The Dark Side of Democratization

No one can dispute the power that democratized publishing affords us. After all, anyone today can start a website and be heard by the world. And of course, WordPress has played a central role in all this.

But let’s face it, we have a problem on our hands. Over the past year now, misinformation on the internet seems to have reached a tipping point, not just in the United States, but all over the world. From the persistence of content designed to manipulate our emotions to the polarization of politics and the spread of extremism, all of these issues can be attributed in some way to the ease with which anyone can find a voice on the internet today.

This is the accompaniment page to my now-ongoing project. In it, I describe the problems democratization can create and discuss potential solutions. To paraphrase a well-known saying, “The price of democratization is eternal vigilance.”

Here’s the annotated slide deck from the talk:

And here’s the link to the video from the most recent iteration of this talk (I’m not sure what happened to the color on the slides)..

Here are the citations from the talk and related readings, grouped by topic:

Emotions and Virality

Shallow Browsing and the Brain

Misinformation and Why We Believe

The Backfire Effect

Changing Minds

Fighting Fake News

Tribalism and Polarization

Here are some other issues we may encounter on a democratized internet. These have been addressed more fully elsewhere, so I chose to skip them for my presentation:

The Vocal Minority

Harassment and Internet Trolls



Every time I get on the internet, I seem to find more stuff to add to this topic. As such, I’ve decided to turn this into an ongoing project. If the dark side of democratization fascinates (or terrifies) you, please check back every now and then for updates to this page!

And if you have any information or resources you’d like to contribute, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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