Social media shouldn’t be muzzled!

Revelations that Facebook’s user database was abused by a third-party analytics firm for unethical political purposes, and that the Russians exploited social media to spread false information during the 2016 presidential election campaign, justifiably raise concerns of public trust and the specter of increased government regulation.

American politicians should be careful about how far they go and avoid censorship in their good intentions to safeguard democracy.

Like the printing press, broadcast media and cable television, the Internet and social media communications made mass distribution of news and analysis more broadly accessible. Those widened public dialog on everything from parking regulations to picking elected officials. That’s too good to lose!

Consider how stodgy and limited dialog was in the days of Presidents Kennedy and Nixon. Viewers were largely limited to three major TV networks, which afforded equal time to the two major political parties. Mostly absent were fringe voices – folks like many present-day environmentalists and conservative bloggers.

American politicians should be careful about how far they go and avoid censorship in their good intentions to safeguard democracy. 

Cable fractionalized television and opened electronic media access to previously marginalized voices. The Internet, email and YouTube made distributing entertainment and perspectives downright cheap, and Facebook and Twitter make it virtually free.

Everyone who can record a video or write has an outlet. This includes the informed, uninformed and unfortunately, malefactors who would fan minorities’ fears and undermine public confidence in democratic institutions.

Kremlin surrogates like the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency created remarkably authentic-looking fictitious Twitter accounts and posted false stories on websites – for example, on CNN’s iReport and Wikipedia about poisoned water in an Idaho reservoir and tainted Thanksgiving turkeys from Walmart.

The Kremlin surrogates disseminated material during the 2016 presidential primaries and general election campaign generally favorable to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and intended to subvert the campaigns of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. They also spread false narratives to inflame black fears of racism and exploit other issues to seed divisions among Americans.

Read the rest at: Social Media failures

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