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Art by Mike Sullivan

Democracy Deserves Better Algorithms

By  |  June 2, 2022 9:00 AM PDT
Photo: Art by Mike Sullivan

Once again, Americans are approaching a nationwide election cycle, and with it the threat of election misinformation and disinformation spreading via social media.

This is not the first time we’ve been here. In many ways, we’re still living with the mistakes of the last election—most especially social media’s role in amplifying the “big lie.” Nearly a year after insurgents inflamed by false claims of voter fraud invaded the U.S. Capitol, more than half of Americans still had doubts about the election’s validity. Beyond pledging to make more detailed data on political ads available in its existing ad-tracking database, Facebook has yet to issue any official guidance related to this year’s elections; meanwhile, the primaries are already well underway. Seven states vote next week, including California.

To say that social media has a major influence on our collective national narrative is a vast understatement. Almost half of Americans say they get their news from social media, which is why I’ve dedicated my career to making sure that the good, factual and human-centered information can crowd out the bad online. Before founding the civic news network Courier Newsroom, I was a political and voter mobilization strategist who ran the largest digital advertising program to help defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

So while I will be the first to admit there is no panacea to the misinformation crisis, big tech could deploy any number of readily available solutions that would have an immediate effect on slowing the spread of disinformation. The most promising one may be the simplest: Fix the damn algorithms.

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