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16 First Amend. L. Rev. 129 (2017-2018)
Ecosystem of Distrust

handle is hein.journals/falr16 and id is 146 raw text is: 


            Mark Verstraete & Derek E. Bambauer*


       The Internet has famously democratized the information
ecosystem. Online, everyone  is a pundit: each participant can
share news, analyze events, and opine. The analog  system, by
contrast, was one where  incumbent  intermediaries (frequently
licensed by governments)   performed  a powerful, centralized
gatekeeping  function that largely regulated the creation and
dissemination of news. Scholars have mostly welcomed  the rise
of the democratized, networked  Fourth Estate. We  argue that
this transformation is not at all an unalloyed good. Moreover, in
celebrating this technological revolution, commentators have
neglected the role of cultural factors that tend to magnify the
pernicious effects of a flattened information hierarchy.
       Distrust in social institutions has been on the rise since
the Watergate  crisis in the 1970s. While government has been
the most obvious target of falling confidence, media entities and
subject matter experts have also been increasingly the focus of
skepticism. The advent of the Internet has magnified this effect:
gatekeepers such as CBS  and the New  York  Times  are vilified
when  wrong and invisible when correct. Many eyes make media
errors shallow. Moreover,  traditional journalistic norms that
require forthright admission of mistakes help reinforce narratives
that portray the mainstream  media  as biased, incompetent,
and out of touch.
       The current phenomenon  labeled as fake news, and the
older trend of conspiracy theories, are outgrowths of both the
technological amplification of skeptical or nihilistic voices and
the postmodern  assault on information shibboleths. It is critical
to realize that the Internet's initial promise of disintermediation
was illusory: gatekeepers have not been eliminated, but merely
replaced. The   new  breed  of  intermediaries operates with
radically different financial incentives and professional norms
than their predecessors did. While  Facebook  moderates  and
removes  information on its ubiquitous platform for violations of
amorphous  community   standards, the company's goal is not the
production of truth, but rather the generation of increased traffic

* Privacy and Free Expression Fellow & Professor of Law, University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law. Thanks for helpful suggestions and discussion are
owed to Jane Bambauer, Brett Frischmann, Helen Norton, Dan Hunter, and Thinh
Nguyen. The authors welcome comments at <markverstraete@email.arizona.edu>
and <derekbambauer@email.arizona.edu>.

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