In a recent letter Mark Zuckerberg showed that he is finally coming to terms with the fact that Facebook should do more to combat misinformation. Prior to this realization, he dismissed the thought that Facebook could actually influence social and political mechanisms like the elections. He went as far as to call the idea “crazy”. These days he seems to have had a change of heart!
Read his letter:
Social media is a short-form medium where resonant messages get amplified many times. This rewards simplicity and discourages nuance. At its best, this focuses messages and exposes people to different ideas. At its worst, it oversimplifies important topics and pushes us towards extremes.
Polarization exists in all areas of discourse, not just social media. It occurs in all groups and communities, including companies, classrooms and juries, and it’s usually unrelated to politics. In the tech community, for example, discussion around AI has been oversimplified to existential fear-mongering. The harm is that sensationalism moves people away from balanced nuanced opinions towards polarized extremes.
If this continues and we lose common understanding, then even if we eliminated all misinformation, people would just emphasize different sets of facts to fit their polarized opinions. That’s why I’m so worried about sensationalism in media.
Zuckerberg is starting to acknowledge that his platform that hosts 1.86 billion users can in fact impact how we view and make decisions politically and socially. This means ensuring that the information that is being exchanged is as responsible as possible.
“Zuckerberg has spent years talking about Facebook as the next evolution of the newspaper,” I wrote. “But to really be the heir to the newspaper, your mission can’t stop at ‘making the world more open and connected.’ You have to make the world smarter, too.”