When Social Media Use Becomes Dangerous

Aug 7, 2019

Last weekend a young man used an AK-47-style rifle to take 22 lives and injure many more outside a Walmart in El-Paso, Texas. Just before that attack, the shooter posted a racist manifesto to an online message board called 8chan, well known as a platform for divisive, racist and far-right rhetoric. 

In recent years, social media has become a primary source for news, with two-thirds of Americans citing it as one of their sources. At the same time, consuming news and information through social media has played a large role in the radicalization of extremists. Many users are suspicious the companies running these social media platforms have specific political biases and are using their recommendation algorithms to push consumers left or right. So much so that Congress has held multiple hearings on the subject.

How much of our news do we consume from social media feeds catered specifically toward reaffirming or radicalizing our own presupposed beliefs? And when do these social media platforms become dangerous to unsuspecting users? 

Joining Cincinnati Edition to discuss how much social media can influence our opinions and its role in radicalizing individuals are Head of the Journalism Department at the University of Cincinnati McMicken College of Arts and Sciences and UC Associate Professor Jeffery Blevins, Ph.D. (@JeffBlevinsPhD); and Xavier University Assistant Professor of Communications Leslie Rasmussen, Ph.D. (@leslie_ras).

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