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Did technology kill the truth?


Checking Facebook on one's smartphone.

The curation of social media platforms is not for veracity, but for advertising velocity.

Credit: Brookings

We carry in our pockets and purses the greatest democratizing tool ever developed. Never before has civilization possessed such an instrument of free expression.

Yet, that unparalleled technology has also become a tool to undermine truth and trust. The glue that holds institutions and governments together has been thinned and weakened by the unrestrained capabilities of technology exploited for commercial gain. The result has been to de-democratize the internet.

We have seen this new reality gnaw at our political processes. The agents that formerly curated fact-based debates have been cast off in favor of algorithms whose first loyalty is not veracity.

We exist in a time when technological capabilities and economic incentives have combined to attack truth and weaken trust. It is not an act of pre-planned perdition. Unchecked, however, it will have the same effect.

Thus far, our response has been to address this 21st-century challenge in 20th-century terms and propose 19th-century solutions. We need to do better. We must determine how to harness the new technology to protect against the very problems it has created.

I believe such technology-based solutions are possible, and I will address one idea that has particular promise. But first, we should begin with some perspective.

 

From Brookings
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