Skip to content

Yochai Benkler, Follow the Money, Back to Front, in Social Media, Freedom of Speech, and the Future of our Democracy 255 (Lee C. Bollinger & Geoffrey R. Stone, eds., 2022).

Abstract: Hate speech, disinformation, and polarization are underwritten by deeply rooted media market dynamics involving the profitability of stoking anger and providing easy, identity-confirming outrage. Solutions therefore must focus on changing the payoffs to selling outrage and hatred. This essay offers two approaches that aim to make the outrage industry internalize the externalities of its business model. The first is a reconsideration of defamation laws. The second is the creation of a regulatory framework mandating transparency from companies that profit from advertisements in outrage media content. There would be a publicly curated database that makes transparent which companies have advertising associated with hateful content. Civic organizations and citizens would be encouraged to apply economic and social pressure on corporations to divest from this type of content. The essay discusses the benefits and drawbacks of these approaches, offering them as potential short-term solutions to a problem that will require long-term intervention.