical Tech and teaching their Exposing The Invisible Toolkit to journalists and researchers in Dublin at the end of 2019, taught me to “follow the money” – even where it didn’t seem to be a factor – in any investigation. As I mapped the social networks of conspiracy influencers and their consumers, I began to notice a definite hierarchy ranging from the big name international “producers”, to the smaller national “localisers” and repeaters of conspiracies, down to the larger group of “consumers” who reshared these nuggets for social media likes and prestige. Throughout these networks, money was being made at varying degrees. At the top are large content producers with high production values and broad revenue streams, and further down are the smaller “localisers” asking for GoFundMe donations for their services.

Many of these producers recognised that they had an eager and somewhat credulous audience at their disposal and began to diversify into selling somewhat related products and services through their channels – including vitamin supplements, homoeopathic remedies, bitcoin advice, survival gear and multi-level marketing opportunities, amongst others. In some cases, it was hard to tell which came first – the conspiracy or the capitalism. 

Through these investigations and observations, it became clear that the marketplace of conspiracies and outrage – like any marketplace – was often a means to an end for profit. The cognitive dissonance experienced from seeing individuals generating and repeating contradictory narratives began to resolve itself under the light of capitalism – never question or kill the Golden Goose; treat it well, feed it and make sure it is comfortable and undisturbed by rationalities.

In this moment of comprehension, I imagined a device which sat on a CEO’s desk and allowed them to tap into this zeitgeist by being able to generate new controversies to feed the outraged and advertise their wares, without having to climb down into the fetid trenches.

The Conspiracy Capitaliser has been made possible by the advent of accessible AI and Large Language Models (LLM).

The Conspiracy Capitaliser come with the following features:

  • Dial into your consumers by their age, politics, credulousness and emotional state.
  • Select from a series of hot political topics to guarantee contention and conversation.
  • Choose from a curated list of established conspiracy classics – from fake moon landings to QAnon.
  • Automatically weaves your product into the message and distributes online – no need to engage directly with the public.