Columbia Journalism Review: “Given the seemingly never-ending litany of transgressions we find all around us on social-media platforms—whether it’s Facebook giving up data to Cambridge Analytica and being manipulated by Russian trolls, or Twitter’s complicity in racism and online harassment—it’s difficult to imagine a case being made that social media in general is anything but a looming danger to society and democracy. Despite this, however, Ethan Zuckerman—who runs the Center for Civic Media at MIT and teaches at MIT’s Media Lab—did his best to put together a list of the ways in which social media can or should help democracy and society, in a post he published Wednesday on his blog and at Medium. Whether his argument ultimately succeeds or not is hard to say, but it’s a worthwhile question. As Zuckerman puts it:
I’m interested in what social media should do for us as citizens in a democracy. We talk about social media as a digital public sphere, invoking Habermas and coffeehouses frequented by the bourgeoisie. Before we ask whether the internet succeeds as a public sphere, we ought to ask whether that’s actually what we want it to be.
Zuckerman uses as his template an essay that Columbia journalism professor (and CJR board member) Michael Schudson wrote as part of his 2008 book Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press, in which he argues that good journalism can accomplish a number of things that are worthwhile for society—including informing the public, investigating important issues, analyzing complex topics and serving as a tool for social empathy…” [h/t Pete Weiss]