Coup Attempt, Rise of Conspiracies Raise Questions of Who’s Responsible for Truth

Journalists Emily Bazelon and Karen Attiah discuss the role of Big Tech in the growing digital misinformation landscape.

Photo credit: Jake Neher/WDET

In the past four years, Big Tech has been one of the driving catalysts for America’s polarization. The line between free speech and outright lies are blurred, resulting in real world consequences as evidenced by the Capitol assault on January 6. The question now is who gets the blame? Technology companies for their perhaps unintentional but radicalizing algorithms, or the government for not regulating them in the first place? 

“Lies spread faster than truth online… so gradually tech titans have become more understanding of the view that their libertarian take on free speech was having damaging effects.” –Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine


Listen: Two journalists weigh in on how social media and Big Tech have changed free speech and who should be held accountable.


Guests:

Emily Bazelon, staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale Law School, and author of “Charged”. She recently wrote a piece in the New York Times Magazine titled, “Why Is Big Tech Policing Speech? Because The Government Isn’t.” Bazelon says because big tech companies are private, there isn’t free speech online in America. “Lies spread faster than truth online… so gradually tech titans have become more understanding of the view that their libertarian take on free speech was having damaging effects.”

Bazelon says she believes tech companies are essentially serving as publishers, without the same legal liability. “Big Tech is making a lot of editorial decisions… they don’t want to admit to being publishers for legal reasons but they’re realizing they have to take more responsibility… and they’re making all these rules without any government guidance.” 

Karen Attiah is a writer and Global Opinions Editor for The Washington Post. She wrote an op-ed in the Post titled, “The media had a role to play in the rise of Trump. It’s time to hold ourselves accountable.” She believes de-platforming those who incited violence at the Capitol insurrection came four years too late. “Black and brown journalists were saying (Trump) was a candidate running on overt racism, and yet there was such pushback.” 

“We’re a sector committed to public service but we’re also an industry, and I think Trump was adept at using the media… becoming a spectacle,” says Attiah, who adds that she believes the media has a greater responsibility to the truth in a post-Trump world. 

Web story written by Nora Rhein.

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