Based on Pew Research’s findings social media users are increasingly getting their news from their preferred social media sites and, considering that for most social media sites more of their users get their news from the sites than from cable news, broadcast news, or newspapers, it’s a reasonable inference that quite some number of people get their news from social media alone.
The use of social media by Russia, China, and anyone else so predisposed for publishing disinformation and “fake news” is now well-documented and should give us pause. But not only that. The sites’ censorship rules themselves, removing anything that their censors find offensive, is doubly concerning. Consider this story from the New York Times:
For a few hours after The New York Times published an article about conflict and hunger in Yemen, Facebook temporarily removed posts from readers who had tried to share the report on the social platform.
At issue was a photograph of a starving child.
The article included several images of emaciated children. Some were crying. Some were listless. One, a 7-year-old girl named Amal, was shown gazing to the side, with flesh so paper-thin that her collarbone and rib cage were plainly visible. Tens of thousands of readers shared the article on Facebook, but some got a message notifying them that the post was not in line with Facebook’s community standards.
Whether Facebook and other social media sites recognize it or not they’re deliberately slanting the news and considering how much their stock values depend on what people think of them, that should be of significant concern.