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The Ruin of the Digital Town Square 

Across the political spectrum, a consensus has arisen that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other digital platforms are laying ruin to public discourse. They trade on snarkiness, trolling, outrage, and conspiracy theories, and encourage tribalism, information bubbles, and social discord. How did we get here, and how can we get out? The essays in this symposium seek answers to the crisis of “digital discourse” beyond privacy policies, corporate exposés, and smarter algorithms.

The Inescapable Town Square

L. M. Sacasas on how social media combines the worst parts of past eras of communication

Preserving Real-Life Childhood

Naomi Schaefer Riley on why decency online requires raising kids who know life offline

How Not to Regulate Social Media

Shoshana Weissmann on proposed privacy and bot laws that would do more harm than good

The Four Facebooks

Nolen Gertz on misinformation, manipulation, dependency, and distraction

Do You Know Who Your ‘Friends’ Are?

Ashley May on why treating others well online requires defining our relationships

The Distance Between Us

Micah Meadowcroft on why we act badly when we don’t speak face-to-face

The Emergent Order of Twitter

Andy Smarick on why the platform should be fixed from the bottom up, not the top down

Imagine All the People

James Poulos on how the fantasies of the TV era created the disaster of social media

Making Friends of Trolls

Caitrin Keiper on finding familiar faces behind the black mirror