Ardern wants social media giants to take responsibility

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Harvard University on May 26, 2022 (Harvard Photo)

Boston, May 27, 2022
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After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked whether the United States would be a monarchy or a republic.

“A Republic, if you can keep it,” was his reply.

Two centuries later, at the launch of Harvard in 1989, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto echoed Franklin’s warning: “We must realize that democracy…can be fragile.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered a similar reminder at the Beginning on Thursday, May 26, 2022, updating the theme for our time. When fact and fiction have become a matter of opinion and the trust that underpins democracies erodes, blind faith in the resilience of democratic governance is short-sighted, she said.

Blind faith and myopia

“It ignores the fact that the foundation of a strong democracy includes trust in institutions, experts and government — and that can be built over decades but destroyed in just a few years,” Ardern said.

“He ignores what happens when, no matter how long your democracy experiments, facts are turned into fiction and fiction into reality. … It ignores the reality of what we now face every day.

Ardern blamed some of the misinformation on social media platforms, the companies that run them, and the algorithms that create echo chambers across the internet.

“I’m not here to argue that social media is good or bad,” she said.

“It’s a tool. And as with everything, it’s the rules of the game and how we engage in them that count. It means acknowledging the role they play in constantly curating and shaping the online environments we find ourselves in – that algorithmic processes make choices and decisions for us, what we see and where we are directed. , and that at best it means the user experience is personalized and at worst it means it can be radicalized.

Graduates at Harvard University Beginning May 126, 2022 (Harvard Photo by Rose Lincoln)

Online radicalization

Ardern noted the 2019 killing of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shootings were broadcast live on social media. Investigators found the killer had become radicalized online.

“Now is the time for social media companies and other online providers to recognize their power and act accordingly,” said Ardern, whose government has passed restrictions on semi-automatic firearms and magazines. of great capacity after the murders.

Ardern stressed that individuals also bear responsibility. How we use technology is an individual decision, she said, as is how we interact with those we disagree with.

Source: The Harvard Gazette

Our staff reporter adds:

Ardern mentioned the following:

Democracy can be fragile.

This imperfect but valuable way in which we organize ourselves, which was created to give an equal voice to the weak and the strong, which is designed to help move consensus forward, it is fragile.

For years, it’s as if we’ve assumed that the fragility of democracy is determined by duration. That somehow the strength of your democracy was like a marriage – the longer you were there, the more likely it was to last.

But it takes so much for granted.

It ignores the fact that the foundation of a strong democracy includes trust in institutions, experts and government – ​​and that this can be built over decades but destroyed in just a few years.

It ignores that strong democracy relies on debate and dialogue and that even older regimes can seek to control these forums, and younger ones can seek to liberate them.

He ignores what happens when, however long your democracy is put to the test – when facts turn into fiction and fiction turns into reality, you stop debating ideas and you start debating of the plot.

It ignores the reality of what we now face every day.

Where I come from, we have a parliamentary representative democracy. Without giving you a litany of fun facts about New Zealand that you probably won’t need again – here’s the abridged version.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s full speech appears here.


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