The internet needs more truth – and you can be part of the solution.

OPINION AND COMMENT

Editorials and other opinion content provide viewpoints on issues important to our community and are independent of the work of our newsroom reporters.

Arkadiusz Wargula

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“Members of the opposing political party are not only worse for politics – they are downright bad.” Would you agree with this statement, as over 40% of Americans did when researchers asked it a few years ago?

How about this one: “We’d be better off as a country if a lot of the opposition parties in today’s audience just died.” Believe it or not, twenty percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans have gone so far as to wish death on fellow Americans with different political views.

Many of us have perfectly good reasons to disapprove of the politics of the other side, but with polarization crippling our government, enraging our communities and even weakening our national security, we have reached a breaking point. We can’t go on like this.

The good news is that we don’t have to. While research shows that Americans hate each other’s partisan identities, plenty of other research shows that when it comes to actual politics, we have a lot in common.

But don’t just believe the statistics; believe your own eyes and ears. On July 30, in partnership with CivicLex and YOUnify, we invite the greater Lexington community to come together for a day of problem solving across political divides.

Here’s how it works: people from all parts of the greater Lexington area and from all political backgrounds come together to learn about, discuss, and tackle a critical national issue. With the help of us friendly public policy nerds, participants will work together to craft solutions, and then continue to work together in the months to come to come out and champion those solutions.

We’ll cover a topic familiar to anyone with a smartphone: digital disinformation and freedom of expression.

In the past two years alone, Americans have grappled with widespread misinformation about the effectiveness of masks, the safety of vaccines, and the fairness of our presidential election. We have also faced serious questions about whether it is possible to crack down on disinformation without infringing on our sacred right to free speech. Consider the lab leak theory, which was denounced as a conspiracy theory before many experts started taking it seriously.

Some misinformation stems from genuine misunderstandings, while others are the result of malicious campaigns designed to confuse and demoralize. Some target people of color, immigrant groups, or people with a particular political leaning.

It’s hard to agree on the truth when everyone you meet lives in their own screen world. Social media platforms and search engines use secret algorithms to shape the information we get, but give us no insight into how they work or what types of content they bring up. Figuring out which media sources to trust can seem like a puzzle with pieces that change shape every time you play.

At the July 30 event, we’ll address questions like, “Should tech companies be held accountable for misinformation on their social media?” Who should hold them accountable? Is there a way for the government to get involved without violating the First Amendment? How can we better educate ourselves and our children to navigate information online? ยป

These are not simple questions, but there are many possible solutions. What we need to do next is dig into them, consider the pros and cons, and commit to working together across ideological lines to craft an approach that we can all adopt.

We hope you will join us on July 30! Learn more and register at ourcivicgenius.org.

Civic Genius is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization that works to overcome political polarization. CivicLex is a local non-profit organization that strengthens civic health through education, media, and relationship building.

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