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Social Media: Savior of Democracy, or Nemesis?
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  • Unelected Leader

    Meh, social media is no more used to spread fake news and fear monger than is the MSM. At least the social media sites can’t really play favorites like crooked MSM.

    • Makaden

      Careful what platitudes you buy into. The regulation of “hate speech” by the likes of google and facebook should make us reconsider your last point.

      • Unelected Leader

        I get ya. But remember social media encompasses literally thousands of platforms, not just the handful that happened to be the most popular at the moment.
        While Twitter and even Facebook to a lesser degree have engaged in some censorship it has hurt their literal value. YouTube (owned by Google) has actually decreased censorship of things like profanity and political statements since YouTubes inception a decade ago.

        There are just so many platforms, and there are so many ways around censorship, from basic proxies to the dark web and TOR and daisy-chained VPNs.
        Users start to abandon platforms that censor or openly pick favorites because there are alternatives every which way you look on the web.
        It would take a Chinese Communist Party-style crack down and the creation of some intranet and great firewall to ban thousands of websites and even disrupt VPNs and TOR (and even that’s not full proof) and could result in armed revolution in America to try that

        • KremlinKryptonite

          I think you mean the deep web, but you’re right. The deeper yet, dark web is pretty much exclusively used for terrorist activity, drugs, child porn.
          A lot of those Reddit and 4chan users also have extensive networks and operate in the deep web at least.

        • ——————————

          Facebook, Google, etc. are the sites that reach most of the masses, so while there are many choices, the big sites far out reach the lesser known sites. And remember, (most) people are not of the type that do much more than read the headlines, let alone search through the web for truth.

          The big social media sites subtly control the message…and it is dangerous….

          • Unelected Leader

            Well platforms rapidly lose favor when they introduce censorship and/or the users feel their concerns are ignored — Digg to Reddit; MySpace to Facebook; Snapchat to Instagram.
            The alternatives are important for those actively seeking them, and who will then proliferate content created there on more mainstream platforms.
            I saw the Clinton and Podesta leaks pilfered through very thoroughly on the deep web days before the 30-40 min comprehensive YouTube videos were made by prominent YT channels discussing them. Probably not a coincidence.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Yahoo and AOL are on line 2, asking where their influence disappeared to….

          • ——————————

            AO who?….

  • D4x

    In 2011, CNN’s coverage of Tahrir Square protests amplified “the dangers of social media-driven “fake news” “, by making the case that 200,000 TweetingFacebookers represented 90 million Egyptians. It is tragic that, six years later, perhaps the credentialed experts finally have some data to confirm what was obvious to me at the time.

  • Beauceron

    “This study would seem to confirm the solidifying elite consensus that social media, at least as it currently exists, is corrosive to democratic politics—that it allows falsehoods to proliferate within self-reinforcing moral communities and drains the public sphere of genuine cross-ideological engagement.”

    This is an awfully self-serving consensus though, isn’t it?

    The powerful look down at the swirling masses and decide than any communication that includes information that criticizes them is “corrosive to democracy” and then start banning it. That is itself a corruption of democracy.

    And the creation of “homogeneous political bubbles that create the perfect conditions for runaway confirmation bias” is nothing new. How else would you describe people who believe the NYT is the sole arbiter of truth and read nothing else? There are people who, for decades, read nothing but the Times and similar publications– plenty of people sort themselves into “political bubbles” all on their own, without need of a social media algorithms. It’s where they want to be. Most of my Leftist friends read the Times, the New Yorker, Salon and Slate and HuffPo. That’s it. They never read anything from a centrist or right leaning publication. They don’t want to hear it. They hate them.

    My read on this is that the Left, which enjoyed an exclusive license on the news media political bubble for decades, is now upset that they have competing bubbles to contend with.

    • Makaden

      If “elite consensus” was dropped from your first quote, it would have been helpful. That “new media” (which was the first descriptor in the article) creates social bubbles because of consumption patterns and that “social media” makes these bubbles/feedback loops even more prominent has nothing to do with left vs. right. It has everything to do with how people work. And the phenomenon applies to both sides, just as you outline in your fourth paragraph. The right has had its own bubble for some time, to go with the bubbles on the left you describe accurately. The consumption structures inherent in new media and now social media turn these bubbles into hard shells for people of all persuasions.

      It’s a scientific study, and a scientific conclusion. The rest is just political posturing. It was Bill Clinton who once said that people on the left should watch Fox News, if only to get themselves out of their own bubbles.

  • Angel Martin

    “This study would seem to confirm the solidifying elite consensus that social media, at least as it currently exists, is corrosive to democratic politics—that it allows falsehoods to proliferate within self-reinforcing moral communities and drains the public sphere of genuine cross-ideological engagement.”

    Nothing new here. The 18th century elites had the same sort of complaints about cheap newspapers and they used the Stamp Act to suppress them.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stamp_Act_1712

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