Denis Muller writes in The Conversation (19.6.17) about the stark political divide in Australia’s media landscape, with News Corp on the right and Fairfax on the left. The author argues that this division has a long history in Australia, to the detriment of quality journalism and public debate.
‘We are living through a period of fragmentation and polarisation in public discourse on a scale mankind has not before experienced. By far the greatest fragmenting and polarising force is social media.
‘An increasing proportion of the population, especially those under 40, get their news from social media, overwhelmingly from Facebook. The algorithms that tailor what Facebook prioritises for each individual allow users to choose only those topics or opinions that they want to hear. This has led to the formation of echo chambers or information cocoons.
‘So we have the paradox of the internet: the technology that provides a global village square also provides the means by which people in the square can block their ears and shut their eyes to things they don’t want to hear or see.
‘This places great strain on democracy. In the words of William Butler Yeats, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. In Australia, the effects of this phenomenon are made worse by the increased polarisation of the country’s two main newspaper companies, News Corporation and Fairfax Media.’