Lawmakers in several countries slam Facebook's effect on politics

By Alistair Smout

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If you haven't already left Facebook, it is time to do so. This is not a solution, but it is a start. Facebook is a cancer on the body politic. Many of us found it useful or amusing at the beginning; I certainly did. But this is not a joke any more, this is a platform that has been used and continues to be used to attack democratic values. It's time to leave.

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All social media can be abused. Use it only to remain in contact with family and friends, assuming direct contact isn't possible. Hard to fake news about people you know well and who would bother?

Ignore all "news" or political stories on those platforms.

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I find the debate about social media undermining democracy a bit incoherent. Even if you believe that false or heavily biased information is being pushed on the masses by social media, or that people are being convinced to vote against their best interests, what can you do about it without discrediting the idea of democracy itself?

People on Facebook are: a) voluntarily consuming the content, b) convincing themselves that it's true, c) approving of the message, and d) voting accordingly. How is this any different from the way political ideas are spread offline?

The idea that Facebook should be regulated to protect the electorate implies that the electorate is too stupid to discern the truth or to know what's in their best interest. This may very well be true, but to publicly acknowledge it is a pretty damning indictment of democracy and universal suffrage. The most persuasive argument against democracy has always been the fact that half of the electorate has below average intelligence. Regulating Facebook doesn't solve this problem.

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This is a complicated issue, but basically, we look to the actions of others to determine what is acceptable, called the rule of "social proof” (everyone should read Cialdini’s great book Influence to learn about this). If, through an algorithm or other means, you suddenly have a bunch of people actively denying citizenship of the current American president, or calling all women “thots,” or sharing anime characters wearing MAGA hats, it will influence what you think is acceptable in the world. This is basically how we got Trump. While I am an investor in Facebook, I moved almost entirely to Reddit, which is a much better platform since you can choose what segments you want to be a part of.

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