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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 4/20/16

Can Social Media Seize Control of Our Elections?

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Because of its ability to "disrupt" establishment memes and establishment narratives, it's tempting to see social media as the antidote to America's media trust deficit.

But we should be careful.

Social media isn't the white knight of open source information that it appears to be. It's often just as biased as traditional media, and to make matters worse, doesn't have the same firebreaks that make traditional media at least somewhat accountable to the public.

Take, for example, Facebook. That company is now having an internal debate about whether it has an ethical obligation to stop Donald Trump from getting elected president.

This is obviously legal and protected by the First Amendment, but it raises serious questions about how much we can rely on social media as an unbiased or at least transparent news source.

If The New York Times, for example, wanted to stop Trump from getting elected president, it would do what newspapers are supposed to do when they decide to take a side in a political campaign: It would endorse Trump's opponent and publish editorials explaining why.

Facebook doesn't have to do any such thing.

In fact, if it wanted to, the corporation could just start blocking any and all articles that its users post about Trump.

Again, this would all be perfectly legal.

But because Facebook doesn't publish its internals, we would never know for sure if the sudden disappearance of Trump articles on its network was the result of a censorship campaign or just a sign that fewer people were interested in reading about Trump.

That's really the real danger here.

People turn to social media to get news they think isn't covered on traditional media, which is why they're more likely to believe what they see on Facebook and Twitter is true or probably true.

But, again, this isn't really the case. And that's not just because there's more information out there, and thus, a greater possibility that that information could be wrong.

No, it's because the corporations that control social media are corporations just like the corporations that control traditional media, and they're even less accountable to the public.

Social media is changing the way that people get their news, but it's not a silver bullet.

We must stay vigilant.

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)
 

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