Maria Ressa urged U.S. voters to think about the kind of information ecosystem they want to live in when they vote in the Nov. 3 presidential election, in a TIME100 Talks discussion with Prince Harry and Renée DiResta.
Ressa, founder of Filipino news site Rappler, which is critical of President Roderigo Duterte, is currently facing six years in jail in the Philippines after a court found her guilty of “cyberlibel” in June. In 2018, she was one of four journalists and one news organization named as TIME’s Person of the Year.
“Every American going into elections, you can’t just think voting is enough,” Ressa told Harry, who was co-hosting the event for TIME. “You’re going to have to sit and ask yourself the same question I ask myself, which is: what will you sacrifice for the truth?”
In the 25-minute conversation, Harry, Ressa and DiResta, the research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, discussed how social media platforms have allowed for the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories while increasing the pressure on professional journalists to cater to an attention economy that often sacrifices nuance for sensationalism.
Ressa and DiResta agreed that the rise of algorithms geared toward increasing “engagement” on social media sites have led to the collapse of shared realities within democracies. “What we see are the things that are curated for us,” DiResta said. “The feed … is algorithmically ranking hierarchically what we are most likely to be receptive to, or want to pay attention to.” The result, Ressa said, is an erosion of democracy. “When you have a democracy, and an algorithm that is meant to exploit your weaknesses to keep you on the platform, when that is what determines the context of the messages that give meaning to your world, you’re really reduced to meaninglessness,” Ressa said. “The designs of the platforms themselves actually encourage ‘us’ against ‘them.’”
Prince Harry, who has been critical of the tabloid press for what he has called “relentless propaganda” targeting his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, agreed, shifting the conversation toward how social media platforms have put new pressures on the news media. “On social media, I don’t know how many characters you’re allowed on most of these things, but of course it’s going to anger people, of course it’s going to cause divisiveness because what should be a story of context … gets shrunk down into …read more
Source:: Time – Technology