Andrey (azangru) wrote,

Time and time again I see/hear arguments about social media (primarily Facebook) that go something like this. Facebook should be somehow regulated/supervised/curated in order to prevent its algorithms from showing inflammatory political ads (I am not entirely sure what they are, I haven’t seen any) to people who are likely to be receptive to them. Otherwise, the argument goes, true democracy will be impossible.

Latest example: a talk by Charles Stross, a sci-fi writer, at some event in Germany:
(at around 30-minutes mark)

I guess I understand a part of the argument (if people can be manipulated, it seems reasonable to demand that manipulators be prevented from reaching them), but I fail to understand the other part. Suppose you remove political ads from Facebook — doesn’t this leave those simple, gullible people to be manipulated by other media (TV, newspapers, etc.)? Is there any guarantee that stuff coming from TV screens isn’t "propaganda"? If people can be so easily manipulated via Facebook ads, doesn’t that mean that they are easily manipulated in general, and that that ideal of democracy where people make informed responsible decisions is fundamentally unreachable?

It always seems to me that people who are making this kind of arguments do not object against propaganda in general, but only against the "bad propaganda", while being comfortable with the good one.

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