13 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2021
Date Written: September 23, 2021
This Essay argues that the Internet law and policy community has misdiagnosed the causes of political polarization. Rather, more precisely, it has missed a major contributing cause. The dominant theories focus on Big Tech (e.g., the filter bubbles that curate Internet content with self-interested goals at the expense of democratic functioning) and on faulty cognition (e.g., human tendencies to favor sensationalism and tribal dogmatism). Cheap speech, according to these dominant theories, provides the fuel and fodder.
We offer an explanation that is at once more banal and more resistant to policy interventions: cheap friendship.
Keywords: Internet, the web, internet law and policy, Big Tech, internet content, faulty cognition, cheap speech, cheap friendship, social media, social networks, political polarization
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