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A simple solution for social media manipulation


WASHINGTON, DC (OSBORNE)  --  In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar (oh-MID-ee-ar) asserts that social media are threatening our democracy.

Omidyar writes in part "From foreign interference in our elections to targeted campaigns designed to confuse and divide on important issues, groups looking for an important way to infiltrate and influence our democracy have found generous hosts in the world of social media."

The tech billionaire paints a dark picture of political manipulation, hyper-partisanship, and hate speech, but a veteran mid-state journalist says the situation is far from hopeless and also believes simple solutions could make a big difference.

Dr. Larry Burriss teaches journalism at Middle Tennessee State University. He says a good start toward countering the negative effects of social media manipulation were applied years ago to another form of media: broadcast television and radio.

“Require any kind of political ad to be acknowledged as to who is providing the ad or who is providing the money.”

Burriss says requiring accurate information about the source of the ad will go a long way toward providing the American people with the information they need to judge the reliability of the message.

But Dr. Burriss says government regulation is only part of the solution. He says we all need to do our homework.

Credit MTSU
Dr. Larry Burriss

“At an extreme position both sides are lying to us and the intelligent consumer needs to understand that and be willing to take the time to check the other side.”

Burriss cautions that the intelligent consumer should be fact-checking every social media message, not just what is clearly political advertising.