2018-02-06

Is Social Media Good for Democracy?




Soledad O'Brien uses social media every day. It has become essential to the fields of news and journalism, both as a way to gather information and also as a way to publish information. She has examined how social media is impacting democracy on her program Matter of Fact.  

For example, Facebook has had to look at its impact it has on the democratic process after receiving much criticism for content on the platform during the Clinton/Trump campaigns. Facebook actually said it could no longer guarantee that social media is beneficial to democracy. That is a surprising admission.

One critique of social media is the ability to create echo chambers -- online spaces that only surround users with like-minded people and ideas.

There’s another phenomenon at work: “group polarization” which says that when you are in an echo chamber, you can become more extreme and intolerant.

Harvard professor Cass Sunstein studies this effect in his new book Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. He talked with O’Brien to discuss the pros and cons of social media and why the ability to filter out opposing views is a threat to our democracy.

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