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Regulating Speech in the New Public Square

Despite the ominous headlines, the influence of fake news on political decision-making appears to be limited. But that does not make digital deception any less dangerous; fake news feeds – and is fed by – polarization, and, paradoxically, the more it is discussed, the more disruptive it becomes.

FLORENCE – Today, debates about public issues play out on social media, people receive their news via digital platforms, and politicians pitch their policies using these same media. The Internet is our new public square. 

In the public square of old, journalists and editors served as gatekeepers and acted as referees. Human news aggregators set the agenda and provided audiences with credible information and a diversity of views. We trusted them because of the professionalism and integrity of their editorial processes.

In the new public sphere, this model of journalism – and of journalism’s role in sustaining democracy – has become obsolete. Traditional media no longer play a dominant gatekeeping and agenda-setting role. Fake news can reach multiple jurisdictions at once.

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