Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Social Media and Democracy - The American Interest

Final paragraphs from a Francis Fukuyama Facebook reality check

"There is a further problem, however, that will not be solved by self-regulation, which is the problem of scale. In a healthy democratic political system, media companies will compete with one another to provide alternative points of view, subject to certain baseline journalistic standards. Such companies take particular political slants, but there is enough diversity to ensure some form of overall balance: if you don’t like the New York Times, you can always turn to the Wall Street Journal.

This is not the situation that prevails in today’s internet world. There are not a variety of competing platforms with differing points of view; rather, there is Facebook, which has become a sort of global utility. Facebook does not have a clear political agenda, and is motivated by profit-maximization, which probably ensures that it will not want to annoy any large group of users by appearing biased. On the other hand, it de facto exercises a huge amount of control over what its users see on a virtual monopoly basis. There are entire countries where Facebook Messenger has replaced email as the primary channel by which people communicate. This kind of power wielded at such a scale is unprecedented in human experience, and we need to think carefully about whether American democracy can continue to coexist with such power concentrated over the longer run."
Social Media and Democracy - The American Interest

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