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Facebook News as a “Game of Telephone” on Steroids or What is the Civic Responsibility of a Dominant Social Media Platform?

Friday, November 18, 2016 9:47
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This blog post will pick up on my post from yesterday.  I have now read Matthew Yglesias’ recent Vox piece and his case study of Pepsi and Trump.  Recall the game of Telephone. One person whispers a message to the next person in the chain who then whispers it to the next member of the chain. There is a last member of the chain who reveals the message. The message has mutated into something else and everyone laughs as the first message is compared to the original message.  In this “innocent game”, there isn’t much strategic behavior unless a person wants to trick the end of the chain into saying something dirty.

Contrast this game with Facebook in which the Zuck amplifies any one message.  Individual policy entrepreneurs have their own agenda and use a selected subset of links to make the case for their point.

The Zuck faces a fundamental tradeoff.  He wants people to spend 24 hours a day on Facebook and he wants to make the world a better place.  Are both goals mutually compatible?     Will diverse interests “converge” to the truth if they have the freedom to choose what they read and what they share and what they comment on?  

If FB wants to make the world “a better place”,  should it pay conservatives to read liberal articles and vice-versa?

Should FB introduce some randomness such that people are exposed to a variety of news but then are free to ignore them?

While FB will continue to be “free”, should it force all of its users to sample some news from a diverse set of perspectives?   What is FB’s civic responsibility?


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