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The news event

The background is well known: Donald Trump, while in office as President of the United States of America, was banned from major social media platforms, whose full list is available here, for inciting violence after the assault on Capitol Hill on January 8th, resulting in the deaths of five people. A tear that tore the invisible veil of inviolability protecting the nerve centers of institutions. Yet, the fiery words launched by the tycoon on his own social media accounts inflamed the spirits of many who went so far as to storm the parliament, giving rise to picturesque, though brutal, scenes and I think first of all of the person with their feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk or the guy with the moose horn headdress and wolf fur.

The reaction

Social media shut down the official account, effectively defusing one of the main channels through which the crowd was incited to rebellion and to oppose the elections deemed faulty, but the question is whether this is enough to curb the violence. In front of the broadcaster who sends a message, there is a recipient who receives it and who, to decipher it, needs to possess the same linguistic codes and analytical capacity of the content, which leads them to express a judgment on the message: is it right or wrong, is it correct or misleading, do I agree or am I not convinced. Now it is evident that this critical scanning activity is happening less and less and what is called “critical media literacy” is very poor, practically the recipients are not very capable of decoding messages correctly and this, as seen in Washington, can have disastrous effects.

This is also demonstrated by the malleability in forming an opinion on who to vote for from the content proposed by an algorithm, the ease of being dragged into collective insults. Let’s take a random image, by way of example:

The singer Elodie insulted after the controversy with the Lega Nord party leadership

And it is precisely on this topic “The algorithm as a technology of freedom?” that Italian communicators have questioned themselves by publishing a manifesto, the DigiDig, which you can read here.

As stated in the document, the media have given space to “a question of freedom that has shaken professional codes, social and economic hierarchies, creating great disorientation, but also opening extraordinary spaces for evolution for every individual project. From journalism to finance and medicine, from scientific research to the governance of public affairs and individual consumption choices, the variable that breaks balances and modifies behaviors is an unprecedented possibility to compete, share, control, and participate in decision-making processes – albeit under certain conditions of awareness”. Awareness, indeed.

If this is lacking, if there is no adequate preparation for the use of these tools, a chasm opens up in front of anything that is said and will find no filter. Faced with this illiteracy, which leaves democracy exposed and naked in the context in which it finds itself, the social media ban is equivalent to a fig leaf, a patch that, however useful, may seem insignificant in the face of real needs, which require a cultural intervention, perhaps long, but to be initiated.