This will be a must-see event for those concerned about the difficult challenge of reversing the harms social media are doing to democracy. Hosted by Tech Policy Press, it brings together all sides of the debate in the Journal of Democracy that I reviewed and expanded on for Tech Policy Press, along with some other expert voices.

RSVP here.

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Topic: Reconciling Social Media & Democracy

Description: While various solutions to problems at the intersection of social media and democracy are under consideration, from regulation to antitrust action, some…

How to Destroy Truth, the 7/1/21 David Brooks column, offers insight on the problems and opportunities of social media, drawing on Jonathan Rauch’s important new book “The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth.” Brooks summarizes Rauch about empirical and propositional knowledge (and how that complements the emotional and moral knowledge that derives from the collective wisdom of shared stories):

…the acquisition of this kind of knowledge is also a collective process. It’s not just a group of people commenting on each other’s internet posts. …

As published in Tech Policy Press

Since his accounts on major platforms were suspended following the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, Donald Trump has been less of a presence on social media. But a recent New York Times analysis finds that while Trump “lost direct access to his most powerful megaphones,” his statements can still achieve vast reach on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Times found that “11 of his 89 statements after the ban attracted as many likes or shares as the median post before the ban, if not more. How does that happen? …

The Facebook Oversight Board decision on Trump “pleases no one” because we have it backwards. Social media have become a universal platform: We should individually control what we choose to hear, not globally control who can speak.

The Internet is not like a soapbox with limited reach — if you don’t like the speech, you can walk away. Newsfeeds come to you all or not at all — except as filtered. We need to control our own filters! That is how we “walk away” as we desire.

Who should decide what you listen to? Not the speaker, not the government…

My new article, “The Internet Beyond Social Media Thought-Robber Barons,” was just published in Tech Policy Press.

  • It is now apparent that social media is dangerous for democracy, but few have recognized a simple twist that can put us back on track.
  • A surgical restructuring — to an open market strategy that shifts control over our feeds to the users they serve — is the only practical way to limit the harms and enable the full benefits of social media


Related items, and background notes are below.
For continuing updates, check out the version on
my blog.



(Image adapted from Nick Clegg article)

Facebook’s latest attempt to justify their stance on disinformation and other harms, and their plans to make minor improvements, actually points the reason those improvements are not nearly enough — and can never be. They need to make far more radical moves to free our feeds, as I have proposed previously.

Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, put out an article yesterday that provides a telling counterpoint to those proposals. You and the Algorithm: It Takes Two to Tango defends Facebook in most respects, but accepts the view that users need more transparency and control:

You should be able…

You point to just how this misses the most important point: “…agreeing on what constitutes the collective good is very hard indeed.”

No private company can be permitted to attempt that, even under the most careful regulation - especially in a democracy. We need a free market in filters from a diversity of providers - for users to choose from. In that way, our marketplace of ideas - composed of assemblages of human actors - can decide, as we have done for centuries. As you say, people SHOULD be trusted. That is why we need to FREE OUR FEEDS!

There are proposals to do just that – and Twitter is investigating that in its Bluesky initiative. I recently posted a summary of notable proposals along those lines from several sources (at - soon to expanded and updated).

[Update 4/1: A slightly expanded comment is now a separate story on Medium.]

@Jack in the Congress 3/25/21

My quick take on yesterday’s tech CEO Congressional hearing on disinformation is that the two best ways forward now seem very slightly less of a long shot (dysfunctional as much of questioning was):

  1. Congress seems increasingly convinced that an end to the addictive ad model may have to be mandated.
  2. Twitter’s prominent support for opening up the filtering to free our feeds gives that important strategy increased credibility (even though Congress seems to not yet have a clue about it).

We are still very far from any agreement on specific actions, but either of these two directions could make a…

(…And, I did not expect to find this word completely absent from Google and Twitter, so I hereby claim having coined it — along with the alternate spelling, Wokequisition.)

NOBODY expects the Woquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise!… Surprise and fear… fear and surprise… Our two weapons are fear and surprise… and ruthless efficiency! Our three weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency… and an almost fanatical devotion to binary thinking.

But I am cursed with an almost fanatical devotion to non-binary thinking. In todays climate, that makes me fearful of fanatical reactions from both sides of “the” spectrum…

[From The Social Dilemma via Netflix]

Social media oligarchs have seduced us — giving us bicycles for the mind that they have spent years and billions engineering to “engage” our attention. The problem is that they insist on steering those bicycles for us, because they get rich selling advertising that they precisely target to us. Democracy and common sense require that we, the people, keep control of our marketplace of ideas. It is time to wrestle back the steering of our bicycles, so that we can guide our attention where we want. Here is why, and how. …

Richard Reisman

Author of FairPay | Pioneer of Digital Services | Inventor, Innovator & Futurist

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