How can we build back truth online? Here’s how.
How can we build back truth online? In this book, researcher Leslie F. Stebbins provides solutions for repairing our existing social media platforms and building better ones that prioritize value over profit, strengthen community ties, and promote access to trustworthy information.
Stebbins provides a road map with six paths forward to understand how platforms are designed to exploit us, how we can learn to embrace agency in our interactions with digital spaces, how to build tools to reduce harmful practices, how platform companies can prioritize the public good, how we can repair journalism, and how to strengthen curation to promote trusted content and create new, healthier digital public squares.
New, experimental models that are ethically designed to build community and promote trustworthy content are having some early successes. We know that human social networks—online and off—magnify whatever they are seeded with. They are not neutral. We also know that to repair our systems we need to repair their design.
We are being joined in the fight by some of the best and brightest minds of our current generation as they flee big tech companies in search of vocations that value integrity and public values. The problem of misinformation is not insurmountable. We can fix this.
Leslie F. Stebbins is an independent researcher and the Director of Research4Ed where her clients include Harvard University, the U.S. Department of Education, Tufts University, and the Gates Foundation. She has more than thirty years of experience in higher education with a background in library and information science, instructional design, research, and teaching. Her previous books, Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age and Finding Reliable Information Online: Adventures of an Information Sleuth have been mainstays in college and university media studies and information literacy courses. Leslie lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Chapter 1. Understand the Problem
Chapter 2. Learn to Protect Ourselves from Misinformation
Chapter 3. Teach Students to Play Offense against Misinformation
Chapter 4. Design Tools to Create Healthier Digital Communities
Chapter 5. Require Platforms to Serve the Public Interest
Chapter 6. Repair Journalism and Roll Out New Curators
Chapter 7. Build New Digital Public Squares
About the Author
In Building Back Truth in an Age of Misinformation, Stebbins, a former librarian, devotes several chapters to the importance of media literacy for young people and building trust in journalism. She is realistic about the limits of this approach.... She concludes by calling for alternatives to Big Tech, and by promoting small-scale local platforms, which she terms “New Digital Public Squares.” Stebbins optimistically describes grassroots attempts to found community-based public squares, such as the Front Porch Forum in Vermont, where people can send helpful and friendly messages to their neighbors.
Digital worlds promote misinformation, erode our understanding of the world, and compromise our access to the truth. Stebbins, an independent researcher and the director of Research4Ed, sheds light on the topic of misinformation and offers six paths forward to create digital spaces that prioritize the public and improve information quality: understanding how platforms are designed to exploit us, embracing agency in our interactions with digital spaces, building tools to reduce harmful practices, requiring platform companies to prioritize public good, repairing journalism, and strengthening curation to promote trusted content. She also delves into the causes of misinformation, such as a focus on profits over public value. Stebbins presents a well-researched argument, writing with an air of hope for a future of reform, improved policies, and public engagement. This book will appeal to a wide range of readers, especially teachers and students, legislators, and those in journalism and communication fields.
In her groundbreaking work, Building Back Truth in an Age of Misinformation, Stebbins not only approaches the problems of misinformation with clarity and compassion, she charts a dynamic, care-centered response to information disorder that prioritizes agency and intentionality in how we engage in information ecosystems today. 'This book is about Hope,' Stebbins writes. A hope that is reflected in her thoughtful approaches to reforming platforms, policies, and public engagement to make our information environments more inclusive, equitable, and in service of those at the margins of society today.
A librarian/researcher can be a superhero—as Leslie Stebbins demonstrates in this searing investigation of misinformation and detailed discussion of meaningful reforms... Stebbins makes clear there is no right to viral amplification of speech—and shows promising ways to fight digital boosting of false and harmful words.
Unlike most discussions of our polluted information environment, Stebbins takes a holistic view, outlining ways we can teach better, create a healthier environment for journalism, build better checks and balances into our social media platforms, use public policy to promote the public good and build new, robust digital public squares for the public good. This is a hopeful, informative, big-picture roadmap for our time.
Building Back Truth in an Age of Misinformation is proof we can protect ourselves from the deluge of toxic lies being pumped out on social media platforms and find the trustworthy information we need. This book lays out a smart and convincing argument for restoring our hope in a public interest internet that early pioneers once envisioned.
Stebbins thoroughly diagnoses the causes, culprits, and tactics of social media’s plague of disinformation, but she also does something remarkable: gives us hope for a way out of it. Building Back Truth is the call to action we all need to pick up and act on.
Leslie Stebbins offers an optimistic and practical stance on how to move beyond merely documenting the problem of disinformation, political polarization, and the strategies used by powerful digital platforms to increasingly shape our lived experience. As they read Building Back Truth in an Age of Misinformation, readers will reflect on their own individual and collective behavior and be inspired to take much-needed action to restore trust and repair our communication environment.
1/28/23, Salon: Leslie Stebbins wrote an article about some of the digital pioneers striving for a kinder internet and the book was mentioned in her byline.
2/25/23, Independent Media Institute: Leslie Stebbins penned a piece about getting to the root of the social media crisis. It’s been picked up by several media outlets.
LA Progressive Link: https://www.laprogressive.com/the-media-in-the-united-states/social-media-crisis
1/30/23,Let’s Be Blunt with Montel: Mark Mathew Braunstein offered health tips for cannabis smokers in this blog post and podcast interview.
Leslie Stebbins penned an article about students working to improve their digital spaces.