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The relationship between Facebook and polarization is in the spotlight. Frances Haugen, the whistleblower that took documents to the Wall Street Journal, Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission, appeared on CBS 60 Minutes Sunday night. “The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world,” she said.
Yet Facebook executives- such as Nick Clegg and Mark Zuckerberg- take pains to disavow the connection between social media and polarization, and in particular to extreme events such as the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
To take a step back from the whistleblower news cycle, I spoke to one academic researcher who has looked at the available evidence in great detail. After conducting an analysis of nearly 100 social science studies that look at the connections between media, social media and political polarization, researcher Emily Kubin has some things to say on the subject- she joins the Tech Policy Press podcast to describe her work.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.