The internet has gotten meaner and less trustworthy, but there is hope. It could just be a design problem.
Whether we’re talking about trolls, serial harassers, racists, or purveyors of propaganda, it seems like the online behavior of the worst of us has leached out the civil discourse of the best of us. The vitriol that accompanied the latest US election in particular has raised painful questions. Does Facebook’s fake news problem mean we don’t care about truth anymore? Does the current vogue for digital dogpiling mean we’ve forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable? Perhaps we’re all awful people deep down, and our tweets, posts, and comments are simply a clearer window into our dark souls. Or perhaps putting an anonymous bullhorn into everyone’s hands and wrapping us in custom-built echo chambers makes us more likely to be terrible.