Did you ever feel, especially in recent years, that more and more people seem to have a very similar point of view on the main topics that concern global affairs, no matter whether it is about climate change, the pandemic, war or anything else. This was clearly different a decade ago. Is there a reason for this?
Most significantly, this effect can be noticed watching videos on YouTube or a similar provider. Once the search algorithm knows what type of opinion you preferably consume, it will make sure that you see most likely nothing else. Very soon, the video selection on your screen "proves" to you that there seems to be no other opinion than yours, a type of “selection bias“ that of course is much to your liking and encourages you in holding your point of view. Because everybody cannot be wrong ..., right?
Similarly, it seems to be the same in the print media. Most newspapers buy the identical article from one news platform, since they cannot afford individual journalists anymore. So, you end up reading the same content, regardless of buying newspaper a, b, or c. On top of that, the text represents one mainstream opinion. That fact alone is scary, because regardless the point of view, if we cannot read, hear, or watch counter opinions, it should raise big questions! This influences the people of a society a great deal. A decade ago, one could at least raise critical questions about, let's say, climate change. Nowadays, you risk belonging to a very suspicious group of people if you dare to challenge an opinion even just scientifically. Not even to talk about topics like the pandemic or the war in the Ukraine.
However, the concept of informational diversity is well understood: people with different backgrounds (experience, ethnicity, gender, etc.) bring unique information, perspectives, opinions, and experiences to the opinion-making process. But that seems to not be welcomed anymore.
For information consumed online, the search algorithm is the main problem, and for the print media, it is the fact that they struggle to survive. So, in most countries the print media is strongly supported by the government. And that is critical, because if journalists depend on the government‘s financial support, what opinions they are likely to portray in their articles? I guess that is an easy question ...
These danger mechanisms have been known for decades, but with the internet booming and with the problems print media faces, its negative effects seem way out of balance.
Andrzej Wojtas (Ph.D.), Chief Editor
of MFN, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org