Strong Newspapers Help Strengthen Democracy

Who can you believe these days?

Unfortunately, a combination of high-tech algorithms capable of predicting the way you think and the motivation to say anything in the pursuit of political power has sown confusion on how to separate truth from fiction, the left from the right, the conservatives from the liberals.

Jim Martin for the camera

Unfortunately, we live in a time when political, social and public health issues are tearing apart our sense of community.

Accurate information strengthens our democracy, and we must fight vigorously to ensure that everyone knows which media platforms publish credible information and which simply do not care about accuracy. I believe most of them don’t care.

Trust in the media has declined sharply in recent years as users do not trust the accuracy of journalism. Good journalism is seen as content that is ethical, accurate, independent and often critical of the public interest.

Strong and accurate logs are key to strengthening our democracy. Between 2004 and today, 2,200 newspapers have closed and another 80 have closed since the start of the pandemic. The country now has 50% fewer newspapers and journalists than in 2008.

The Pew Research Center concluded that eight out of 10 Americans now get news from their cellphones.

The more rushed news is online, the more inaccurate it is likely to be.

People grew accustomed to getting most of their news from radio, newspapers and television before the internet became so ubiquitous.

It is important to recognize this fundamental truth: many people today do not understand the difference between news sources and news platforms.

The platforms were meant to serve as a town hall bulletin board for anyone to post almost anything, be it misinformation (the poster doesn’t know if the news is true or false, but the still publishes) or disinformation (the poster knows that his news is false, but publishes it anyway).

Popular consumer platforms include Facebook (Meta), Google (Alphabet), Instagram, LinkedIn, NextDoor, Reddit, SnapChat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. They don’t have to worry about accuracy and can’t be held responsible for what they post. Why? Because they are not the source of their news content.

Congress unwittingly shielded bad actors from disseminating information by passing the Communication Decency Act – specifically Section 230 – in 1996. As the Internet grew, Congress thought that this would improve communication if news platforms were not treated as publishers and would therefore not be liable for defamation. or defamation.

These 26 words from Section 230 helped create the internet but also led to the birth of large-scale misinformation:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service should be considered the publisher or speaker of information provided by another information content provider.”

This means that Facebook and other platforms cannot be held responsible for what they post. And after posting, they are not responsible for removing it.

An example of the latter came in July 2005, when the US Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act, introduced by Colorado Rep. John Salazar, to address the problem of people falsely claiming online that they were heroes of war.

The Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that the federal government would not regulate free speech even if the publisher knew what it was publishing was false.

Good journalists and news outlets don’t publish one-sided stories, try to be fair to all sides of a story, and try to present enough information so readers can decide for themselves who they’re into. believe. When they fail to meet these standards, they often issue a correction or retraction as soon as possible.

Many people deliberately distribute inaccurate information and try to change the way people think as they go to the polls.

People are turning away from confusing things like government recommendations for COVID-19 vaccinations. When many social media platforms were telling us that vaccines and COVID-19 were hoaxes, it led to mass confusion.

Why is good journalism important? Provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies and their governments. For democracy to work, we need informed citizens.

Good journalism strives for accurate content, strong ethical practices, and serving the public interest.

There are things we can do to ensure that ethical and accurate journalism prevails.

Lobby all media platforms to better vet their sites against misinformation and take them down immediately when someone reports it.

Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told congressional hearings in 2020 that social media companies need more government guidance and regulation to tackle the growing online content problem. harmful or misleading.

Until Congress acts or the platforms do so independently, here are some questions we should ask ourselves when reading or viewing social platforms:

  • Who publishes it?
  • What information do they share?
  • What is their intention?

False or misleading news stories often contain unverifiable information, articles written by non-experts, articles that appeal to emotion rather than state facts, and information from unreliable platforms.

Show me your news sources – not your news platforms – and I’ll show you your political leanings and where you stand on today’s most pressing issues.

Jim Martin can be reached at [email protected]

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