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The Roundtable: Beyond Echo Chambers

Can social media platforms overcome the current nastiness of public discourse, while still fostering the expression of diverse viewpoints?

Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter remain unclear, perhaps as much to himself as to the general public. But regardless of where he takes the company, the entrepreneur’s acquisition of the platform marks a turning point for the internet, social media, and public discourse. A panel of commentators joined Roundtable to discuss what Musk’s Twitter could look like and how it may shape the future of social networks and speech. In this segment, the panel discusses the importance of free speech to a robust public discourse.

While some have reacted to the increasing polarization of mainstream social networks by advocating for increasingly niche platforms, Joy Villa argues that 

"I hate it when people are like, why don't conservatives start their own? That's not the point. I don't wanna be in an echo chamber," she says. "I want to talk to people who disagree with me."

Roy Gutterman agrees that more speech is better, but that maintaining the quality of discourse is key.

"I'm a strong advocate for more speech in any venue, whether it's letters to the editor in the old days or social media. More speech is always good," he says. "There's no lack of additional speech on social media, but hopefully we'll have a little more reasonable standards."

Jason Gainous disputes the idea that more speech is necessarily better, but he agrees that platforms should prioritize healthy dialogue.

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"What I would like to see is use the algorithm to actually promote positivity," he says. "So instead of putting people in echo chambers, it exposes people to opinions that are not theirs, but only those that are presented a certain way."

"I would love my opinions to be changed when I hear a good argument," Villa adds. "It doesn't even have to be an argumentative, but a strong passion, a belief, a reason behind something."

Watch the full discussion below:

Roy Gutterman, Director, Tully Center for Free Speech

Jason Gainous, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Duke Kunshan University

Joy Villa, Actress, Singer and Songwriter