The media is facing huge challenges right now. Not only is the economic future of print media in danger but also are large and established media houses being accused of lying, even by Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America. Some even say he only won because of Twitter, other social media platforms and online media in general. But does the technological revolution change the basic rules of media for the good or the bad? Here are my thoughts on the topic.
First of all, yes, we have a problem with fake news. When hundreds of people believe Hillary Clinton is running a human trafficking ring in a pizzeria because of an article that was distributed on Facebook, the main and probably exclusive media source of many Americans, we have to acknowledge that there is at least some problem with ‘alternative facts’ on the Internet. They just seem to have more ground than they had before.
Secondly, people who consume media online are constantly tracked. You probably know all the little ad banners and like-buttons on many websites. Well, those are shown by large companies like Google or Facebook and if you visit a site with those, they know you did. In fact, they often know any site you visited on the Internet because of so-called Cookies, small programs that are saved on your computer by websites to save login data or track you. That means that many companies know what you read, see or listen to, when you do it and where you are when you do it, e.g. at work, at home or in a bar. This is an invasion of privacy and directly leads to my final problem with the technological revolution of media.
Through user-tracking, Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter know exactly what your political beliefs are and since they make more money when you keep scrolling and reading for a longer period of time they only show you the stuff you want to see and that is already your opinion. That way it seems to you like the majority is on your site and you get disconnected to the real world. Thus it is hard to lead calm and productive debates nowadays, which is an important point of democracy. Everybody thinks his solutions are the best and nobody wants to make compromises anymore.
However, there are two sides to this question, so let’s take a look on the positive side.
First of all, I want to start with arguing against my last negative argument, the filter bubble problem. It’s true, it is a problem. But I think this is not a problem of the Internet itself but of the services many people use. There are alternatives to sites that track you and personalize your feeds with algorithms. Take duckduckgo for an example, a search engine that doesn’t track you. Or piqd, a media website where your feed consists of articles recommended by experts and not an algorithm tailored to your world view.
What’s also good about the technological revolution in the media world is that news arrive at the people a lot faster and about every topic is covered. It is very easy to follow important events all over the world, not matter how small they are, nowadays, often even live. 20 years ago, you could watch TV live streams of certain events or you had to wait until the newspaper was published the other day. And when some journalist had the idea to write about it, you probably wouldn’t even find the article.
Thirdly, media nowadays is not only a one-way ticket. Our parents had to read the news and if they didn’t like what was written there or felt like a topic isn’t covered enough they couldn’t do a lot about it. Nowadays anyone can participate in media. You can set up a blog for free, upload videos or audios and have a discussion in the comment section. As a consequence, the new participatory media could lead to less disenchantment with politics.
Finally, the Internet allows much more people to have access to a sheer endless amount of news, knowledge and information and often for free or very cheap. This is great because citizens now have the opportunity to educate themselves about almost anything no matter how rich or poor they are. This is important for everyone who is fighting for a more classless society.
To put the whole matter in a nutshell, there are pros and cons to the technological revolution and how it changes the media landscape, but to my mind, the pros clearly outweigh the cons. Sure, privacy concerns and the debate around fake news is important, but I think with a lot of work those things can be handled and the benefits are clearly worth it. One thing I worry about in the future is net neutrality. Because if we lose net neutrality all the good things about digital media are gone. No new and better services, that are working against fake news and privacy problems will have a chance against Facebook, no bloggers will be able to spread their content and over expensive services that have a de facto monopoly could be the only thing we find on the Internet. So, in my opinion, we have to fight for strong net neutrality laws in order to make the technological revolution of media a successful revolution for the people and not for big business.
PS: I had school vacation (is that right? to have vacation?) last week, sorry I didn’t post anything :(. Well, I am back with this argumentative essay I wrote today in preparation for a test tomorrow and I quite liked how it turned out, so I thought I’d post it here! I hope you liked it! What is your opinion on the technological revolution and how it affects the media? Let’s discuss in the comments! 🙂