Brilliant, danah (though I realize that’s redundant). I think your baby realized you had to write this, thus the wait to arrive. Seriously, thank you for writing this. As ever, you say what I can’t find the ways to say.
Yes, playing Whac-a-Mole with the bad stuff is a fool’s errand and dangerous for it sets precedents I fear and builds mechanisms that will be used by the bad guys, whoever they are.
I agree first that the most important thing to do is to concentrate on building new structures that enable people to meet strangers so they become less strange; to listen better; to understand if not empathize with others’ worldviews. Indeed, shouldn’t that be Facebook’s real goal as a product? Isn’t that what connecting people should really be about, Mark?
I wonder about two other fronts, both about the good stuff.
First, I’ve had lots of conversations in recent days not about making black lists but making white lists. Just as dangerous, I say. But what about collecting not just dark signals but light signals, signals of quality that we — users, citizens, platforms, advertisers, agencies — can use to help them surface that good stuff? This is obviously fraught with definitional war but shouldn’t that be the fight journalism fights anyway: trafficking in truth, including the uncomfortable variety?
Second, there are too many communities whose circumstances and worldviews are not reflected in media and journalism, which means they have no means to trust media, which means that media cannot inform their worldviews with intellectually honest discussions around truths, some uncomfortable. So do we need to make more journalism that focuses on the needs of more communities, including communities that today make folks like me uncomfortable? It seems obvious. (This is why we started a degree in Social Journalism at CUNY, though it is not designed to pick communities based on national impact.)
In any case, you have written the seminal piece on this fake news debate. I thank you for giving me something to send people to: Read this first.