It must be a call to action to rebuild and reimagine the fourth estate. It’s the only way to save our democracy and restore humanity in America.
This morning, I woke up feeling angry and heavy hearted like many people after watching the domestic terrorism that was on full display at the Capitol yesterday. We witnessed Trump being broadcast across our country and around the world inciting the same divisive rhetoric and perpetuating lies that we’ve seen since the moment he came down that escalator. Some people seem stunned as to how we got here, or frankly don’t care or just numb, because they have profited from the chaos of his presidency and blind to the blatant abuse of power.
The rise of Trump happened with the amplification from platforms and the media not holding him accountable. There is no Trump without the oxygen that platforms and the media afforded him. Period. The use of ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘both sides’ journalism has been misused to the point people don’t know fact from fiction and feel justified for their vile actions driven from fear.
Freedom of speech cannot be conflated with freedom of reach, and opinions being taken as truths. If we don’t hold our elected officials and people accountable for the words that they speak and their actions, we are signaling that we do not care about the rule of law. We know there are two systems of justice in America, which has been made even more apparent with the treatment of the domestic terrorists on the Capitol yesterday versus Black Lives Matter protestors, alongside so many other injustices in 2020 and years past. But what is our plan to protect our democracy from having despots like Trump being elected ever again?
“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press.” — Thomas Jefferson
The fourth estate — the press and news media — is charged with the duty of protecting our democracy by enabling an informed public. Platforms are how people stay informed, which makes them part of the fourth estate just as much as journalists and media outlets. Our democracy cannot survive if we don’t get serious about platform regulation and accountability of the media. We need to rebuild and reimagine the fourth estate so that it can fulfill its constitutional duty to the American people.
We need to invest and build better solutions that connect us to verified information that reaches people across our country and globally. We can’t keep living in a world where everyone has their own set of ‘facts,’ while only listening and engaging with people in their social graph. America is supposed to be the most innovative and resourceful country in the world. If we can build the biggest tech platforms that reach every continent, we can build platforms that can reach Americans to keep them connected and informed with the truth.
We have to think deeper about how we connect with people across communities and culturally, build trust — *read: stop treating people like users you’re trying to bait* — and truly serve them. We have to find ways to stay engaged without being enraged all the time. The current platforms have gotten us to where we are now and will not be the solution to get us out. We need to get serious about what is next — NOW.
One thing is clear, what’s happening in our country is bigger than Trump. Democracy will continue to be in crisis if we do not prioritize verification of information and move away from the ‘enrage economy.’ We can’t keep adding new features onto the faulty foundations of the current platforms. It’s time to build new.
The tech and media industries need a reckoning, not because they need to be punished. We need to evolve and start truly solving the problems we face before the divide gets wider. This should be a call to the tech and media industry to serve our country and to find solutions, because America’s great democracy won’t survive unless we do something about it now.