Mr Carusone said Mr Hannity’s evolution was spurred by Mr Trump’s ability to use social media to promote unproven and reckless arguments – and by the ability of social media companies to give him a platform without themselves dealing with the repercussions of his speech, thanks to Section 230. “Trump was increasingly able to overtake Fox News, in terms of building a relationship with Fox News’ own audience.” , did he declare. “So Fox News lost the keys to the portal.”
But over the past month, Mr. Trump has also lost his set of keys. He was kicked from Twitter and Facebook after the Capitol Riot, and since leaving the White House he’s been as silent as a church mouse. In his absence, Fox News began to focus more on attacking Mr. Biden and other Democrats on the news of the day than importing conspiracy theories online.
Going forward, Mr Carusone said, “I think they will try to soften some of the content around the edges, and lean more heavily on partisan attacks and less on fantasies and feverish tales of right.
Supporters of media reform say this moment presents a unique opportunity to rethink government policy regarding online speech in particular. Ellen Goodman, a professor at Rutgers Law School who focuses on information politics, said maintaining a healthy market for ideas is essential to democracy.
“If this is a time of sweeping adjustments, ‘Build Better’ and a middle class renaissance, what would the democracy building part look like?” she says. She proposed instituting taxes or regulations that “would make the surveillance-capitalism model less attractive,” preventing social media companies from microrising audiences in the interest of selling them products.
Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies digital media, sees a drastic change coming. In the early decades of the Internet, he said, most legal discussions were guided by an issue of “rights,” particularly the right to free speech under the First Amendment. But in recent years, a new interest in what he called “the public health framework” has taken hold.
“Disinformation and extremism – especially extremism linked to violence – can lead to harm,” Zittrain said. “Since there are compelling elements in both the rights framework and the health framework, a balance will be found.