As the Internet grows more sophisticated, it is creating new threats to democracy. Social media companies such as Facebook can sort us ever more efficiently into groups of the like-minded, creating echo chambers that amplify our views. It's no accident that on some occasions, people of different political views cannot even understand each other. It's also no surprise that terrorist groups have been able to exploit social media to deadly effect.
Welcome to the age of #Republic.
In this revealing book, Cass Sunstein, the New York Times bestselling author of Nudge and The World According to Star Wars, shows how today's Internet is driving political fragmentation, polarization, and even extremism—and what can be done about it.
Thoroughly rethinking the critical relationship between democracy and the Internet, Sunstein describes how the online world creates "cybercascades," exploits "confirmation bias," and assists "polarization entrepreneurs." And he explains why online fragmentation endangers the shared conversations, experiences, and understandings that are the lifeblood of democracy.
In response, Sunstein proposes practical and legal changes to make the Internet friendlier to democratic deliberation. These changes would get us out of our information cocoons by increasing the frequency of unchosen, unplanned encounters and exposing us to people, places, things, and ideas that we would never have picked for our Twitter feed.
#Republic need not be an ironic term. As Sunstein shows, it can be a rallying cry for the kind of democracy that citizens of diverse societies most need.
Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School. His many books include the New York Times bestsellers Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler) and The World According to Star Wars. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"America's leading legal academic gives us a way to address democracy's leading challenge--preserving a public informed enough to govern itself. Drawing on an incredible range of scholarship and experience, this book could not be more timely. Or urgently needed."--Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School
"What went wrong with social media and also with democracy? Here's the guy who saw it coming, and yes he does have all the answers."--Tyler Cowen, author of The Great Stagnation
"The Internet has surely enhanced our democracy, with greater access to information and fewer barriers to connecting with each other. However, we're seeing the opposite today with more narrow-minded online platforms and communities, as evidenced by the impact of fake news on this past election. #Republic pointedly captures the risks of the ongoing evolution of social media to our democratic ideals."--Stephanie Cutter, former Senior Aide to President Barack Obama and Partner, Precision Strategies
Table of Contents:
1 The Daily Me 1
2 An Analogy And An Ideal 31
3 Polarization 59
4 Cybercascades 98
5 Social Glue And Spreading Information 137
6 Citizens 157
7 What’s Regulation? A Plea 176
8 Freedom Of Speech 191
9 Proposals 213
10 Terrorism.com 234
11 #Republic 252
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Cass R. Sunstein: