A new era of alternate sources of news and information have, as a consequence, led to an endless supply of “alternate facts”. The distinction between what is objectively true and that which is targeted messaging (aka propaganda) is not easily discernible. In a highly polarized culture that is also undergoing rapid socio-economic change, this can have devastating consequences in a democracy. When applied to the United States, the results have become clear: an electorate that is sharply split, filled with rancor and animus for “the other side”, clinging to a partisan agenda and, much worse, populist personalities who are more like “social media influencers” than they are credible politicians and statesmen.
The simulation takes place in the context of the current political and cultural climate and considers the role of social media companies in the spread of disinformation by private and public, domestic and foreign, state and non-state actors.
To help understand these issues and address the questions raised, you will participate in a simulation that places you in the role of one of the critical stakeholders: member of a Congressional (House) subcommittee, public interest group, technology executive, and the media.
Through role-playing and competitive gamification, we will explore the extent to which social media companies — the biggest and most impactful being Facebook — are responsible for the current state of affairs, and given that Facebook’s principle motivation is the pursuit of profit, whether it can be trusted to help control what it has wrought, or whether some form of federal regulation is necessary before any further damage is done.