Moving past Facebook into tech reality
In March, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced new regulations on internet companies. Many journalists covered this news with skepticism. They countered that Zuckerberg might be angling for regulations favorable to Facebook or trying to offload Facebook’s own responsibilities onto regulators.
According to BuzzFeed News’s Craig Silverman, journalists covering Silicon Valley have increasingly embraced the role of “watchdog” rather than “mascot.” Here, journalists are in a position to provide a helpful nudge. To do so, they will need to help readers understand not only Big Tech’s problems, but also potential solutions to those problems.
The past few years have shown a mounting rage directed towards Big Tech. However, these past few months have seen an incipient momentum toward a vision for change. Journalists are starting to take seriously the prospect of transforming the tech industry.
Through investigation, accessible explanation, and vivid storytelling, journalists have brought critical social-technical issues to the forefront of public debate, from online disinformation campaigns to the discriminatory effects of algorithms. Additionally, today, digital platforms and tech companies govern important aspects of our social world. Journalists are starting to tell a different story.
Further, policymakers, advocacy groups, and public-interest technologists are all developing ways to address the structural issues. But, journalists themselves also need to “step-up.”
Solutions journalism is reporting that focuses on the responses to social problems that other reporting describes and defines. Solutions stories, when done right, are not puff pieces. A reporter beginning a story on a response to a problem need not know whether the response is working, and the story should include the limitations and risks of a response even if it appears to be generally effective.
Hopefully, tech journalists will develop the reflexes to ask not just whether “Zuck sucks”, but what else Facebook and social media and digital technology could be, and, who outside Silicon Valley might have compelling ideas and influence.