It’s The (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age Of Free Speech

from Wired

FOR MOST OF modern history, the easiest way to block the spread of an idea was to keep it from being mechanically disseminated. Shutter the news­paper, pressure the broad­cast chief, install an official censor at the publishing house. Or, if push came to shove, hold a loaded gun to the announcer’s head.

This actually happened once in Turkey. It was the spring of 1960, and a group of military officers had just seized control of the government and the national media, imposing an information blackout to suppress the coordination of any threats to their coup. But inconveniently for the conspirators, a highly anticipated soccer game between Turkey and Scotland was scheduled to take place in the capital two weeks after their takeover. Matches like this were broadcast live on national radio, with an announcer calling the game, play by play. People all across Turkey would huddle around their sets, cheering on the national team.

Canceling the match was too risky for the junta; doing so might incite a protest. But what if the announcer said something political on live radio? A single remark could tip the country into chaos. So the officers came up with the obvious solution: They kept several guns trained on the announcer for the entire 2 hours and 45 minutes of the live broadcast.

It was still a risk, but a managed one. After all, there was only one announcer to threaten: a single bottleneck to control of the airwaves.

Variations on this general playbook for censorship—find the right choke point, then squeeze—were once the norm all around the world. That’s because, until recently, broadcasting and publishing were difficult and expensive affairs, their infrastructures riddled with bottlenecks and concentrated in a few hands.

But today that playbook is all but obsolete. Whose throat do you squeeze when anyone can set up a Twitter account in seconds, and when almost any event is recorded by smartphone-­wielding mem­­bers of the public? When protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, a single livestreamer named Mustafa Hussein reportedly garnered an audience comparable in size to CNN’s for a short while. If a Bosnian Croat war criminal drinks poison in a courtroom, all of Twitter knows about it in minutes.

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15 Responses to It’s The (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age Of Free Speech

  1. Sebastien Jose Fortes February 9, 2018 at 7:34 pm #

    This article expresses exactly what’s been on my mind as of late: How can we trust the media in a world with better technology than before? In other words, the media knows us better than we know it.

    On the one hand, I still think the idea that we’re living in 1984 is ridiculous. We don’t have Thought Police destroying the notions we believe to be true and replacing them. On the other hand, we do have media algorithms that can detect the content we like in order to keep us stuck to our screens.

    The issue here is one of bias—we don’t know every side of an issue, and we’re distracted. Before my friend Sade posted on her Facebook account about the slave trade in Libya, I didn’t even realize what was going on.

    There’s a study that was conducted about this very subject. In it, some high-schoolers were given news articles which they had to distinguish as either truth or “fake news”. Ironically, under the Trump administration, some of the very real news articles were assumed to be fake just because they sounded fake.

    Furthermore, sites like Reddit are still on the rise. Reddit is comprised of various communities called “subreddits”, which themselves are made of links and comment threads. The problem with this is that users can subscribe to subreddits that only fit their personal interests—one example being r/The_Donald. On this subreddit, only Trump supporters are allowed to comment.

    Unfortunately, their pages are littered with incoherent memes and political cartoons. The members can upvote posts they agree with, and downvote posts that they just don’t like, forming an ironic democracy. There is very little sense of balance.

    This may happen with Facebook, as they’re testing a new “downvote” button themselves. This, in conjunction with their already-established algorithms, would be a loophole for censorship. This form of censorship wouldn’t make us all oblivious like the North Koreans, but it would divide everyone for their differing opinions. We wouldn’t live in 1984. We’d live in the 1976 portrayed in Slaughterhouse-Five—in which the United States is “divided into twenty petty nations so that it will never again be a threat to world peace”.

  2. Don R February 9, 2018 at 8:06 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with the author’s statement that “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech.” The marketplace of ideas theory that truth will rise above the garbage in search of facts only worked when our attention spans were longer than that of goldfish. The idea of “what is true” is the more profound question that we have to examine. This time is a crisis of subjectivity in favor of objectivity. There is the poisoning idea that is creeping into American life that truth is merely the makeup of people in significant positions of power and that there is a need to tear down facts and replace it with subjectivity experience that can be statistically irrelevant. There is this idea that one’s personal experience, their feelings, outweigh the truth. That one’s hardship or failure is what should be highlighted when the numbers line up to a different conclusion. What is needed on the subject of overwhelming information, true or false, is to understand that the cultural transformation from books and papers to digital media will take more than the 2016 election to change the crisis that truth finds itself in. A certified human oracle that would choose what is right or wrong, i.e.,, is not at all the solution to the truth problem. It would be egotistical to proclaim that human beings, or at least myself, are beyond the mortal evils of corruption and subjectivity. Attention span, a rapidly dwindling ability, needs to be emphasized in its importance. One cannot even imagine the old days of journalism, just revisiting the Nixon scandal with the care and dedication of professional journalists is astonishing. In an age where everyone has a blog, but none have face to face debates like the William F. Buckle and Gore. We need a return to the art of dialogue, a skill that the millennial generation seems to lack experience. In a time where Facebook and Twitter are seen as “excellent” platforms to have in-depth philosophical debates on healthcare, the 1st Amendment, and vast government budgets we might be in our death throws and too encased in the latest hashtag to notice it.

  3. Andrew Kuttin February 11, 2018 at 2:50 am #

    The thought that the best cure for bad speech is more speech is a noble, but outdated one. It is easy to forget that the influential social media platforms we know today have only been around for a little over a decade. Their prevalence is relatively new and therefore, so is their impact on our democracy. There have only been four presidential elections in the 21st century and 2016’s saw an unprecedented level of influence from social media. The main point of this article is not the influence that the large user base of social media has on our democracy, but rather the effect of the platform on its users. It refers to these platforms as “ad brokers”, pointing out that their moneymaking strategy is to sell the appeal of such a large user base to advertisers. To sweeten the appeal, platforms collect massive amounts of data on its users in order to target specific ads to the users that they are most likely to influence. By doing this, they are labeling us based on our interests, making it easy to fill your feed with nothing but content that you agree with. This social media narrowcasting is exactly what the article is concerned with. Politically, these platforms have created a facet for producers of “fake news” to target their content at those most likely to believe it. This is thought of as a type of censorship because it invalidates the outlets and the things that we think to be true. The article refers to the new propaganda based form of censorship as “epidemics of disinformation”. Because major social media platforms conduct surveillance of user preferences to such a large degree, they have the ability to influence the view of almost any user.
    An example of one of these “epidemics of misinformation” can be found in 2016’s general election. The article tells of an instance where the Trump campaign used nonpublic “dark posts” in an attempt to influence African Americans to not vote. I believe that the much more prevalent issue is public posts that reach a base of users crafted by an algorithm. Plenty of disgustingly false stories were flung from supporters of both sides of the aisle in 2016, but none was worse than “Pizzagate”. This was a conspiracy theory claiming that key Democratic operatives were operating a child sex ring out of the basement of a Washington D.C. pizza shop. The false story caught such a strong footing in the eyes of the far right that a man entered the shop with a gun demanding that the children be freed. Such a ridiculous story was able to take flight because of these echo chambers of affirmative information that social media algorithms have created. Far right users are shown content meant to fit their own political pre dispositions and if that does not include a truthful retort then it is possible for conspiracy theories like Pizzagate to be shared and spread until it gains a sort of mainstream appeal within that ideological subsection. Moreover, these subsections are created by the new wave of individualized speech coming from large social media platforms.

  4. Antonio Macolino February 12, 2018 at 5:56 pm #

    With the explosion of social media, and the ease of use of the internet, it is possible to justify this as the golden age of free speech. It is now easier than ever for people to voice their opinions, but more amazing is how easy it is for people to band together. Social media makes it easier than ever for groups to speak about their ideas and spread their messages. While this all seems like a very good thing, this golden age of free speech is actually not as great as it looks.
    New types of censorship have come about. Rather than the traditional act of blocking media via the government, a new type of censorship has formed and it is called attention. It would be utterly impossible today for governments to actually censor things online but it is relatively easy for them to bring attention to certain topics. If a government or group wants to end the ability to talk about a certain topic, all they need to do now a days is work with large companies such as Facebook and Google to bring negative attention to the topic. These people will hire media specialists to create “fake news” and will work directly with companies such as Facebook to make sure these articles gain much attention. This fake news is very harmful to society because it is becoming increasingly more difficult for people to judge what is real and what is not. The article even states that during the 2016 presidential election, more attention was drawn to fake news article than was drawn to articles from reputable sources.
    I believe that this poses a huge problem for our generation and future generations to come. It is becoming increasingly easier for people to create these fake news stories or exaggerate the details of actual events that occurred. People do not realize what is real and what is fake. Living in this false reality leads people the wrong way and makes it harder for people to make informed decisions. Evil groups such as white supremacists can use this to their advantage to spread their ideals using fake news. If we do not figure out how to make the internet more trustworthy, future generations will have trouble in discerning what is true and what is a false reality.

  5. Michael Polito February 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

    The 21st century is considered the golden age of free speech due to the rise in social media and the advancement of smart phones. Posting pics or videos of anything has become so easy you can practically post something with the click of a button. Everything on the internet was posted by someone for the entertainment of someone else. It’s the golden age if free speech because you can basically post and see whatever you want, but is everything that you are looking at real. According to the article it has become easier for Russian bots and other kinds of hackers and artificial intelligence to generate fake videos and post them for people to see. This raises the question of can you believe anything that you see on the internet because there is a chance that it is fake. When you post something anyone could see it and if they like the picture or video that you posted it is possible for these hackers to take your post and turn it into something else. The internet and social media are so frequented by people that just by the users certain page clicks ads that relate to your page views will come up. But you can never believe them because they may be from the Russians and the ad could contain a virus.
    The golden age of free speech can come with some consequences, like clicking on the ad that is designed for you and then getting a virus. The article says that you cannot trust everything that you see in the internet for those reasons. I didn’t realize that it was like this, I thought that everything posted on the internet was real instead of propaganda by hackers and Russian bots. They can post fake videos and have a whole nation believing them. We should not have to worry about fake things being posted on social media because we should be safe online. But being safe online is hard due to the fact that anyone can post anything and so there are people out there that will post an inflammatory comment or post something that is wrong just for the attention. There are a lot of people who use the internet for the wrong reason and get away with it. The internet and social media is supposed to be a place where people can express their opinions and post and share pictures with other people. It is not for sickos to exploit and use for their illegal ways. There are too many people out there who take advantage of the internet and what it can do for their own personal gain. Most of the time it is illegal activity that these people use the internet for and it is possible for them to do because the internet is open to anyone. It is the golden era of free speech for all the people out there that are using the internet the right way to post about their daily adventures and share their opinion with other people.

  6. Jessica Williams February 16, 2018 at 1:03 pm #

    Many could argue that we are in a “golden age of free speech,” because of the increase in the use of social media on a day-to-day basis. While social media has become an outlet for a variety of people to express their thoughts and opinions, from those of human rights activists to fans of a particular video game, with the current political climate, the right to free speech is actually under attack in a way not all of us are able to detect at first glance.

    The article mentions a good point about the redirection of attention from credible news sources to fake news, as propaganda today relies on the spread of misinformation instead of directly silencing the voices of those who want to be heard. This can also be tied to the issue with Fox News being the only credible news source, according to the President of the United States, although that information is not supported by facts or evidence. Social media worsens the issue, as the article also stated that during the 2016 election, fake news outlets gained more attention than 19 credible news sources combined. With the rise in the use of social media, and how little resources we have to safeguard ourselves, more people could become susceptible to the spread of misinformation and fake news, which could eventually lead to the harm of others.

    The reality of dangerous groups using social media platforms to further their agenda of hate is a reality we are already living in. The specific words and phrases said by certain individuals could be misinterpreted or deliberately used to validate these violent groups of their overall goals and intentions. The article mentions Facebook being used as a means to help violent groups such as white supremacists and radical Buddhist monks organize themselves more effectively to carry out their plans. This brings the issue of freedom of speech into play, as it is Facebook’s primary design to bring people together and organize events. However, in the event that someone plans to bring harm to others via online means, it becomes a matter of the constitutional rights of the individuals to freedom of speech, to the constitutional rights of others to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    Personally, I believe that for the sake of others, violent groups of people or individuals with plans to harm others being stated online should be taken into consideration. While it is granted to groups of people and individuals to express themselves freely, it should not have to come at the cost of other human lives. Propaganda and fake news enable these groups to carry out their plans, as the spread of misinformation could encourage them to continue doing what they believe is to be right and necessary. An example of this would be the contrast between the words of the President after the white supremacist rally, where he suggested that the people in the crowd were “very fine people,”(Article: versus the NFL players who were protesting against police brutality among people of color, in which he openly condemned them and called for them to be fired ( In addition, people should become more aware of the sources that they use when being briefed about the news, and should always fact-check the information being brought to them, in case the news presented is tasked with the redirection of an individual’s attention to something that could discredit the information of another.

  7. Audrey Manion February 16, 2018 at 2:02 pm #

    As much as I believe in free speech being vital in supporting a thriving democracy, I can agree that things have gotten a little out of hand lately. I can hardly go on Facebook, Instagram, or even Twitter anymore without seeing an advertisement that is eerily related to something I like, or content that looks like it was specifically chosen for my eyeballs to see. It is true that speech is free and readily available for anyone to hear or view if they wish, but it has become increasingly more likely for that information to find you first. The fact that our information is being bought and sold, just to feed us advertisements tailored to what we are most likely to click on, or the fact that probably half of what we read on the internet is fake, can be disheartening to say the least. It is like we have taken a step back as a society. Speech is as free as its ever been, but is it really worth it?
    I would argue that it is absolutely worth it. Yes, this culture of “fake news” is damaging the credibility of real news outlets and spreading media that is biased and political to target people. But I think that this is just part of a learning curve. Technology is constantly progressing, and we are still getting used to the power of all these platforms of speech. Like the author’s analogy of the evolution of social media to the evolution of the auto industry’s safety standards, we are still figuring out the best ways to use this form of information transportation. There are going to be some accidents and even fatalities before reform happens.
    The answer is not to limit the amount of information being spread, but to find ways to avoid the negative aspects of it. There should be more attention brought to bots that spam Twitter pages, and more conversation about whether what the Trump campaign did in the 2016 election, and what other political campaigns and advertisers do, on Facebook was or is ethical. Also, it is important for children to start learning at a young age how to spot what is real and what is fake. Luckily for me, I grew up right before the social media era, when people were still on Myspace, and I didn’t make a Facebook account until I was in high school; I always take what I see on the internet with a grain of salt. Kids today are surrounded by the negative effects of this overload of speech though, and may have a hard time discerning the truth through all the noise. In order for us to work out the kinks in this system that is still new to us, we must first start conversations about it.

  8. Jerry Wu February 19, 2018 at 11:19 pm #

    In today’s world, especially the United States, free speech has certainly become one of the hotter topics, mostly because it is one of the most essential rights an American citizen has. Back in the 1900s, free speech was only used by talking to one another. Now, in the 21st century, several social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Myspace are used to express even some of the most harsh and controversial opinions in the hottest current event topics. Some of these topics include sports, traveling, history, politics, and so many more!
    Although I would say that free speech is the most efficient way of “spreading the word”, there are people who also continuously lose credibility because of the well-known term “fake news”. This can include a multitude of things such as literally creating fake news, speaking extremely biased and controversial opinions, spreading false rumors, and even dangerously targeting people. It has even gotten to the point where several riots and protests have broken out across our nation, which continues to grow into a more unsafe environment, just like the number of protestors for our nation’s growing problems.
    From my experience in growing up and hearing so many suspicious news, I have sometimes grown to feel that the world is a more dangerous place than it presents itself to be (and I find myself to be more cautious with my actions every day). In conclusion, all I can say is that we need to fix the way we act or talk (from a negative perspective). Otherwise, the next generation of kids and adults will experience the negative effects, which can only cause the world’s problems to influence younger ones to think that committing crimes is okay to do.

  9. Nathaniel Valyo February 20, 2018 at 9:51 pm #

    Free speech today is counterintuitive. The original purpose of it was to educate the general public, bring communities together, and to search for the truth, both individually and through prompting others to do so as well. Today, while massive digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter have provided society with a so-called “golden age” of free speech through expressing themselves in an unlimited amount of ways, there is no more search for truth; only a desire for voices to be heard, regardless of the content of the message. Free speech today is equivalent to “who can scream the loudest.”

    The article mentions organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups becoming active again through the use of Facebook and Twitter, and how hatred is so easily spread now when these platforms are used incorrectly. Additionally, in class we briefly touched on how a person could say something false, and a couple thousand people with the same frame of mind would agree by liking or retweeting it, with no fact checking done whatsoever. The fact checking, then, becomes irrelevant because of the safety in numbers, leaving the user to think: “if all of those people retweeted and liked it, there is no possible way it could be wrong.” These major platforms feed on the consumer’s desire to feel validated, even though they claim to be “monuments of free speech.”

    Banning hate groups like the KKK on Facebook and Twitter could be effective if done correctly. Similar to how free speech does not allow you to yell “bomb” in a crowded venue, inciting and standing for violence online should be viewed under the same lens. The issue with banning the groups, however, is the heightened sense of accomplishment that the groups will feel after being banned. These groups are not only fueled by hatred, but by other people’s reactions to their hatred as well. One of the main reasons for the existence of the groups is precisely that; stirring up emotions and provoking others. Therefore, an effective way to silence the groups could be to simply ignore them. If society were to ignore these groups online, they would lose their power and influence, but reacting to them will give power and influence right back to them. In other words, if society were to pick and choose what they want to hear on social media platforms, the presence of these groups could diminish quickly. In a society that is unconcerned with the truth, refusing powers to hate groups is imperative.

  10. Coby Dunn February 22, 2018 at 4:14 pm #

    Free speech has been a fundamental part of our democracy since the creation of the constitution. The first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As of late, our perception of free speech has been growing, evolving, and finding its way onto various platforms. The internet has ushered a golden age of free speech. However, the internet has also given rise to groups that use this platform, and exploit the freedom of speech. We see hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan and Isis using the internet to spread their message. They are exploiting the right to free speech in order to spread messages of hate, terror, and racism. Free speech was created for people to spread new ideas, concepts, and to give the public the facts. Now it has been reduced to who can scream the loudest. In everyday life, we have a social norms and laws that keep us a working and safe society. Things like racism, and terror are illegal. However, on the internet, these concepts thrive. The Internet is still in its infancy. Like everything else, we are going to make it a safer place, and encourage people to use it the way it was intended. Censorship is a much hated word in the United States. Information is vital to our society. However, if censorship is done correctly, it can prove to be very helpful. Banning groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Isis from social media platforms would ultimately make the world a better place. While you could say that they have an argument for free speech, it is ridiculous to think that messages of hate have a place in our world. We have a responsibility to make the world better. Free speech is a critical part of our society, but it is time to stop allowing blatant racism and hate hide behind a law that was meant to inspire freedom.

  11. Daniel Kim February 22, 2018 at 9:25 pm #

    During Vietnam War, many students protested against the U.S. government’s decision to send troops. Because of the frequent activisms, the students were crucial in bringing the discussion to public light. Another reason for the public interest in American politics during the 70s’ was television. Televisions became more common and many news channels were able to get live coverage on current events. One of these coverages was on Vietnam War. For the first time, news agencies were able to capture the grim reality of war in a televised format. For the first time, people back home in the United States were able to see bleeding soldiers and burning villages. These haunting images and videos also incited United States citizens to call returning veterans “baby killers” and other horrendous names. This way, the television was the main facilitator for the public debate.
    Now, the internet is the modern day social catalyst. In the last decade, social media giants such as Facebook expressed their vision of a better world through enabling people to connect. However, at the same time, the WIRED article illustrates some negative instances where radical groups such as KKK and Neo-Nazis used Facebook to organize and mobilize their agendas. The latest one was with ISIS implementing social media to recruit teenagers and young adults. Also ironically, co-author Brian Primack discovered from his survey that young adults, who spend “more than two hours a day” on social media, feel more isolated than those who do not. Of course, Primack conducted the study that primarily focused on young adults.
    After the 2016 presidential election, people are now disillusioned with the reality of social media. According to a recent report, a number of Facebook users went down from 185 million to 184 million in the United States and Canada. Perhaps, this trend is good news for young people in the United States. However, social media also revealed an ugly truth about people; we are insecure about ourselves. In one article that cited Marco Wittmann who is a doctoral student studying cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford, he states that people judge their abilities from a “rational manner” and other people’s performances. From his research, the act of comparing seems to be an innate trait. However, social media is not all bad.
    In 2015, the Arab Spring initiated when a man in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest against his government’s corruption. Bystanders captured this on videos and posted online. This act became a viral hit around the Middle East and soon, citizens from other Middle Eastern countries protested against their governments’ practices. Although the Arab Spring did not produce complete democratic governments, this event shows the impact that social media can bring. Therefore, social media does not automatically bring people’s demise. Instead, we should discuss how to use social media for positive change.


  12. marcello bertuzzelli February 23, 2018 at 1:35 pm #

    The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects our rights as citizens to speak freely. Our freedom of speech is a key proponent in our democracy. However, the meaning behind freedom of speech has changed over the years as generations pass and technological advancements knock on our doors. With more and more social platforms coming into sight, our speech is less verbal and more written. It is easy to see our society changing because of social media especially and this practice of free speech through things like Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is unfortunate in certain situations where you can see an exploitation of this right via vulgarity and cyber bullying. What will stop these people? Nothing can, because they are simply exercising their rights as United States citizens. You can see more cases of exploitation through things like racism, terrorism, and other forms of hate. Although these are all immoral acts, the people behind the screen are protected by a written rule in our very own constitution. Now, if we got rid of all of this nonsense involving hate and terror over the internet, the world would be a great place. Everyone can agree on that. However, it is a bit more difficult than thought to just eliminate such things and people from the internet. As our minds expand and we take action in improving our everyday lives, a censorship comes into play. Everything we do is monitored in order to ‘create a better tomorrow’. We just do not always realize it. I feel as though with all the censorship being done online, we can begin to fix our problems by acknowledging them and taking action through preferential settings and other aspects, which can in turn hopefully reduce negative mindsets through social media platforms.

  13. Chris Goldfarb February 23, 2018 at 2:00 pm #

    To me this article poses the question “can you have too much of a good thing?”. That good thing obviously being, the Freedom of Speech in this case. On face value the answer is obvious; the more people having the ability to speak their mind the better. That’s the whole point of this freedom that through collective discourse we as a people will be better able to discover the needs and fix the problems of this great nation. The article however suggests that the internet has run a foul with free speech to the point where it’s no longer providing it. “free speech is usually understood as a vehicle—a necessary condition for achieving certain other societal ideals: for creating a knowledgeable public; for engendering healthy, rational, and informed debate” ( I believe this is a very competent definition of the goal of free speech that many would agree with and because if that it is the one I will be working with. Looking at modern social media I think it becomes clear that with all the discussions being had very few that fit the description of this definition.
    Specifically I would point out the “knowledgeable public” and “informed debate” sections of that definition as the disqualifiers of social media providing a platform for free speech. The reason I point them out is because the real problem here is not the amount of people being able to speak their mind it’s the way companies have capitalized on the concept. As the article makes clear Facebook, Twitter, and Google are glorified billboards meant simply have as many people looking at advertisements as possible because that is how they make money. They have no interest in protecting the right of free speech they do however have an interest in keeping you engaged. We are all at the mercy of things beyond our control and this proves especially true when perusing social media as everything shown to you was chosen very carefully to keep you addicted, get you passionate, or merely keeping you engaged in general.
    This would seem like the perfect relationship for promoting free speech but in reality the opposite is true as more and more you’ll be shown things that agree with your world view. This does not even mean that whatever you are being shown is true, all it means is that the algorithm found something that you would like to see or hear. That way when you that thing you like grabs your attention you share it and spread it to more people that like the same thing and you keep going back to that source of information. What this effectively does is create a feedback loop of satisfaction where the viewer feels vindicated for their view and closes themselves off to other ideas. This might not even happen by choice as the algorithm will do it for them keeping them talking and engaging only with the people that share their view. This does not help solve today’s problems rather it makes us all more divided and unwilling to listen. Essentially we don’t have full control over what we see when we use social media and because people have learned how to game the system with things like bots it lessens meaningful conversation and promotes closemindedness. So I will say again the problem is not having to many voices it is controlling who the voices talk to and what they see.

  14. Anthony L September 28, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

    This article is clearly a part of the death throes of an old elite struggling to maintain their influence over the general public. Although the article is put through the lens of preserving democracy, in reality it is written in complete self-interest. Historically information and news was controlled by a small group of companies. For example, originally the United States had only three television news networks, “ABC, CBS, and NBC,” Although the number of news networks has increased since then, there is still a relatively small amount of networks that broadcast national news. This is also the case with other forms of news publication. Zeynep Tufekci, the author of this WIRED article, admits this when he says, “…until recently, broadcasting and publishing were difficult and expensive affairs, their infrastructures riddled with bottlenecks and concentrated in a few hands,” While WIRED certainly is not the oldest news outlet, being founded in 1993, it is still a part of the old news industry since it was created before the era of social media. Thus, it has much to lose from the alternative news media. This is because Americans are losing trust in mass media, with only, “…32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media,” as of 2016. This lack of trust in mainstream news outlets like WIRED lead to Americans seeking out other sources of news through the alternative media, causing a decrease in revenue for mainstream news outlets.

    Instead of trying to regain the trust of the common people, WIRED is using emotional and moral arguments to bring people to their side. This starts with the title of the article. Since, in American culture, democracy is seen as a force for good in the world. Thus, by saying modern freedom of speech is “Poisoning Democracy,” they frame the free speech they are talking about as an evil. The author’s opening point that it is much more difficult for governments to censor dissident opinions because of social media takes a regretful tone. The language used by the author is very telling. She presents the lack of censorship of false news stories as worse than governments censoring dissidents. She then portrays this lack of censorship as, “The most effective forms of censorship today,” This creates a false dichotomy. Unlike government censorship, which gives mainstream news sources less competition, the voice that social media gives to amateur reporting gives mainstream news outlets more competition. This forces mainstream news outlets to have to prove their worth to the general public. The fact that “…a single livestreamer…reportedly garnered an audience comparable in size to CNN’s for a short while,” worries the author, since this shows that content created by amateurs or news stories that are not properly researched or falsified can get as much attention as mainstream news sources. She seemingly doesn’t believe the American public is smart enough to be able to research whether a story is true or false without the guiding hand of the mainstream media and government censors. This calls into question whether the author believes in the virtues of democracy at all. A tenant of democratic thought is that the voting public is intelligent enough to make well-informed decisions about how the government should be run. The author clearly doesn’t believe this, saying, “…it is a golden age of free speech—if you can believe your lying eyes,” This shows that she is only using democracy as an appeal to morality, not as a principle she believes in herself.

  15. W. Velazquez October 19, 2018 at 10:44 pm #

    A question we should ask ourselves is how much of our guaranteed free speech is actually free. As consumers, we may not be paying to receive our news or to share it with others, but companies are paying the various social media outlets to filter our news and personalize what we see on our screens. We are being censored and are unable to do anything about it. We do not get to choose what shows up when we search for anything, our results are pre-filtered and sorted for us and we do not question our results. Maybe we should start questioning why we are being shown certain advertisements.

    Many people now rely on various social media sources to stay informed on what is going on in the world. Social media platforms have perfected the art of media distribution. The most important news is usually the news that is trending, that means that a lot of people are sharing and engaging with a particular article and news stations and social media platforms do whatever they can to grow the engagement. They give those issues more importance and other issues can get looked over because they have been overshadowed by the massive amount of engagement and promotions occurring on that current topic.

    Under the first amendment we are given the right to free speech, but do we give that right away when we join social media platforms and agree to their terms and conditions without having read them. If your view on the topics being discussed opposes the favorable more popular ones, it is possible that your posts may get deleted or your account could get blocked or worse you could be kicked off the platform entirely. Is that a violation of our first amendment right? Some would say it is not because we agree to the terms and conditions the platforms set in place before we get a chance to share our thoughts with others.

    Social media has a major influence on our society. They curate our news and choose what issues are more important based on the engagement ratings of the posts. How our news is curated is flawed, the “filters” used do not filter out articles that do not have validity or ones that used doctored evidence. The issue of censoring news is something we should be concerned about. How can we trust any news outlet if we are only being shown one side of the story? We cannot make informed decisions if we are only given half of the facts or if all of the facts being presented to us strongly coincide with your perspective.

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