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Op-ed

Is It Too Late To Scapegoat & Regulate Social Media?

Should we forgive those who run us through history if they seem out of touch with the political correctness of technology? 

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, who the BBC published a story on in early February, and whose claims that ‘social media is ruining politics,’ has opened the door to a new debate on how much of the political world we once knew has shape-shifted.

In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, a picture is painted of how out of touch the day-to-day salesman was with the changing society of the late 40s. This allegory similarly applies to the postmodern political age, where we are immune to misinformation, and under oath of political ideologies that limit actual political action, but reverberate rhetoric and clickbait debates.

There is a growing concern across the U.K. and U.S. in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that proved just how much social media can impact an election. Looking closer at the local and general elections through 2015-2017, especially the European referendum, Lucas highlights an interesting point that the nature of traditional politics has been shape-shifted, and is arguably out of touch. Though not all data is evil, there is nonetheless a growing divide between democratic freedom of speech, and genuine threat when it comes to the nature of politics and social media.

Ian Lucas explains the beginning of this shift in the political sphere due to the growing power of social media by stating, “the way of funding elections has changed beyond recognition. I think that the most profound issue when it comes to social media, is the private businesses that are a huge power in terms of delivering information which is not in any way verified or presided and can be even unknown by a candidate in an election – we don’t even know that this information is being conveyed and we also don’t know who it is being conveyed to.”

The thing with data is that it generates this infamous ideology of ‘fake news’ that gets infused into political dialogue time and time again. What it has done to politicians and elections doesn’t even compare to the damage that it has done to the public when it comes to being misinformed about politics.

Matt Coolidge, a founder of the company CIVIL, a new block-chain technology news corporation finds that, “the saddest thing, beyond the whole notion of declining public trust in the media, is the fact that you know there is a lot of data coming out now that people are just sick of it. It’s like they don’t care anymore to even pass fact from fiction, and that is where we are entering this terrifying Orwellian reality.”

So somewhere between an Orwellian reality and a play by Arthur Miller, we are stuck with this digital weapon called social media in politics, as we face the current battlefield.

As far as the turnouts of the Referendum being impacted if social media had been more regulated, he says, “A lot of people spend a lot of money using social media and the actors in the referendum form a different impact. We had Arron Banks describe to us by using the image in the committee which was a fire storm – you have the fire which is the original story and then the wind just blows it everywhere. That is the way he described the impact of social media. And that wasn’t understood by people like me, I am an apparent professional politician, and in 2016 I didn’t know the impact that that sort of campaigning was happening.”

“I think what it also did was it reached people who weren’t normally involved in politics, all hearing about political issues for the first time and the information they were being given was not accurate a lot of the time. They were suddenly engaged politically by social media. In the way that people like me hadn’t been able to be engaged before. And the impact was very large, and we had a big turnout, a lot of people voted in that election who hadn’t voted before, and it had a very important result.”

Marshall McLuhan, the Toronto professor and philosopher, who created key media theories once described history as nothing but rite words and rote timing. Social media has allowed these words and timings to become more powerful than ever before, and most importantly more accessible to each individual – inside or outside of politics.

“People are not getting their news through these standard broadcast medias, they are receiving it through unregulated unbalanced streams or platforms.”

Lucas continues, “in those circumstances, there is no space to have a discussion or political debate or have points of view that develop echo chambers that are reinforcing prejudices and spreading false allegations. That is building at a level of ignorance that is very damaging on the fundamentals of a democratic society. You have to hear from all different parties to have a legitimate debate, and that is the conventional way to do politics in the U.K., and all of that just went out of line during the last three elections.”

Though the regulation of social media may come as a threat to our democracy, the same democracy has conducted a society where social media has ironically left very little room for fundamental political debate or discussion. Leaving even less room for fundamental political action in the countdown to Brexit. So perhaps it’s not social media that needs to be regulated; for our democracy and politicians have become too much a part of a social media scapegoated system that it is now impossible to see beyond it.

Photo: CBC.ca

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Enthusiast of unwashed politics and all other impenetrable phenomenons, from Jupiter Florida.

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