What is the greatest challenge prompted by social networking? Why?

Adriana Lamirande
6 min readApr 9, 2020

Originally written for Harvard Kennedy School’s Digital Platforms, Journalism & Information course, February 2020.

The advent of the internet and digital media have introduced a new paradigm composed of a richer stream of information that travels quickly across time and space, and where the role of traditional news media has been casually co-opted by major social media platforms. An accompanying lack of constraints on user-generated content and its potential for monetization through algorithmic distribution models have ignited a crucial debate around how to tackle flourishing disinformation and hate speech campaigns without infringing upon freedom of speech.

While online communication networks have positively expanded the court of public opinion and equipped us with myriad information sources to better understand our world, it has also perversely transformed a news landscape we used to trust. The key qualm we find with the “changing normal” is the absence of knowledge workers through which information was once processed before it reached audiences. Such a structural collapse has left a gaping hole that untrained and unsupervised online conspirators and extremist “citizen journalists” are all too ready to fill. A participatory movement defined mainly by racism, sexism and alt-right philosophies is seemingly satiating a wide swath of users alienated by the information ownership by coastal elites, and providing those seeking community in the face of social fragmentation their own version of a safe space. Fringe ideologues have started a firestorm in our hyper-partisan society, and catapulted tech companies, government regulators and civil society to consider this new reality, and ponder whether there is anything they can individually or collectively do about it.

YouTube presents one “polluted” news stream, where celebrity influencer-style authenticity and relatability is highly valuable, content is self-reinforced by shared values and commentary (never mind algorithmic recommendations), and social ties are strong. Should we and can we restrain this reactionary Pandora’s Box? Can we prove that YouTube’s business model is enabling similar algorithms of oppression that its parent company has been accused of building? While there are certainly implications for power…

Adriana Lamirande

A place to gather research papers, academic projects, op-ed columns and creative musings. Interests include internet policy, human rights & video art.