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Social media has become a direct threat to democracy (washingtonpost.com)
69 points by imartin2k 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments



The thing I have noticed about my friends on facebook is how their opinions have got stronger or more extreme.

My ultra catholic relatives have become more extreme in their views. The opinions of my left and right leaning friends have become more extreme. The outgoing party animal types seem to want to post more and more about how much they party. The people who sometimes feel down post more and more about how awful it is and how much help they need.

I know it is all down to how facebook has us all figured out and shows us stuff that only reinforces previously held beliefs and opinions.

The problem is that is seems to have also created a strange desire among many reasonable people to unwittingly troll others. For example people who used to rarely talk about politics will post provocative things that seem designed to elicit negative responses. I have Catholic in-law relatives that have I met only only once at my wedding posting on my timeline demanding I promise to not vote to repeal the 8th in the forthcoming Irish abortion referendum. My polite refusal to give an answer only angers them, yet somehow I am at fault.

Those who only see stuff about what they already believed will only believe in it stronger. And what do you do when you really believe in something? You try to spread your belief, which social media makes it easy to do. But of course in doing so you will potentially anger or annoy other who might have listened to your message if it wasn't so in-your-face.

The problem is that this spills over in to the real world. Religious people may avoid interacting with someone because they said something trivial on facebook they didn't like. Come election time people will be less willing to switch political parties because someone who supports a different party said something rude.

Even without the political meddling, targeted advertising and profiling, social media lacks the context and nuance of the real world. Something that in itself only serves to negatively reinforce opinions.


Based on your comments, I've realized that I do the thing you're talking about. I'm going to change my behaviour as a result. Thanks for posting this.


This is the 'comment of our times'.

I know it's hard to turn off FB because there are some elements of real utility, but you can do it.

You're not going to miss out on as much as you think.

And as for the article: the press is just as easily blamed - they take 'some random tweet' made by 'some random person' and hold it up as testament to 'what people are saying' and fan the flames. It's click-bait, and their revenue life-blood in a dwindling market for paid journalism, so that ugly factor drives them to betray their otherwise reasonably professional motivations as well.

'Change the channel' :)


And if you only want to use some parts of FB, say the events, just block the main feed. There are browser plugins, or you can use uBlock's element blocking feature.


it use to be that talking about politics at work was considered bad form, and now people think its practically their duty to do so.

people are 'in-your-face' with politics these days, and while I dislike it, I can hardly blame them. holywood stars, musicians, and now athletes use their elevated status to get their word above all others (even if their fan base dont want to receive it), and being silent allows what ever they wanted passed.


> "it use to be that talking about politics at work was considered bad form, and now people think its practically their duty to do so."

I think talking about politics at work is more prevalent in "tech" companies where people have bought the whole "making the world a better place" shtick. When I was at Google it seemed that political discussions were more common than technical ones (personal experience and completely anecdotal fwiw).

When I moved to less "tech" environments (utility industry), the talk at work is about the tech we're working on, our families, and our hobbies. Much more laid back. Even though I know there are co-workers with differing political opinions (one with a Trump bumper sticker and a few others who were staunch Clinton supporters), it doesn't really matter. We're here to do a job (a.k.a. trade our time and engineering capabilities for money), support the business, and build systems for the electric grid, not opine about our political opinions.

Shocker...people have different opinions about public policy.


I very politely, without judgement or a sense of superiority, say that I don’t talk politics and religion. If you’re firm and consistent, and not haughty, people usually respect it in my experience. If they don’t, politely listen and then reiterated that you don’t talk about that subject.


What's sad is that holding different views has become such a flashpoint. I'm quite able to have people question, attack, deride my beliefs without getting emotional about it - who knows, they might even have a point - as if I, or anyone else is any kind of all-seeing, perfectly informed entity that is able to exercise perfect judgement. But as I've learnt here on HN, not everyone else is as happy with having their beliefs challenged, indeed for many the default response is to lash out. It seems to me like people make their mind up about what they prefer, then seek evidence to support this, and then having invested in that viewpoint and built their worldview around it they will go to great lengths to defend it, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I'm sure I'm as prone to this as anyone else! If only people were a bit slower to assert their beliefs as correct.


I'm sure I'm as prone to this as anyone else!

A critical bt of insight that some people just live in denial of. We’re all far more alike than not, but some live and die on the need to think of themselves as a breed apart.


I see all of this too, this is really well written.

My greatest fear is that there is no escape from this. Our brains just aren't developed to resist this type of gaming. On an individual level, sure, there will be people who turn away from it, shut down Facebook and live a simpler life. But on a mass societal level? I don't know if there's a solution, and things are only getting more extreme - it really frightens me.


What you are talking about is "echo chamber". By subscribing to a select few people who share your mind set, you only get messages from them and when that is all you see, you think that is general consensus and you dig in. What you see on a social media page is in no way a reflection of how the general population thinks.

I once saw the homepage of my colleagues facebook page and I was not sure if it was actually facebook. We did not even share a single post and all the news feed was a direct reflect on the person he was, which took me months of daily interaction to understand.


This is a form of r/iamverysmart. "Everyone around me is living in a filter bubble and blind to reality while I am the sole person to see through it all."

Everyone's perception is shaped by their environment - you are no exception.


> Everyone's perception is shaped by their environment - you are no exception.

Different people interact with media differently. We can probably say something interesting about loud people with extremist opinions on the internet that aren't true of everyone else.


Very meta.

Look, I just don't want to be treading on eggshells when using social media.


Washington Posts understandably longs for the days when large media outlets had a virtual monopoly on information but they're gone and not likely to make a comeback. I don't know why they cheer Facebook/Twitter/whoever to take their place but I certainly hope this effort fails.

Having Mark Zuckerberg decide who and what can be read on the Internet or even decide the elections is an outcome much worse than ISIS videos or Russian ads in my news feed.


Everything has a cost, the cost of free speech is the possibility of hateful and destructive propaganda. This cost is in my opinion trivial compare to the alternatives. We saw what the cost of speech and information restriction have done to civilizations in history.

The ability to speak freely and having access to information is not just one virtue like justice or compassion. It is the way by which we create our value.

We should take really seriously any attempt by anyone to restrict it.


Its funny you say that. All freedom's come at a cost. In America, there is a large contingent who don't like the cost of the second amendment. Who is to say the cost of the first amendment is worth it, or the second?

As an Australian, I don't have either a first amendment right to free speech, or a second amendment right to bear arms to protect against a tyrannical government.

I do think that we, in the Western world are slowly giving away our freedoms, bit by bit in the name of safety. I do worry that our future is more black mirror than Star Trek.

And I for one do not know how to right this ship, how to bring balance. For people to recognise that with freedom comes responsibility. That you must hold the individual to account for actions, and not let the collective suffer.


The Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms as part of a well regulated militia. Not unregistered Glocks with silencers under your mattress or in your glovebox.


> the cost of free speech is the possibility of hateful and destructive propaganda

The worst case outcome of this is potentially genocide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_T%C3%A9l%C3%A9vision_Lib...

Yes, speech and communication restriction is also potentially a part of this kind of society wide disaster. But that doesn't mean a society can tolerate an unlimited amount of hate speech safely forever.

Ideally the destructive propagandists could be persuaded to shut up or people persuaded to ignore them, and I think if we want to continue with both free speech and not collapse into violence a lot more work needs to be done on this.


In Whitney v. California, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said that only the solution to destructive speech is more speech, not less. This idea has been at the core of American jurisprudence for a long time, but few people seem to grasp the full implication of the solution that Brandeis proposed.

It's not simply that we should allow destructive propaganda, period. It's not just wishful thinking that better education would help people see through the bullshit. In the same judgment Brandeis also wrote that "the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty." He was asking US what WE have done to counter the bad speech that's all around us.

How much time, money and energy have we devoted to the cause of exposing the haters for the hypocrites they are and demolishing their arguments to the point that not a stone is left upon another, using every non-violent action available to us, before we all ran to Uncle Sam and asked him to spank those bad boys on our behalf?

So you're right, a lot more work needs to be done. But not by the government. It's only because the rest of us have been so careless that destructive propaganda is having a field day rummaging through our democracy. The people who have a duty to produce better speech includes everyone from the CEOs of big social media companies to every last user who saw something bad but went "eh, I don't have time for this."

The cost of giving up free speech is unconscionable, but the cost of maintaining it isn't trivial, either.


Except freedom of Speech and of Information were always believed to be the heart of a healthy democracy, that decisions and policy were best set out by an informed and educated electorate.

Not only is our electorate not very well educated, but if anything, we've seen that the wide availability of literally all human knowledge, which should lead to the best ideas if information = good decisions, has galvanized all parties involved to their own ideas and utterly ruined the concept of compromise. Even the most minor concessions to the other side (whichever other side it might be) is interpreted as weakness, so no politicians compromise, so nothing gets done because no given party ever controls the entire Government. Heck, in the USA, the GOP currently controls the executive and legislative branches and still can do nothing due to their own internal fragmentation.

I'm not sure if the solution is less information, less free speech, that feels wrong to me. But at the same time it's clear what we're doing now is not even remotely working. It's breaking the entire system.


It is like they need more than what is effectively a two-party system.


A lot of people say that but I'm not even sure that would do a whole lot to change things. I feel like the two parties already have huge gaps between different sub-groups, more parties would just be those same groups still arguing over the same shit. It would just be more visible I guess.


They do have huge gaps among the subgroups.

I couldn't tell you what the official position of either major party is, besides outlawing bumpstocks, while the country is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.

The visibility would allow the voter to make a less opaque choice, and bring accountability upon the elected official.


The worse case is that hateful and destructive propaganda wins out and we end up with mob rule. Just because we're somewhat, so far, kind of resisting the propaganda amongst enough people to prevent major harm, doesn't mean that will continue indefinitely.

I'm not saying free speech isn't the answer. I don't have the answer. But the risks are greater than you say.


Hateful and destructive propaganda is also the cost of unfree speech.


This is just an ad hominem argument, and becoming tired. Every time an opinion is published in a newspaper, the first comment is along the lines of "old media trying to protect themselves". Where else would things like this be published and reach an audience?


It's not an ad hominem argument. That would be saying "the argument is wrong because it's made by the Washington Post".

I think the assertion here is more subtle: newspapers are really the only outlets attacking social media and claiming it brainwashes people. This isn't something that ever comes up in other discussions or forums as far as I can tell. Certainly I discuss politics with my own friends and Facebook or Twitter are not at the top of their lists of concerns.

In contrast, much of the traditional press publishes hysterical clickbaity screeds like "6 ways social media has become a direct threat to democracy" almost every day. They're obsessed with the topic. But we've seen this all before. It used to be that Google News was the bogeyman.

It is reasonable to point out journalists talk about this issue far greater issue than other classes of people, and that maybe this issue - if it exists at all - is really not as dramatic as they make it out to be.


They aren't. I, as many other people I read, have been arguing about SM threat for years, but unlike newspapers I like most people have a very very limited reach.

Just because our reach is too short for you to notice it does not mean we don't exist.


What, saying it's a direct threat to democracy itself? Care to link to examples of you arguing that 10 years ago?

The Telegraph has a good meta-discussion on this topic, about how modern "liberal elites" (ugh, hate that name) have embraced totalitarianism:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/12/brexit-barcelona-...

(unfortunately it's paywalled)

When a billionaire newspaper owner like Omidyar writes an article in the Washington Post that repeats dubious conspiracy theories, calls targeted ads "dark posts", and just in general argues repeatedly for people exactly like himself to control the flow of information on the internet, this is not based on anything new. It certainly isn't anything to do with social media.

It's just the same thing that's been going on for millenia - people in power getting scared and confused when the little people start rebelling, and concluding that censorship and control is the answer. If Trump had been elected in the 1990's exactly the same kind of article would have been written but instead of "social media" it'd have been talking about "the internet superhighway" and "the World Wide Web" instead, as that'd have been the newest form of information dispersal at the time.


Why 10 years ago?

I wrote this in 2014: http://markos.gaivo.net/articles/chirp-squawk-cackle-or-honk...

However I effectively stopped using Twitter in 2011 for these same reasons and have been arguing about dangers of Twitter, FB and ilk even before then. Regretfully in places not well archived. Not that it matters because my reach is practically non-existent. I was also far from being original or pioneering.


Good response! I read your article. I agree with everything in it, but I don't think it argues that Twitter is a threat to democracy. The word democracy does not appear anywhere in it, for example.

You argued that Twitter is vacuous, empty, filled with half or quarter baked ideas and that the brevity of messages leads to anti-intellectual arguments. That it's a notch above monkey speak. And you speculated that this may have some sort of impact on society, possibly, or maybe it was just useless and a missed opportunity.

I actually never used Twitter and actively avoid it, for all the reasons you give. Still, I wouldn't argue it's a threat to democracy. The sort of people who get into empty headed Twitter fights weren't going to write rational, well thought out essays if Twitter didn't exist. They'd just not write at all.


I don't know about every other time but my comment explicitly states that they lost their influence and there's nothing to protect any more. What's weird is they are now hoping someone else will take over.

Especially weird since Facebook will happily take over old media's advertisers base and then charge them for access to their own audience at the other end. It's already happening.


The funny thing is that MSM pomposity and righteousness seems to have an inverse relationship with their influence, at least in my observation.


Given that unlimited campaign contributions are a legal way to buy an election, it's clear democracy in the US faces much bigger threats than people talking to each other on the Internet.

I'm traveling through West Africa, I see the impact of unlimited money going into politics daily. It's not good.


Money doesn't decide elections, voters do. The campaign that spends more money doesn't always win. In fact there's good reason to think that most money spent on a campaign is largely wasted:

> The most exciting and visible part of politics is the political campaign. Politicians and their team of strategists, pollsters, and surrogates wage battle for the votes of the public. Slogans are trumpeted. Gaffes are made. Tactics are deployed. > And it probably does not matter all that much. > At least not as much as the political environment matters. Presidential elections can be forecast with incredible accuracy well before the campaign really begins. In fact, if all you know is the state of the economy, you know pretty well how the incumbent party will do.

http://faculty.georgetown.edu/hcn4/Downloads/Noel_Forum.PDF


Money buys ads and people to dig up dirt on opposing side. So in a way, it does buy elections.


Indeed. The last U.S. presidential election showcases this idea.

Trump spent less in the primaries than his opponents, and he spent less than Clinton in the election.

Money is a factor, but not the sole deciding factor.


Clinton outspent Trump, and she still lost. Its not all about money, although money certainly helps you spend your message.


Trump got billions in free air time, whenever he said something outrageous. It's kinda silly, but he makes good money, because people that hate him, watch him, so the news station are forced to cover him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tji1g0WrPw


Neither campaign can buy slots in news reports. Saying he got "billions in free air time" is nonsensical. Money can't buy the sort of coverage he got.


It's more complicated in the US than "unlimited campaign contributions".

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/02/supr...

There's no limits on the amount of money outside groups can spend supporting a candidate, but they can't just give the money to the campaign run by the candidate, there are even rules (that people do essentially giggle about) forbidding coordination.


well you don't need social media for it, you can solicit donations under the limit for disclosure or limited disclosure via the web and rake in millions from anyone over seas.

unlimited campaign contributions actually would benefit the US democracy because two parties have a stranglehold on seats. all their attempts to regulate campaign donations are nothing more than methods to prevent a third party (or more) from getting a foothold. there is little any third party can do when the established parties control the narrative if not the press but spend money to get notice. how best to keep them from that by simply selling "protection of your democratic rights by limiting campaign donations from overseas" Pretty sure they can market it well enough anyone would buy in.

don't assume unlimited money in elections is bad, what is bad is that precluding it is the first step in preventing additional parties to gain a foothold.

if we want to regulate campaign funds we should limit only the two largest parties and unlimited all others.


Or except when that money is used to make people talk about something on social media, and influence that way.


Deleting the word "social" from this article would make it more accurate. The UK Daily Mail and many many other media companies have been guilty of the same 6 things for years.

Terribly lazy opinion piece. We need to be aware that the traditional news media will be extremely effective at discrediting the entire tech industry to save their own skin.


Why do I get the feeling that the proposed response by those claiming to care about "democracy" will be further censorship and/or re-centralization?


It's not censorship, it's "fact-checking" done by "independent" NGOs


Or more accurately, only allowing certain sites to be linked on Facebook. If a poster on voat is to be believed, Facebook already disables accounts that link to certain topics.


I read this title like you.

Danger for democracy + the fact one will not ask everybody to stop facebook indirectly implies more control over the people...


That's cute, you think you actually had democracy to begin with.


Unfortunately I have to agree with your sentiment.


The world has a way of righting itself. If Facebook commands influence equal to lobbyists, then so be it. If that turns out to be good, then awesome. If not, then at some point a change will be made to the environment that allowed Facebook to become.

My hope is that it doesn't take another war for people to figure things out.


The article is right that this can be thought to be new to the social media environment but it is a well known phenomena of which the USA has plenty of experience both in countering and administering and I believe that the effects are now seen due to government complacency. Let's call it propaganda - everyone did it in the past and everyone still does it today.

Both Russia and China have a pretty much inaccessible social media while both also have a very powerful propaganda machine on Facebook or Twitter with hired posters, paid marketing - an entire propaganda system ranging from psychologists to artists.

Unfortunately the government will at some point have to step up their game from TV, radio and newspapers and get with the times - either by making western social media more inaccessible or by pumping those dollars in Facebook pro-democracy ads. Also I noticed that Western governments play right into some of these carefully laid traps like immigration, sexuality or religion policies.


The first in the list is about echo chambers. How was life not an echo chamber with not phones? I'm guessing people in a town would all agree with each other because they couldn't get any opinions on the opposite sides. In a city, this could be the case as well, where people would gather and trash people with the opposite views. For the rest, I'm sure I'd be able to come up with convincing examples of why that was an issue in the past.

It's incredibly difficult to understand what society and politics from the past. History books aren't able to get us fully emerged in what life was like then. I guess I'm saying that there have always been threats to democracy, but it's shifted more towards social media these days.


Pre-social-media, you'd talk more to neighbours or random strangers in a bar. They'd be more likely to have different opinions and you'd be exposed to different ideas as well as people behind them. Meanwhile today people are less exposed to different opinions and even when they're, they're even less exposed to people behind them. Which is no less important than the ideas themselves.


How can you claim that people's neighbors had different opinions than the people themselves? How can you say that about strangers at a bar? People then could be the same as people now who don't want to talk about politics and would rather call people with different opinions trash.

Who's to say that people these days are less exposed? That's incredibly difficult to research. And I can just claim that people see different opinions all the time, and are able to look up which well known people agree on each side?

This whole thing is all claims and not proof. So many people never respecting the opposite side's opinions, but that could easily be because of how humans evolved and not because of culture and tech.


Are your neighbours your close friends? Most likely not. Most likely they're strangers from different walks of life who happened to be your neighbours purely by accident. Since people are different, your neighbours will likely have different opinions than you. Same for people you meet in a bar. If it's not X-political-gang bar, you'll probably meet all kinds of strangers from the area and away.

Meanwhile your closely knit friends' circle is mostly of people who think similarly to you. Or at least people who you're comfortable with.

People in general are lazy and rarely look up different opinions for the sake of it. They hear whatever opinions they bump into. Be it their neighbourhood and bar or their FB feed.

Another thing is, back in hood & bar times, people would not only hear different ideas, but see that it's regular humans behind them. That there's no inherent us vs them. In social media, it's easy to just write it off as bullshit, the other person as stupid and block them.

"Well known people on each side" is a part of a problem. They're "them". It's harder to find common ground with some celebrity you don't agree with than with a neighbour you interact with daily and who is a great human being other than few political points you don't agree with.

Of course humans were always prone to "us vs them" and echo chambers. But today's technology makes that very easy to find very specific echo chambers. A century ago language was the echo chamber limit. Thus people speaking same language in close enough geographical proximity would usually get along pretty well. Now that is more or less gone, but we have echo chambers in between people living relatively close to each other. What next, reorganising into virtual states defined by political opinions? Liberal and conservative living next to each other, but following different laws? This is how many countries were run up to modern times actually. Jews having different laws in some European countries. Christians having different laws in Ottoman empire. Neither of these ended well.


I have to say whenever I am out and about speaking to people I meet I find they generally have a very different view to what you get in the MSM, to the point that I wonder what kind of world the MSM inhabits - certainly seems like a different one to the rest of humanity. This is just one person's view.


Says the guy who is big into conventional media, which in many countries has been caught peddling lies, misinformation and half truths, by the social media.

Is social media a direct threat to democracy? I dont think so.

It certainly is a threat to conventional media peddling propaganda and narrative based on the highest bidder.


On the contrary, social media is breaking the media monopoly on crowd influence.

Everything the author wrote has truth to it, but this is outweighed by the democratization of public audience.

Power to the people!


When the media writes about social media, what they mean is Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. None of these serve to democratize access to the general public given all those filters anymore than "letters to the editor".

Power to the people to express themselves? Give everybody the means to operate a self-hosted blog (that is, they and _only_ they are responsible for what is said and how).


>breaking the media monopoly

Is more competition for imposing a narrative on the lives of others really what we need? It seems to inhibit individual users critical thoughts which would undermine democratic efficacy.


Have you met the people?


Why is influencing people in the democracy a bad thing? It's at least better than only having to influence the people in the congress, right?


Social media, especially Facebook, tries very hard to ensure that we never encounter a thought or opinion we consider surprising, or in any way contrary to our biases and prejudices.

Essentially we're all locked in ever shrinking echo chambers, reinforcing our sense of moral correctness by ensuring we never encounter any challenge to our beliefs no matter how tiny and harmless.

That CANNOT be healthy.


I see it the other way round on Twitter; it's hard to go a day without seeing something offensive or annoying, even if it's just somebody retweeting the latest Trump outrage to complain about it. If you step on a controversial subject and/or present as a woman you can get aggro in your mentions up to and including death threats.

I see contrary opinions all the time. What I rarely see is well thought out contrary opinions presented as the conclusion of reasoning from a set of reasonable looking premises.


Echo chambers allow two form of messages. Messages to agree with, and messages to raise outrage (carrot and stick). Well thought out contrary opinions belongs to neither so the echo chambers blocks that from view.


That only holds if facebook is the only website on the Internet. There is a whole Internet out there and then the real world.


You seem to ignore the tactics facebook is known to deploy to ensure usres maximise time spent on their platform.


It is very easy for us humans to identify troll accounts. Why is it so hard for Twitter to take some precautions? I know the complexity can increase exponentially (relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1425/ ) but at least some basic measures like monitoring ip addresses and cross retweeting/liking could help filter out most of the basic troll accounts.

HN does it AFAIK, why can't Twitter?

Edit: From the downvotes, I think there is a misunderstanding. When I say troll-accounts, I mean automated or semi-automated accounts that are created for the sole purpose of creating a hostile atmosphere for people in the other camp. I don't call the people I disagree with as "trolls".


I know it's popular to bash social media for everything that's wrong in politics but there is an important omission from all these articles that are completely ignored but actually renders most of the claims and especially the claim about the threat to democracy completely false.

1. Echo Chamber Echo Chambers are nothing new in fact we used to live in much bigger echo chambers than we do today. Your choice of newspaper or tv-channels, i.e. one-way channels are actually the real echo chambers.

2 Spread of fake or misleading information (AKA Fake News) This is another one that is greatly misunderstood. Most misleading information is not done for political reasons but for clicks. They are extraordinary headlines made to get people to click. It's spam more than anything made to squeeze some advertising dollars out of you not actually change your mind on something. The idea that spreading fake or misleading information somehow is a product of social media is simply incorrect. And compared to how things used to be with people mostly getting their information from their one newspaper or tv-channel today every claim is scrutinized by everyone. Nothing gets to stand unchallenged very long.

3. Conflation of popularity with legitimacy The argument about population is a household stable in most marketing and advertising. There is literally nothing new under the sun there. However, when it comes to being a threat to democracy this makes no sense and looks to me like a completely made up claim.

4. Political manipulation Once again nothing new here political manipulation is an old an trusted tool for winning elections.

5. Manipulation, micro-targeting and behavior change Yet Hillary won the popular vote. So in other words, not a very effective tool. We are way better off than the days when cigarette industry would put out their own manipulative material or suppress materials. I see no evidence it's being effective neither a threat to democracy.

6. Intolerance, exclusion and hate speech Hillary ran large parts of the campaign on identity politics, she won the popular vote. Hate speech and intolerance is a problem but it has nothing to do with social media and isn't a threat to democracy any more than political correctness is.

Now some will say. "Well, the problem is the scale with which this can be done." But here is the thing though. You will not be able to put out a lie for very long until it actually becomes debunked. You will not be able to put out a claim until someone has another perspective on that claim. There are hordes of people all waiting for someone to be wrong on the internet and share with the rest of the world.

In other words, social networks are self-correcting which makes them a tool to be used by everyone and as a net benefit to democracy, not just those who used to have access to the one way channels like tv, radio and newspapers.

Last but not least. This looks more like a piece of informercial than an actual serious analysis of threats to democracy.


> You will not be able to put out a lie for very long until it actually becomes debunked.

But you can lie at a higher rate than the debunkers can keep up with. Because debunking takes more time and effort than lying. This tactic even has a name: "Gish Gallop".


Debunking doesn't haven't to be some scientific exercise. I debunk many things daily.


How effective is it?


Very and a lot more than if I didn't have social media but had to write a letter to each newspaper or get an interview on each tv station.

We are a lot better off with social media when it comes to the democratic process than we are without.


>Echo Chambers are nothing new in fact we used to live in much bigger echo chambers than we do today. Your choice of newspaper or tv-channels, i.e. one-way channels are actually the real echo chambers.

Echo chambers have nothing to do with whether the channel is one-way or not. It has to do with how often you are exposed to dissenting opinions. Echo chambers can exist within old media (cable news), but there's no question that the Facebook newsfeed is worse in this regard. It's designed to show you things shared by your friends, who probably think like you do. And it shows you more of the things you "like", and less of what you don't.

>Manipulation, micro-targeting and behavior change Yet Hillary won the popular vote. So in other words, not a very effective tool.

The fact that she won the popular vote, and still lost, is a sign that Facebook's micro-targeting does threaten democracy. The Russians knew they wouldn't have to influence a majority of Americans, thanks to the electoral college. Just those in key states, and then, only those most susceptible to their propaganda. Microtargeting is what allowed them to reach the right people and maximize the effect of their influence campaign.


The fact that she won the popular vote has to do with the US electoral system nothing else. The actual things that hurt Hillary weren't some FB campaign by Russians as it was dwarfed by the amount of money she used herself on facebook.

Echo chamber has to do with not hearing other arguments than those you already agree with. Before the social media, it was much harder to get outside of that echo chamber because you weren't exposed to opposing thoughts as you are now. We have literally never been better informed on a different perspective than we are today, whether some people choose to ignore facts as ex with a lot of the conspiracy nuts have absolutely nothing to do with social media. It's always been like that exhibit A being 9/11.


Social media doesn't make it easier to get out of the echo chamber. It encourages you to stay, by feeding you a constant drip of content you're likely to agree with. If you're one of those conspiracy nuts, you can tailor your twitter feed to get all your news from Brietbart and Infowars. This was possible before the internet, just not as easy.

I agree that the electoral college is a larger issue, and I agree that democrats can't lay all the blame on russian interference. But any difference the Russians made was helped by microtargeting. Facebook knows way more about it's users than any traditional media outlet knows about it's audience.


Compared to living in a small village only listening to opinions from the news it definitely is getting out of the echo chamber.

Your feed is a combination of many things among others who your interact with. If you are a person who only want to hang out with people who believe exactly like you then sure. But most people aren't like that they have friends based on where they came from if it's facebook or based on what they are into ex. like with twitter.

You didn't use to have that much access to other peoples opininions as you have today. I am simply not seing anything to back what you are saying up.




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