The longest-running show in television history, NBC’s “Meet the Press”, begins the new year with a bipartisan, fair and balanced, yet revealing special report on the negative aspects of Social Media in America today. Below, without editorial comment until the end, is a list of summary statistics and insider quotes from that broadcast.
Pew Research Statists from Meet the Press
- 64% of Americans believe Social Media has been bad for Democracy, while the worldwide median average is 35%.
- 85% of Americans believe Social Media makes it easier to manipulate people with misinformation.
- 79% of Americans believe Social Media has made this country more politically divided vs. the worldwide average of 65%.
- Use of at least one Social Media platform among U.S. adults – 5% in 2005 has risen to 72% by 2022.
- 69% of Americans believe Social Media has made us less civil, as compared to only 46% worldwide.
- Only 64% of Americans believe Social Media makes one more informed, as compared to a worldwide average of 73%.
- In 2012, 50% of Americans were using some form of Social Media as compared to 72% today. By age group, 84% (18-29), 81% (30-49), 60% (50+).
- 82% of Americans are on YouTube, 70% on Facebook, 47% on Instagram, 30% on TikTok, 27% on Snapchat, and 27% on Twitter.
- Worldwide, 2.9 billion are on Facebook, 2.6 billion on YouTube, 2 billion on Instagram, 1 billion on TikTok, 319 million on Snapchat, and 211 million on Twitter.
- Social Networking sites in the US brought in $72.2 billion in advertising revenue in 2022.
Qualitative Information from the Meet the Press report
- Facebook was used by Myanmar’s Military campaign as a tool for genocide according to the New York Times.
- Chuck Todd – “Social Media companies are profiting off of America’s anger online. Starting in 2017, Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated angry image reactions as 5 times more valuable than likes. Why, well because anger generates clicks and clicks generate profit.”
- Tristan Harris, Center for Humane Technology – “The better you are at innovating a new way to be divisive, we will pay you in more likes, followers, and retweets…. Has partisanship in radio and television preexisted Social Media, yes. Have we ever wired up the most powerful artificial intelligence in the world, pointed it at your brain stem, to show you the most enraging content on a daily basis, and the longer you scroll, the more you get? We have never done that before.”
- Peter Zatko, Twitter Whistleblower – “I am reminded of one conversation with an executive when I said, ‘I am confident that we have a foreign agent’ and their response was ‘Well since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more, let’s keep growing the office’.”
- Brian Boland, former Facebook VP – “Rather than address the serious issues raised by its own research, Meta leadership chooses growing the company over keeping people safe.”
- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO 3/21 – “The reality is that our country is deeply divided right now and that isn’t something tech companies alone can fix.”
- Evan Spiegel – Snapchat CEO 9/22 – “… and more importantly to build a strategy that does not rely on government intervention for our success.”
- Elon Musk 4/22 – “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town’s square and so it is really important that people have, both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”
- Chuck Todd – “So, we invited Meta, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, and TikTok onto this broadcast to defend their practices and simply have a conversation about the future of their platforms and what can be done here. All of them declined.”
- Frances Haugen, Facebook Whistleblower 10/21 – “During my time at Facebook I came to realize a devastating truth almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook… When we realized the harm that big tobacco caused, we took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seatbelts, the government took action. When we learned that opioids were taking lives, the government took action. I implore you to do the same here.”
- President Biden – To the question, “What is your message to platforms like Facebook?”, The President’s response was, “They are killing people.”
In 1996, Section 230 of Title 47 of the US Communication Decency Act states, – “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Chuck Todd – “The last real legislation on who is legally responsible for content on the internet (Section 230) was signed into law 27 years ago… In 1996, only a fifth of Americans had ever booted up the world wide web.”
Chuck Todd – Section 230… “Content providers cannot be held liable for content users post on their site and can’t be sued. The question is, the minute they use an algorithm, do they become a publisher? This law was written before the algorithms had taken hold.”
Chuck Todd – ‘There were more than 30 bills proposed by the last congress attempting to hold Social Media platforms accountable for content. None of them have passed.’
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota – “These companies have started dominating our thought processes…. They are a publisher.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R) Wisconsin – Social Media and particularly TikTok is “Digital Fentanyl… I think the comparison is apt… for one it is highly addictive and destructive and, for another, [TikTok] is controlled by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party].”
The War between Traditional and Social Media
It should be noted that Social Media has significantly undermined the profitability and credibility of traditional news sources, particularly from the major networks. So, presenting the destructive nature of Social Media serves the financial interests of NBC.
In my view, the information from this NBC Meet the Press special presents only one side of the growing popularity of Social Media. The reality, ignored by NBC and other outlets on both ends of the political spectrum, is that Americans no longer trust traditional news sources and are looking elsewhere for information. Reliance on individual bloggers is attractive because of the isolation of the country into factions and the inability to believe what is being reported as fact by conventional news sources, much less our politicians. The result has been the formation of grassroots conspiracy-based and typically polarizing extremes in the flow of information on the internet. Social Media is not only an algorithm-based opioid but is a place to hide outside the extremes of groupthink presented in traditional outlets, particularly television.
Social Media will likely continue to grow. However, content providers will be viewed more and more as publishers rather than non-liable platforms. The algorithms used to promote various agendas will eventually be exposed (currently under way on Twitter) and their demise (through exposure and legislation) will further add to the breadth of extreme and inaccurate information surfacing on Social Media.
Finally, what was never addressed in this NBC Social Media special, yet holds the greatest potential for abuse, are the new Artificial Intelligence content generators, many of which are nearly impossible to detect. The incorporation of these maturing devices where articles, indistinguishable from the labor of human research and content, can be generated in seconds, biased to the programmer’s preferences, and discriminated across Social Media platforms by the thousands. By merging that technology with the latest DeepFakes of AI-generated avatars that appear to be actual political or celebrity figures on video, one has the makings for a quantum leap in Social Media seduction.
A Biblical Christian View
This is the world we live in today and tomorrow. However, it does not need to be where our citizenship ultimately lies (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 10:9).
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.