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09 Feb 0 Comment

Education Closes the Gap that Legislation Leaves Open


Written by Joe Phelps

There’s a lot of talk about legislating more governmental control of the major social media platforms. While there is room for legislation to hold digital services (such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram) responsible for some mis- dis- and mal-information that’s published on their platforms, it may encroach on freedom of expression. So, regulating content becomes a challenging tightrope walk. Another obstacle is that platforms may deny their responsibility for content moderation because, for example, land lines and satellite signal providers state that they are simply providing delivery systems for bandwidth and programming for their customers to communicate with each other.

Legislation does have its place – but, in many ways it would only be a band-aid. Not a cure.  As you probably agree, the root of most problems is ignorance and/or poor communications.

In addition to teaching media literacy (citizens knowing how to properly source, consume and share information), another partial cure would be to emphasize ethics, such as integrity, even more heavily in journalism courses. Currently, some publishers distribute stories with little regard to their accuracy. For them, articles are simply a vehicle to attract audiences for advertisers. Proper education will influence journalistic integrity by decreasing demand for dishonest, biased and under researched storytelling. Let’s not simply condemn the “media”.  There are plenty of reliable news sources taking the high road. For example: Most major metro newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, PBS, CBS news and Politico to name a few.

While digital communications have brought many benefits and solved many problems. However, in turn, they’ve brought new problems that we’re working through now. How to minimize misleading articles are only one. Another major problem is user privacy.

An interesting read on privacy is  “Tim Cook May Have Just Ended Facebook” – a speech from Apple CEO published by Inc. Magazine.  I found it to be very enlightening in terms of explaining why Apple and Facebook may be on a collision course.

Akin to Apple’s philosophy of protecting their users’ privacy, the list of companies “doing good to do well” is endless. Here are just a few:

— Ray Dalio, Chairman of Bridgewater Associates (largest hedge fund in the world)….is sharing what he’s learned about ethics in business by giving his books away for free, in which he teaches principles for how to pursue meaningful work and relationships.

— Google has been funding Politico along with Poynter’s media literacy efforts.

— Many of America’s major metro newspapers still strive for objectivity in media by producing much of their own content and presenting it in a fair and balanced way.

— While cable news is polarized to varying degrees, the newsrooms in America’s three major TV networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) still strive to deliver the empirical truth.

The net of my message here is that there is a place for some legislation to temper the volume of mis-information.  But the primary cure will come from each of us being media savvy as a result of our media literacy education. Take a media literacy quiz at aclib.us then visit mediasmarts.ca and namle.net to learn how to become more media literate.

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