World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


@WAN_Medialex coverage of Web Summit: Will technology kill democracy? Had that question been asked today, the answer would probably have been "yes"

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@WAN_Medialex coverage of Web Summit: Will technology kill democracy? Had that question been asked today, the answer would probably have been "yes"

As journalists, it is true that we face new challenges when it comes to information that arrives to us through social media. Ryan admitted to asking himself often "shall I share and maybe spread a rumour or am I committing censorship by being cautious and not sharing?”.
 
Ann Mettler, Head of European Political Strategy Centre, countered by saying that undeniably before social media the role of newspapers was to mediate, and “choose what really was newsworthy for their audience to consume". Now that role of traditional media is diluted by all the noise, and this indeed puts democracy in danger. 
 
Mettler essentially believes that it is for the users to be responsible and inform themselves on the opinion dissenting from their own, refraining for example from “unfriending" on Facebook the loud extremist we all know. Echoing her own remarks at an earlier session on echo filters, she noted that with democracy come both rights and responsibilities, and one of these is being conscious of our biases. 
 
Heath commented that filter bubbles and the increasing power of social media to determine the result of paramount political decisions is far from being an American phenomenon, as Brexit taught us. He added that maybe the tech giants that make billions of dollars of profits should reinvest part of that money in those same communities to take responsibility and find solutions.
 
According to Mettler a solution can be found, and she agreed with Heath that the internet communities should be a part of it. She brought the example of the European Union which has been proactively working with Internet companies to counter radicalisation. Further to the work of the European Internet Forum, nowadays when somebody searches for Daesh they will find not only propaganda, but also the counter narrative. 
 
In closing, both Mettler and Heath agreed that history before the Internet shows the fragility of democracy, and tech companies must take responsibility.

Author

Elena Perotti's picture

Elena Perotti

Date

2016-11-10 11:03

Author information

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