An article recently published in the American Journal of Political Science claims to have found proof that the internet is fuelling polarisation. The article uses data from 2004 to 2008 to show those with better internet access consume greater quantities of partisan media, and that greater exposure to biased news sources makes people more hostile to opposing political viewpoints.
Media ethics and algorithmic selection
Today, four in ten Americans get their news from Facebook, among other sources. News delivery via social media works on a business model that exploits the same need for self-validation that Haidt has identified.
To deal with the noise of the internet, Facebook has over time developed algorithms that can select and order information based on signals such as likes, reading time, shares and comments.
In June, Facebook announced it would promote content shared by friends and family. This means users are more likely to see news content from people in their networks than that offered directly by news outlets.
And, after word got out that humans curated the news classed as “trending”, Facebook recently said it would drop people from the process and move to “a more algorithmically-driven process”.
The problem with this is fake stories can get through, and those that trend can be of dubious provenance designed to attract clicks rather than inform.