There has been a considerable amount of rhetoric in the media lately about concerns over how Facebook and other social media platforms will regulate and ultimately influence the 2020 election. Concerns stemming from foreign governments supporting networks of fake accounts to produce viral content that promotes their agenda. Which with the complexity and infinitely vast size of online media the task of regulation not only has a philosophical question of where to draw the line. But also, a technical question or rather competition between machine learning algorithms and the networks of fake accounts posting false and guided content. (Click here for a 3 part series on this battle). Normally I utilize this platform to post funny antidotes about my life and lessons I learn from them but I cannot help but add my voice into this philosophical frontier of determining what rules if any should social media platforms adhere to when it comes to free speech. But in my true odd ball fashion, I am inserting a different perspective. Yes, there are tremendous efforts in the media space by destructive forces, and a need for tech companies to combat these forces. However, why is this an issue with the election? More specifically, why are there droves of American people getting their news from Facebook? This is a website to keep tabs with that kid from high school trying to be a rapper, Tasty videos, and dank memes.
Sure, Facebook in theory can be a message board to have conversations about complex and controversial topics for people to share viewpoints and gain insight. But we all know that the reality is keyboard warriors attacking each other in the comments. Reading not to learn or listen but to find ammunition for their reply of 240 characters or less. Plus, you interact mostly with the people you friend/ follow. People that you determine valuable to keep up with, most likely due to common interests. Like minded people interacting with like minded people. And when you have a friend that starts to go against the way you believe you either unfriend them because you don’t want to see their “fake news” posts, or you go full keyboard warrior and berate them with the facts that support how you think. Now these are extreme options that not everyone takes up. Mostly likely when a friend strays from things you don’t take interest with you disengage and the algorithm unfriends them for all practical purposes.
Social media has left the simple chronological news feed and instead places endless droves of information in front of you to scroll through based off of a complex algorithm. An algorithm designed to keep you on the website and engaged in its content. One that focuses on others interactions (its virality) and associates your future content with what you interacted with previously. Via likes, comments, and how long you keep a specific post on your screen before swiping it away. Meaning in a news setting both related and independent to politics the things that are placed into your newsfeed are the polarized perspectives or opinions, because polarization causes virality. People no longer interact directly with presidential debates or comprehensive reviews developed by reckonable news sources. Rather they view excerpts plucked out of context that can be factual but are laced with charged and one-sided rhetoric, or completely made up but support a view point they want to be true. Therefore, getting the likes needed for exposure, and playing into the vain thinking of higher views correlates to higher credibility.
So not only are you getting a one-sided perspective from consuming what other like minded people post but that polarity is further filtered via algorithms to create an inflated point of view from things you enjoy seeing and what you want to believe. Now the other side of the aisle does infiltrates your feed if it is “spicy” enough to cause virality. But since they are so polarized and extreme they are easily written off as fake news or at best interpreted with a distorted view.
Yes traditional news is also biased, even my local news in Detroit which should be the most credible has a bend. But that’s where the importance of multiple sources comes in. To filter bias, you watch Fox News then listen to NPR. Not camping out on conservative news dot com or Antifa R Us, websites that don’t have a real domains but rather rents one for free from WordPress or BlogSpot. Yet is taken as series as news organizations with hundreds of journalists. Because, “I found an article that supports my way of thinking combined with a picture that has words on it from a random Facebook profile,” so it must be true.
Lets listen to companies that have a lot to lose if they can’t report the facts, not some person that googled how to make a free website or worse bought a Facebook profile and has nothing to lose if their opinions portrayed as facts are debunked.
The debate that is ongoing about how Facebook should or should not regulate free speech on its platform needs to continue to happen, and I am interested to see where the line lands. However, the fear of 2020 election meddling should not be such a vexing subject. Get your news from news sites, and tasty videos from video sites.
As always make good choices, share if you like what I said, comment if you have something to add (yes even you keyboard warriors), consider subscribing, and I will see you on Friday with a less charged subject.
And yes I do see the irony of me an oddball website that is mostly shared via Facebook to broadcast my viewpoint arguing against people using Facebook to learn about viewpoints.