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Freedom of the Press and Internet Filters

Summary:
Here are a few thoughts that were inspired by Richard Baldwin's tweet, Random Sunday Findings... “Freedom of the Press is guaranteed only to those who own one”. A.J. Liebling. It was naïve to think that the internet would change the balance in favor of a more balanced flow of ideas when social media filters the content ...

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Here are a few thoughts that were inspired by Richard Baldwin's tweet, Random Sunday Findings...

Freedom of the Press and Internet Filters

“Freedom of the Press is guaranteed only to those who own one”. A.J. Liebling. It was naïve to think that the internet would change the balance in favor of a more balanced flow of ideas when social media filters the content of our feed

Internet filters feed us ideas that reinforce our own existing biases. If you are on the left, try creating a new internet persona on the right and follow only right leaning feed. If you are on the right, try the opposite.

Justin Lahart points me to this page on the WSJ that lets you run your own experiment on facebook.

The problem of self-confirming biases existed before the advent of social media. In the UK some people read the Daily Mail, some read the Guardian. And it did not only apply to print media. Our perception of social reality was heavily influenced by a small number of TV stations.  In the UK in the 1960s there were two stations; the BBC and the ITV. In the US there were three Network News stations. 

For better or worse, before the internet, most of us shared our window on the external world. Internet filters are polarizing our views in a way that is destructive to social cohesion by feeding us very different self-reinforcing views of the external world.

Roger Farmer
ROGER E. A. FARMER is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at UCLA and served as Department Chair from July 2008 through December 2012. He was the Senior Houblon-Norman Fellow at the Bank of England, January-December 2013.

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