In the media: Ontario councillors, candidates urge post-election action against ‘nastiness’ on campaign trail

I am quoted, alongside my Brock colleague Karen Louise Smith, in a CBC Hamilton article about the negative role of social media in the harassment of candidates in the recent Ontario municipal election.

Key takeaway: That any prospective politician, whose success depends on being able to reach as many people as possible, would willingly restrict their use of social media during an election because it’s just too toxic, tells you exactly how bad social media has gotten for society. No need to imagine a hypothetical authoritarian government censoring speech: The silencing of voices in these arenas is happening right now.

Blayne Haggart, an associate professor of political science at Brock University in the Niagara area, said hearing about how Hill couldn’t use social media like others “hit a nerve,” given she likely needed them to win.

He said while some people oppose governments regulating social media because it may lead to chilling effects on free speech, it is apparent users are already being silenced because of the toxicity.

“One of the things it shows is the extent to which we as a society have outsourced our main means of communication to, essentially, unaccountable, private, mostly American entities that aren’t interested in promoting good social discourse,” Haggart said.

“Angry sells better than happy … we’ve left ourselves at the mercy of these companies.” …

Haggart said politicians and governments may also want to rely less on social media, and focus on scaling up their own websites and approaching local media outlets.

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