Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


'Big Brother' is Stepping in on Social Media

By Rob Tenery, MD on March 6, 2018

Several weeks ago, there was a notification that Facebook, because it owns all material posted on it, was now editing content they (whoever they are at Facebook) deemed did not meet certain standards. Even though one can question intrusion into our First Amendment rights, and since that material could have a negative impact on certain populations, such as children and terrorist activities, this ‘cleaning-up the Internet’ seems appropriate. The question is how far should those individuals that control the social media sites interfere with ‘free discourse’.

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use the Facebook site, and half of those users get news there — amounting to 30% of the general population. YouTube is the next biggest social news pathway — about half of Americans use the site, and a fifth of them get news there, which translates to 10% of the adult population. Twitter reaches 16% of Americans and half of those users say they get news there, or 8% of Americans. Although only 3%, of the U.S. population, use Reddit, for those that do, getting news there is a major draw--- 62% have gotten news from the site.

“I believe 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products,” The New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said on CNBC’s Power Lunch.  He continued by hoping to have the print edition "survive and thrive as long as it can," but admitted it will eventually expire.

Significant social changes, such as a push toward globalism, the breakdown of the traditional family model and the waning importance of conventional religion are altering the very fabric of this country.  

Thus, this revelation of ‘editing’ how we interface in order to formulate our own opinions should give us reason to raise questions in the areas that seem most critical to the future of this country.

So far, I haven’t noticed any changes, but how do we know what we don’t know? It could be just my own growing lack of trust in the system, but feel concern when social media sites begin to act as our ‘big brother’ as we communicate amongst ourselves. Dialogue gives perspective and often leads to a better understanding. Otherwise opinions are one-sided and go unanswered.

Four areas that will determine the direction this country takes are often ‘reported’, leaving interfacing to the social media sites. If edited by a third party, dialogue could become constrained. These are in no particular order of importance, but need to remain in our conversations.

The first is the national debt. The debt has now crossed $20 trillion with well over $100 trillion in future commitments. With Washington all aglow due to the recent compromise reached between the Republicans and the Democrats, the sequester seems to have gone by the wayside for now. It is possible with new monies infused into businesses with the new tax law, there could be an offset to some of this increased spending on the military and the infrastructure. But, at sometime there will be a day of reckoning! Two or both things will happen--- future entitlement commitments will not be met and there will be an abrupt devaluation of the dollar. Right now, only the out-spoken Senator Rand Paul seems to be voicing his concern, but soon he will not be alone.

The second is immigration. Not necessarily the immigrants who are already citizens, but those who are here under another status or illegally. This has many facets that affect every phase of how this country moves in the years ahead. Trump was elected on his promises to fix the immigration problems, but the Democrats who seem to have lost much of their middle-America base and the Republicans who still want cheap labor to fill the positions in their now growing companies are fighting or not throwing their full support behind many of Trump’s proposals. The concerns are the wall at the southern border, security at the border, unaccompanied minors, assimilation, birthright citizenship, gangs, terrorism, drug trafficking, added stress on the entitlement programs, the lottery program, chain-migration, DACA, pathway to citizenship, green card renewal, job competition, penalties for deportees who return, sanctuary cities cites and now a state that violates federal laws, and influence in representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College by those that are illegal.

Health care is also one of the top priorities. The question that this country continues to wrestle with is health care a right or a privilege. The answer is both! A basic level of heath care services is a right. With the advances in therapies and diagnostics having surpassed the availability to offer all these advances to everyone, universal access is no longer possible or affordable. In reality, the same problem is universal and addressed by allocation, or lack of, to certain populations. Organ donation and dialysis are two common examples.

With this most recent campaign for the presidency, the ability to interfere in the electoral process by both outside  (Russians) and from within, has become much more problematic. Other than Watergate, but on a much larger scale, in this last election there are charges of collusion with the Russians and growing evidence that the DNC and the Clinton campaign may have attempted to change the results of the Democratic primary as well as the election itself by involving the leadership of the Justice Department and the FBI. The two sides must be heard through the courts to insure that the truth comes to light and the guilty parties prosecuted.  

Social media and review of the Internet give opportunities for individuals to interact, explore and decide for themselves, but only if they undertake that search and not just fallback into their ‘safe zones’. Since social media is being monitored and may now be edited, those options are limited, but not gone… yet!





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