Technology & Media: Can Democracy Survive?


Kalev Hannes Leetaru explores how the intersection of technology, traditional journalism, and social media are changing the foundations of modern society in ways that both strengthen and threaten the foundations of democracy.

These ways include: the increasingly blurred lines between mainstream and social media, professional and citizen journalists; the erosion of free speech as the public square is privatized by social media companies, while the vibrant free exchange of ideas that empowers democracy is replaced by an ever-narrowing concept of “acceptable speech” as defined by Silicon Valley; the centralization and coastal urbanization of both mainstream and social media and the resulting consolidation of narratives and loss of diverse local perspectives; the entrenchment of unaccountable fact-checkers with power to determine what is regarded as true and what is prohibited as falsehood; the rise of “stealth editing,” allowing news outlets to banish their mistakes to the digital memory hole; and the accelerating impact of AI on content moderation.

Most of us understand that these trends are changing our societal landscape, yet we understand too little about their transformative impact on democratic societies.

RealClearPublicAffairs’ Technology & Media: Can Democracy Survive is designed to explore these fundamental questions through critical assessments and pioneering new forms of data journalism that rely on hard numbers and deep analysis rather than anecdotes and opinion pieces. Powerful data-driven visualizations for a visual-oriented modern world are coupled with cutting-edge data analyses to sift out the often-counterintuitive reality of today’s technology and media landscapes and offer clues as to where we are heading.

Four key themes drive this discussion:

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