Social Media Is Damaging Democracy

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Sean in Ottawa

First, this place is social media. Bears a thought.

I think that social media is destroying democracy. I also think that this is for a couple reasons: one that people who write anonymously have no accountability and would not stand by what they say if they had to attach their name to it. Secondly, social media was supposed to be about leveling the playing field but organizations and people with means can create multiple identities.

Social media has many benefits and I would not want to see it destroyed or a monopoly given back to the organizations, power and money that controlled traditional media. Where social media is hurting us most is where the traditional powers are able to not only take power in it but appear to be of the people.

For this reasons, I would prefer to see social media fixed.

First, let's admit that anonymous is not really perfect. Governments can still track who is saying what in cases where they want so what I am proposing, will not fix that but it may not make it worse.

Allowing anonymous posts allows people to hide behind this in order to have multiple identities and to say things no person would say to another if they were identified. This is not good. The problem it answered is that people, for professional reasons would be able to participate who otherwise would not. Having seen what has happened to social media, I wonder if the harm done by allowing anonymous posts is not even greater than the harm done by preventing people from posting anonymously (such as in the past where your name would have to appear on letters to the editor). Some people would be horrified to have their names attached to what they say. Others might feel safer not having unamed people be able to attack them. No matter which way you go it is a compromise and I am not sure which is worse.

One way of addressing thsi could be to allow each person to have a single online persona. This could allow more freedom to the people who would have to restrict what they say for professional reasons. It would reduce the accountability and probably allow some of the venom but it may be less than we have now. There would need to be a mechanism to register these with IPs perhaps to make sure that a person cannot have more than one. I see problems with that but it is not impossible. I think it could reduce the problem.

Another possibility would be to have a serial number unique to a person appear with their online name: this would allow people to see where there is a situation where many different identities are being used by the same person. It would not reduce the problem of anonymous posts from an accountability point of view but help mitigate the problem of many online identities being created by the same person or non-existent persons.

I do not have the answer as to how to make this work but I feel that the two reasons why social media is a problem are:

1) lack of accountability in anonymous posts

2) one person or entity being able to seem like many individuals

Ironically, both problems with social media existed in the traditional media prior to the advent of social media (not in letters to the editor, however)  and social media was intended to make things more democratic by leveling this advantage. Social media is making this worse because it allows people to think it is leveling the playing field when it is masking the same powers to do the same thing in social media that they did before -- except they are able to be more anonymous. If social media could be reformed to deliver on the promise it originally had we woudl not ahve the same problem.

Now of course I am sympathetic to the simple way Quizzical put it that people are the problem, she is right in many ways -- the problem with that is that this does not come with a mitigation strategy.

I wish I had better solutions but this is for discussion and I think we have to consider what social media was meant to do and why it is becoming a problem -- and then how to deliver on what it was supposed to do with less of the problem.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

I used to like the Hall of Fame thread, but eventually even that got "weaponized".

 

NorthReport

Shut ‘Em Down if they can’t ensure appropriate community standards What are we waiting for - more incidents?

https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2019/04/29/record-number-of-anti-semitic-incidents-fuelled-by-online-hate-bnai-brith/#.XMdH4RYTGaO

voice of the damned

cco wrote:
cco wrote:
While nobody's claimed responsibility for the attacks yet, the choice of victim group, location, and date strongly suggests that the attacks had something to do with religion. If the Sri Lankan government banned all religious observances for a while, just to keep people safe, how many people would find that acceptable?

Well. I'll be damned:

Sri Lankan Catholic churches shut, Muslims ordered to stop wearing veils as tensions rise

I would wager, though, that assurances have been given to the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim community that these are definitely going to be very temporary measures.

And even with the shutdown, the Catholics are still able to access a televised mass(albeit receiving the Eucharist is probably a bit of a problem for most). So, it's not like the government is trying to prevent people from actually hearing the ideas the RCC wishes to promulgate. Which I think is kind of the point of banning social media.

That said, I don't precisely know what is up with the social media shutdown. Is it still going on? And if so, are there signs that it will soon be coming to an end?

NorthReport

There is a bit of difference between expressing normal religious views and promoting hatred and violence towards others.

NorthReport

There is a bit of difference between expressing normal religious views and promoting hatred and violence towards others.

Pondering

I know little of Sri Lanka so I can't say whether a social media shut down is appropriate or not but I doubt it. Atrocities happened before social media came along.  It seems these men were wealthy individuals not part of a mob movement. I am sure religious leaders on both sides are calling for calm. 

Really bad stuff can be filtered. I would like facebook to have to pay for an external organization to identify and remove offensive content. 

Forced identification is out of the question. Maybe to a private site admin but even then. Women and the marginalized get death threats for what they say. Activists in some countries are endangered. 

If I had to use my real name on this site I wouldn't be here because I would be afraid of being targeted by some nutcase. 

NorthReport

Hate speech is on the rise—and our laws need to be adapted to address the problem

https://www.straight.com/news/1233936/sarah-leamon-hate-speech-rise-and-our-laws-need-be-adapted-address-problem

cco

Every time I see a column like that, I marvel at the author's confidence that their speech will never be termed hateful by those who object to it.

NorthReport

A lot of social media is like the plague!

Doctors worry as anti-vaccination messages escalate from social media misinformation to personal threats

 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/anti-vaccination-threats-against-canadian-doctors-1.5115955

voice of the damned

NorthReport wrote:

A lot of social media is like the plague!

Doctors worry as anti-vaccination messages escalate from social media misinformation to personal threats

 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/anti-vaccination-threats-against-canadian-doctors-1.5115955

I'm pretty sure I don't want to be adding "quack medical theories" to the list of things that governments should have the power to ban. It wasn't too long ago that acupuncture was considered fringe, now it's covered by most provincial health plans.

Which is not the same thing as saying that I think anti-vax is going to enjoy a similar upsurge in credibility, just that it shouldn't be within the power of government to declare these questions closed.

NorthReport

Comparing apples and oranges.

When it is contagious yes absolutely the government needs to shut down the anti-science crowd

https://www.salon.com/2019/05/01/measles-cases-flare-beyond-700-and-anti-vaxxers-the-apex-helicopter-parent-are-to-blame/

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

voice of the damned wrote:

I'm pretty sure I don't want to be adding "quack medical theories" to the list of things that governments should have the power to ban. It wasn't too long ago that acupuncture was considered fringe, now it's covered by most provincial health plans.

Which is not the same thing as saying that I think anti-vax is going to enjoy a similar upsurge in credibility, just that it shouldn't be within the power of government to declare these questions closed.

I have to disagree with this, at least in the case of vaccinations. Fringy cancer cures are pretty disgusting, but they don't have the social implications of anti-vaxx, so I wouldn't be as quick to ban them. After all, the only victims are the marks who fall for the scam. With anti-vaxx, the consquences are much wider.

I would suggest that a close analogy is building standards. Code says I have to use a certain minimum width of electrical wire so that I won't burn the neighborhood down. Suppose I find some quack electrical engineer who wrote a paper saying that half the width required by code is quite safe, and in fact, using the width specified will cause illness to the inhabitants of the house. That doesn't mean I should be free to build unsafe structures.

Similarly, parents have no right to refuse to vaccinate their children just because they have heard totally unfounded rumours about alleged dangers. As far as I know, the whole movement is based on one paper, which has since been recalled by the journal that published it, and the author of which (Andrew Wakefield) has been stripped of his medical license by the British authorities. You might as well let them set the neighbourhood on fire.

voice of the damned

Just to be clear, I don't think people should be able to withhold vaccination from their children.

In your analogy, I'd say the fringe engineer should still be free to crank out his theories on his website. That doesn't mean the government shouldn't hold to the scientific consensus in determining what is required for construction in their jurisdiction.

And the engineering journals should still refuse to publish the crank's articles, if they don't measure up to the existing standards. The professional guilds might have something to say about his continued membership, as well. 

 

voice of the damned

^ I'll admit the discussion becomes somewhat more complicated if someone is advising parents not to vaccinate their kids, rather than simply giving reasons, however spurious, that vaccination is bad. Part of me wants to say that it should be no different from saying "Don't pay your taxes because the government spends it on [whatever thing the speaker doesn't like]", but the immediate consequences of people following the anti-vax advice are more severe, of course.

WWWTT

@VOTD an Michael Moriarity 

Taking  an electrical practice issue and comparing it to a medical one is way out there and not helpful in several ways (in my opinion)

I had an issue with my son not being vaccinated for chicken pox (I forget the actual name of the vaccine) because our family physician felt that since he already had it at 9 months old he didn’t need it. He advised me to not have him vaccinated for it. 

Turns out the Ontario government changed the vaccination laws one year before my son was born and our doctor fucked up. This became a nightmare with Peel region health and my sons school board. 

I ended up getting pissed off at my doctor for not being up to date with the law. And got him to vaccinate my boy. 

However my doctor did have a strong case! And after some research, Ontario has the strictest laws in Canada regarding vaccines. And guess who was a big political contributor to the previous liberal government? Yep you guessed it, the pharmaceutical companies making the vaccine!

sorry for the thread drift. 

voice of the damned

WWWTT:

Taking  an electrical practice issue and comparing it to a medical one is way out there and not helpful in several ways (in my opinion)

I think it works. And an electrical issue can become a medical issue, quite literally, if due to fires caused by faulty wiring people suffer severe burns or even death.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

voice of the damned wrote:

Just to be clear, I don't think people should be able to withhold vaccination from their children.

In your analogy, I'd say the fringe engineer should still be free to crank out his theories on his website. That doesn't mean the government shouldn't hold to the scientific consensus in determining what is required for construction in their jurisdiction.

And the engineering journals should still refuse to publish the crank's articles, if they don't measure up to the existing standards. The professional guilds might have something to say about his continued membership, as well.

This is a worthwhile distinction, which I pretty much agree with. Thanks for the clarification.

NorthReport

Part of the problem with social media is many governments have been way too slow to regulate it so that it is in sinc with community standards It’s not necessarily just social media however as there seems to be a real dumbing down of the daily news coverage Now it’s like mainstream media is murder central where every single act of violence is now given front page coverage and repeated ad infinitum on the newscasts There used to be a name for that type of media but it seems that mainstream media is now all over this culture of violence. And then we get surprised by the violence in our society. Go figure.

https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/may-2019/canadas-glaring-failure-regulate-facebook/

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

That article is all about privacy laws.  You understand that strengthened privacy laws aren't really going to do much to stop extremism or fake news, yes?

NorthReport
NorthReport
voice of the damned

North Report wrote:

Now it’s like mainstream media is murder central where every single act of violence is now given front page coverage and repeated ad infinitum on the newscasts

Maybe, though I believe the phrase "If it bleeds, it leads" is one that long predates the advent of Facebook.

NorthReport

Why Facebook’s Latest Ban Was So Underwhelming

Because the deplatforming was opaque, ostensibly limited, and staged like a spectacle.

 

https://slate.com/technology/2019/05/facebook-alex-jones-ban-underwhelming.html

NorthReport

Trump: We're 'looking into' banning of right-wing commentators on social media

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/03/trump-twitter-facebook-conservatives-banning-1301505

voice of the damned

I believe Harry Truman siezed the steel mills during the Korean War, declaring them vital to America's interests. Maybe Trump should try something like that with Facebook, if he feels so strongly about keeping Alex Jones on the site.

https://tinyurl.com/y62cuy4q

 

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