In a public appearance at Stanford, former president Barack Obama called for greater “regulatory oversight” of large social media giants. He argued that their power to select and provide information that people consume has charged political polarization and “threatened the pillars of democracy”. Obama’s comments were just the most recent in his ongoing conversation about how to stop the spread of misinformation.
The conversation surrounding misinformation and it’s spread has been a hot topic for years now, and according to Forbes, discerning correct and incorrect information on social media is becoming more and more challenging. Whether it is about the presidential election, climate change, COVID-19 vaccines and variants, there is all sorts of misinformation that is easily accessible and shared.
Misinformation through social media is a danger to democracy because the media that the public consumes has a large impact on the political sphere. When used appropriately, social media has many benefits such as accessibility to political information and aiding people in forming their political ideology due to educational resources. However, biased information or misinformation can also affect political preferences, and misinformation in social media can have a powerful effect on public opinion. Spreading misinformation through social media can strengthen antidemocratic forces and lead to a broken democracy.
For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, when the government was telling people to get vaccinated and misinformation spread through social media is telling people that COVID-19 and the vaccines are a hoax, people become confused and developed a mistrust of the government.
Because of the way that misinformation spreads through social media, companies must subject their algorithms to the same kind of regulatory oversight that ensures the safety of cars, food, and other consumer products, an argument that former President Obama made yesterday at Stanford. The power that social media wields can erode the foundations of democracy.
However, social media platforms have no interest in getting rid of misinformation because there is no profit in deleting and preventing it. In fact, social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube actually profit from misinformation due to how people engage with it. To social media platforms, as long as users are interacting with any content on their platform, it does not matter if the information is true or false.
Personally, I believe that social media should be regulated due to the proven impacts they have had on the political sphere, but it is unlikely that they will due to misinformation’s profitable nature. Because of this, when engaging with content on social media, users must be able to discern important political information from misinformation created to confuse or invalidate the democracy. This includes but is not limited to looking at who is posting the information, what information is being shared, and thinking critically about what the intent is.
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Kayla, this is such an interesting read. One thing you should look into is proposed revisions to Section 230 in the name of social media control for the very reasons you listed. These revisions have been rejected for various reasons, but have all been made for to counter the very issues you highlighted. Overall, really enjoyed reading your post.
I really enjoyed reading this blog post. I think that misinformation is a problem in today’s society and it is one of the main reasons we have so much division in society in terms of political stances. I will say that I do not know if regulating through some government oversight is the best strategy to combat misinformation as the government may potentially abuse that power and only post the information that makes the given administration look good so that they can remain in power. I personally think that the best course of action would be to give the viewer multiple sources of information and the methods in which they can fact check what is being said. I know this is easier said than done though.