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Social Media | Munk Debates

EPISODE #8

Social Media

Be it resolved, social media is a force for good in the world

Guests
Jeff Jarvis
Noam Cohen

About this episode

Increasingly, big social media platforms are being blamed for transforming modern society into an angry mob of anti-social, distracted and disenfranchised automatons. For their detractors, the digital cocktail the platforms purvey is fueling hatred, misinformation and threatening the very foundations of our democracy. For others, blaming the platforms for the 21st century’s social ills is simplistic scapegoating. For its proponents, social media is expanding the scope of human freedom, full stop. The platforms have disrupted vested power structures and interests, empowered marginalized voices, increased transparency and accountability, and ushered in an era of unparalleled personal self-expression.

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Guests

Jeff Jarvis

"We're trying to blame the platforms for the behaviour of the people using them. What we don't like is that behaviour and that's what we have to deal with."

Jeff Jarvis

"We're trying to blame the platforms for the behaviour of the people using them. What we don't like is that behaviour and that's what we have to deal with."

Jeff Jarvis is the Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism Innovation and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in the City University of New York. There he created new degrees and programs in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Social Journalism, and News Innovation and Leadership. He is the author of "What Would Google Do?," "Public Parts," "Geeks Bearing Gifts," and "Gutenberg the Geek” and is cohost of the podcast “This Week in Google.” Previously, he was president and creative director of Advance.net, the online arm of Advance Publications (including Condé Nast and Newhouse Newspapers); creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly magazine; Sunday editor and associate publisher of the New York Daily News; TV critic of TV Guide and People magazines; a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner; and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. He blogs at Buzzmachine.com and on Medium. He's on Twitter @jeffjarvis.
 

Noam Cohen

"We are choosing to have this miserable system because we are a fetishizing idea of not having any rules. That is a recipe for disaster."

Noam Cohen

"We are choosing to have this miserable system because we are a fetishizing idea of not having any rules. That is a recipe for disaster."

Noam Cohen is a journalist and the author of "The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball,” which uses the history of computer science and Stanford University to understand the libertarian ideas promoted by tech leaders. He is an Ideas columnist for Wired magazine. Before that, he wrote the Link by Link column for The New York Times, producing some of the earliest articles about Wikipedia, Bitcoin, Wikileaks and Twitter. He lives with his family in Brooklyn.
 

Show Notes

Jeff Jarvis talks about famous hashtags that have gone viral and brought attention to protest movements (#BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo). Many people believe that hashtag activism, as it is commonly known, is an ineffective means of protest. Others see twitter movements as a way to bring attention to new, previously unheard voices.
 
Both Jeff and Noam talk about Facebook algorithms, and how the Facebook system is designed to show users posts that will elicit a positive reaction. Here is an explainer about how the algorithm works, and how publishers and brands use it to connect with their audience.
 
Noam Cohen talks about Dylann Roof, the South Carolina white supremacist who was convicted for perpetrating the Charleston church shooting in 2015 which killed 9 people. In his confession and manifesto, Roof claimed that google searches helped shape his beliefs, specifically his search for ‘black and white crime’.
 
Political ads on social media have been a subject of heated debate. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the company’s decision to not police the misinformation in political advertising, claiming the social media giant is a champion of free speech. He claimed these ads provide an important voice for politicians and banning them would favour those voices that have already been amplified by other media. Meanwhile, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of twitter, has taken the opposite approach, saying his company will no longer run political ads. You can read about the different approaches here
 
Noam and Jeff argue about the morality behind Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten’ privacy law. The European Court of Justice ruled that a person has the right to be removed from internet searches under some circumstances. It forces Google and other search engines to delete links to websites and news articles that include personal information considered no longer relevant or not in the public interest. You can read about the intricacies of this complicated and highly contested ruling here.