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Social media and free speech: Fake news, Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’, the Capitol riot and YouTube algorithms

The banning of Donald Trump from every social media platform following the deadly riot earlier this month at the US Capitol building has prompted fierce debates, not only about free speech and censorship online, but also the role of social media in fostering hate and lies. Why is it that so much horrendous stuff accumulates and spills out of social media, from deranged conspiracy theories about coronavirus all the way up to the violent and often racist political rhetoric which inspired the Capitol insurrection? Do we need more regulation and moderation of what people are saying online, or less? What are the implications of unaccountable tech CEOs barring anyone they choose from the world’s dominant communications networks? And how should we, as Christians, think about the ethics of free speech and censorship in our always online 21st century world? 

You might also want to listen to our previous episode on conspiracy theories and misinformation online about coronavirus.

In this episode I refer to two studies:

Research on the spread of false and true news online, published in Science – https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146

‘Information Overload Helps Fake News Spread, and Social Media Knows It’, published in Scientific American – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/information-overload-helps-fake-news-spread-and-social-media-knows-it/

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1 comment on “Social media and free speech: Fake news, Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’, the Capitol riot and YouTube algorithms

  1. The thing about social media and government that I have not seen discussed almost anywhere is that why should a president or a government use Twitter and the like at all. In my mind people in public office leadership should only use the sites of that public entity for messaging about public affairs. We don’t need presidents tweeting every time they feel like it. Running a country is a deeply strategic operation, a very complex thing, in which a single individual should not be able to publish whatever comes to mind. In today’s world politics is made to look like entertainment and with that politicians have become like other celebrities. Social media platforms are also commercial companies and the public sector should stay away from there or use them only for delivering very brief information type “president’s speech on Afghanistan today, watch on official site”.

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