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ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN POLITICS

THE CRC

There is not a single person who wants interference with our local, state, or national elections. The reality of life is that foreign influence campaigns in politics occurred long before the 2016 presidential cycle. It probably will happen again to some degree. 

The impact from the influence campaign from Russian actors is highly exaggerated for political reasons. The campaign was poorly executed and there is no real proof that people changed their votes based on the clearly misleading information presented. 

The hysteria is leading policymakers to place undue responsibility on social media companies to regulate political advertisements as well as speech on their platforms. Conveniently, private firms do not have constitutional restrictions government deals with. 

Facebook and Twitter responded to social and political pressures in completely different manners. Facebook wants no part of suppressing free expression as it pushes back against criticism. On the other hand, Twitter decided to no longer accept paid political ads.

There is a general unfairness in attempting to make private firms shoulder the responsibility of policing speech. Government is essentially seeking a loophole to get around constitutional protections covering free expression. Censorship is not an appropriate response to fake news. 

Early efforts to filter content demonstrated a clear existence of political and ideological biases at the highest levels of social media companies. Any non-liberal non-Democratic voices were silenced by so called moderators, especially many legitimate conservative media members. 

The best defender against fake news is an educated, engaged, and informed society. While all should act in society’s best interest, there is always inaccurate or incomplete information out there. Not always purposeful but can still have the same impact. 

People who read a wide variety of legitimate news sources and stay abreast of issues can clearly identify and filter out fake news. The advertisements used in 2016 were clearly unconvincing and amateurish. Many were released well after primary contest ended in the impacted state. 

The real focus should be ensuring foreign governments cannot manipulate election results by altering vote counts or inappropriately accessing election data. States need to improve their systems and protocols around balloting. Paper ballots is an unnecessary regression. 

Foreign governments may always seek to influence. The United States too might continue influencing foreign elections. The key is to ensure the voters voices is truly reflected in the results. In 2016, the voice of the voters was heard.