Serverless Computing: Utilizing Amazon Web Services To Improve Software Development; Impacts Of Serverless Cloud Architecture For The Web And The Rise Of Misinformation On The Internet

Deng, Jason, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Morrison, Briana, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The internet and social media have never been more useful and relevant in society before, and with recent developments into hosting technology that boosts usage, it becomes ever-so important to analyze the consequences of misinformation that plagues so many platforms and users. Serverless architecture is a new paradigm in how we can approach servers and running applications and programs for various corporations and individuals that improves how we host and maintain things like websites and social media applications. Capital One developer teams were switching to serverless hosting to improve things like developer time, lower costs, and more. However, as we continue to improve the hosting architecture over the internet, we also need to take an analysis on the many downsides. One such is misinformation, that was rampant during the COVID-19 pandemic which saw social media platforms scrambling to try to combat it. This thesis seeks to analyze whether social media platforms’ content moderation policies were effective or not through analyzing prior research and a case study. The coupling between the two topics is loose but follows the general idea that serverless hosting will result in social media platforms being able to support more users, which in turn thus generates a bigger need to moderate content for the bigger user base. The technical research report describes working at Capital One in the summer of 2022 as a Software Engineering Intern. The team was focused on developing internal applications for other Capital One employees. The goal of the project was to switch some existing applications to serverless hosting using services like Amazon Web Services, which provides microservices like Lambda, EC2, ECS, S3, and more. The project can be divided into two parts, where the first part was moving some frontends to S3 for static hosting, a fast, secure, and easy way to host user interfaces, and the second was moving some backends to Lambda for event driven serverless computation. The benefits of doing such were lower developer costs, where the manager reported that they were going to save around 90% of the original cost of hosting, as well as reduced developer time since serverless hosting requires easier maintenance and rehydration. Overall, serverless hosting was a success and showcased immediate benefits of this architecture. The STS report focuses on the question of whether content moderation policies taken by social media platforms like Twitter were effective in curbing the spread of misinformation. This will be achieved through a case study with Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional member who has been previously banned on Twitter for violating their COVID-19 misinformation policy. It was concluded that in the case of Representative Greene, Twitter’s misinformation policies were not effective in stopping the spread of misinformation. By tracking various metrics like follower count and Tweet account, it was observed that Representative Greene’s misinformation campaign did not falter in any way. In fact, one could argue that this banning gave her a bigger publicity and following. If this problem of content moderation and COVID-19 misinformation is analyzed through the lens of Pacey’s Triangle, engineers can better understand all the factors at play that influence these complicated relationships between cultural, technological, and organizational aspects. Understanding how culture plays a role in social media usage and general internet technology is important as developers and engineers to create tools that generate toxic side-effects like misinformation. Engineers should see how deeply rooted mistrust in medical authority and government manifests itself onto the internet, which thus makes the internet and social media platforms non-value neutral. Technology does not exist in and of itself and is influenced by various societal implications. With all this in mind, engineers can better approve this problem of content moderation and misinformation on social media platforms. Approaching this problem requires a deeper understanding of root problems in society that cause misinformation to manifest itself on the internet in the first place, like a historical distrust in government and medical authority. With this consideration in mind, engineers can continue to improve things like serverless architecture while creating a technology that is fully aware of the cultural and organizational contexts that exist in a real-world setting.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Serverless Hosting, Pacey's Triangle, Misinformation, Content Moderation

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Briana Morrison
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Jason Deng

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