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    Thursday, July 18, 2024

    ‘Discovering Truth’ author tackles morass of social media

    Tim Love, left, listens as Randy Bean introduces him to an audience at the La Grua Center in Stonington on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Love and Bean, both Stonington Borough residents, held an hourlong program called "Discovering Truth in a Social Media Age" before an audience of about 50. Love will be at Bank Square Books 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday to sign copies of his book.

    Stonington ― Buy a flip phone for your kids.

    That was one of the suggestions made Wednesday by retired advertising executive Tim Love during an hourlong conversation on “Discovering Truth in a Social Media Age” hosted at the La Grua Center.

    A crowd of about 50 turned out to hear Love, a Stonington Borough resident, talk with fellow borough resident and best-selling author Randy Bean about some of the insights garnered from Love’s podcast “Discovering Truth” that he recently turned into a book of the same name.

    The idea of a flip phone, Love said, is that children don’t need all the bells and whistles of a smartphone that also provides a platform for misinformation and disinformation, not to mention all the distractions of TikTok and the rabbit holes of conspiracy theories, scams and other informational junk.

    “There’s no filter on that, and it’s in the children’s hands,” Love said. “We shouldn’t give a smartphone to a child until they’re 16 when they can drive.”

    “Europe is ahead of America in trying to combat this,” Love added. “They already have some child safety measures in place.”

    America, though, is stuck in the early internet age of 1996 when America Online and Yahoo were kings and business experts thought they would make most of their money off subscription services rather than advertising, Love said. Laws therefore were written largely for the internet companies to be self-regulating, yet the whole business model first envisioned has changed.

    “They’re making money off advertising,” said Love, who will be signing copies of his book at Bank Square Books from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

    And this means they’re making too much money to be compelled to change their behaviors without a push from lawmakers, Love said. Yet many have demurred, citing concerns about freedom of speech.

    “It’s very convenient because nobody wants censorship and nobody wants to lose freedom,” Love said. “But we long ago decided it’s against the law to yell ‘fire’ (as a false warning) in a movie theater. ... We don’t allow harmful speech.”

    Love suggested that Americans are now at the mercy of foreign actors from Russia, Iran and China who are sowing discord through social media and, like the Internet companies themselves, largely remain free from regulation. Pressure has been put on these platforms to self-regulate, but such measures cost money and eat into corporate profits, leaving Americans vulnerable to disinformation, Love said.

    “We’re being brainwashed,” he said. “Be aware of how you receive information.... Educate yourself and others about media literacy.”

    Love said people should be aware of “abnormal repetition.” He pointed out, too, that big lies and big liars have always been among us, so people need to listen critically.

    “We’re in a war of ideas,” Love said. “The biggest thing to worry about is apathy. ... We can’t sit around and let this happen.”

    l.howard@theday.com