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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2017

SOCIAL MEDIA CREATES ECHO CHAMBERS THAT HURT DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM, SAYS AUTHOR/LAW PROFESSOR

Social media limits exposure to different viewpoints and hurts democracy and journalism, Harvard University law professor and author Cass Sunstein told NPR's Kelly McEvers on "All Things Considered." Sunstein's latest book, "#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media," looks at how social media creates echo chambers, leading to news filters where people only look at news that reflects their ideals.

"You're listening to people who just agree with you or reading news sources that fit with your own preconceptions, it's not as if you just stay where you are," Sunstein said. "You tend to end up more extreme, which makes us get kind of blocked as a society, which isn't good for democracy and which makes it possible for people to see people who disagree with them not as fellow citizens, but as enemies who are crazy people or dupes. And that can make problem solving very, very challenging."

"Well, we're early days, really, still for Facebook and social media," he said. "And so my expectation is that Facebook and Twitter will do some experimenting on this count. It is true that kind of a quick reaction is provide people with content that they will look at. And that might be the information cocoon effect. But lots of Americans have not just a desire to see, you know, what they already think, but a desire to see some stuff that'll be challenging or eye-opening."

Sunstein suggests following people with different viewpoints. He said, "if you're left of center, have a little plan in the next two weeks to follow some smart people who are right of center. And if you're right of center, and you tend to ridicule or contempt for people on the left, follow some liberals. Find some who have at least a little bit of credibility for you. Or make a determined judgment whether you're left or right. See what you can get from the other side. And this is, you know, individual lives, but as the framers of the constitution knew, a republic is built up of innumerable individual decisions. And whether we get a well-functioning system or not depends on, you know, countless individual acts." (Read more)

Written by Tim Mandell Posted at 2/23/2017 11:25:00 AM

 

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