A Fairness Doctrine for the Twenty-First Century

Areo (2021)
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Abstract

Michael Goldhaber, who popularized the term the attention economy, said of the US Capitol insurrection: “It felt like an expression of a world in which everyone is desperately seeking their own audience and fracturing reality in the process. I only see that accelerating.” If we don’t do something about this, American democracy may not survive. For when there is no longer any common ground of evidence and reason, history shows that misinformation will eventually overwhelm public discourse and authoritarianism can take over. That is precisely what dictators across the world gleefully anticipate will happen in the US. The Biden administration could combat this by establishing a digital fairness doctrine for the twenty-first century. This would not mean setting up a government agency as the arbiter of truth. The purpose of such a doctrine is simply to preserve the possibility of a functioning national discourse on critical issues of public interest. It would not run afoul of First Amendment free speech guarantees, given that it would do nothing to block speech itself. In fact, it would expand and enrich national conversations, by preventing echo chambers prone to systematic bias.

Author's Profile

Julian Friedland
Metropolitan State University of Denver

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