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Pew: The Internet is Polarizing US Politics. Really?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, March 17 2011

The good folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project are out with another one of their regular updates on the Internet's role in politics, and the takeaway appears to be: The net is fueling extremism and making America more polarized. To wit, Pew reports, "55% of all internet users feel that the internet increases the influence of those with extreme political views, compared with 30% who say that the internet reduces the influence of those with extreme views by giving ordinary citizens a chance to be heard." This could be true, or it could be a false positive. What if people are conflating things? Arguably politics in America is more polarized, but cable TV and talk radio and paid negative political advertising are driving that shift, while the Internet is just an overall disruptive force that is enabling lots of more people to speak up and connect with the like-minded and unlike-minded alike. Unfortunately, Pew's survey didn't ask people about other possible causes of political polarization, so we can't know one way or the other.

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New Media Sites in Iran Blur Lines Between Citizen Journo, Professional Journo, & Activist

In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. A 40-second video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during an anti-government protest won a prestigious George Polk Award, the first anonymously-produced work to be so honored. And then came the 2013 study “Whither Blogestan,” which sought to explain Iran's shrinking blogosphere. Of nearly 25,000 highly active and connected blogs in 2008 and 2009, only 20 percent were still online in September 2013.

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