Phew! It was quite a Superbowl Sunday, don’t you think? Packers fans had barely finished their victory dances when we learned the even more epic news that AOL is buying the Huffington Post for $315 million. The motto of the deal, according to HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, is “One plus one equals 11.”
I care less about the business implications of the acquisition and more about the social ones (no pun intended). With companies like Facebook trying to make everything social, Google personalizing search results, and media acquisitions galore, this is an era of rapid information consolidation, and it’s bad for democracy.
Information consolidation is bad for democracy because democracy requires an educated populace, one that has the ability to understand different points of view and think critically about complex issues, in order to flourish. That already doesn’t sound much like the United States of America, where roughly 1.2 million high school students drop out every year. So I ask you:
What happens when we have fewer and fewer news sources to draw information from (and therefore less diversity of analysis and opinion – anyone who thinks that the worldviews of big media conglomerates don’t influence their reporting is living in a fantasy world. Here’s looking at you, Rupert Murdoch.),
at the same time, you have companies like Facebook and Google “personalizing” the information you are able to encounter, based on your stated preferences and those of your friends (Facebook’s even putting your friends’ status updates into sponsored ads now, for God’s sake – and you can’t opt out of it), so the very scope and nature of the information you encounter is limited before you even encounter it!?
One plus one equals 11? I’m more convinced, in this case, that one plus one equals one. One less independent information source, at the very least.
What do you think? I am right? Wrong? Way too paranoid? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I’ll be posting in more detail about this soon.