Online debate is broken – full of angry shouting and mindless agreement. And that’s even before you get to the trolls, lies, misinformation, and fake news.
This week we visit Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, to meet a man with a plan to fix this problem.
Six years ago, when he was a curious, guitar-playing student, Kal Turnbull started a subreddit – a section of the website Reddit - called Change My View. He encouraged people to post their opinions and invite other users to politely argue against them.
It took off, and now has more than 700,000 subscribers. And now Kal wants to take the idea beyond Reddit, with a new website – ChangeAView.com – which just launched.
We stroll around a very damp Inverness to find out more about his new business, ask Kal about some of the criticisms that have been levelled at it, and look at how online debate became so unhealthy.
Presenters: Jonathan Griffin and Mike Wendling
(Photo Caption: Kal Turnbull on the banks of the River Ness / Photo credit: BBC)
The volunteers fighting hate on Facebook
Nina spends three hours a day on Facebook – not sharing selfies or catching up on news, but trying to make the network a nicer place.
She’s a German member of a large and growing international movement called #IAmHere. Started in Sweden in 2016, tens of thousands of volunteers in more than a dozen countries organise in closed Facebook groups.
They target popular posts, often from mainstream news organisations, which get overrun by extremism, violent threats and hate speech. Their goal is to inject balance into the conversation with facts and more moderate views.
There’s some evidence to indicate that their efforts are starting to have an impact. We’ve been in around Europe visiting #IAmHere’s founder, Swedish journalist Mina Dennert, and several members from the German group – fittingly called #IchBinHier.
We find out how they operate – and what motivates people like Nina to spend so much time trying to chip away at such an enormous issue.
Presenter: Reha Kansara
Reporter: Jessica Bateman
Photo: German #IAmHere volunteer Nina
Photo credit: BBC
When threatening private messages go public
They were meant to be private, and the people posting them considered them “jokes”. But when female students at the University of Warwick found out about hundreds of violent and obscene messages – some of them directly naming themselves and their friends - they were horrified and scared.
We heard from the women who were named in the group chat, and who alleged that a later university investigation fell short of their expectations. The messages came from closed social media groups – and it was a social media campaign which led to a public outcry which changed the direction of the case.
Presenter: Jonathan Griffin
Reporter: Larissa Kennelly
Photo caption: Hands holding a mobile phone / Photo credit: BBC
How YouTube decides what you should watch
Why are there so many conspiracy videos on YouTube? The company has clamped down on extremist and dangerous content, but conspiracies, outright fakes, and hoaxes are still very easy to find. Sometimes they’re only watched by a few people, but often these videos go viral.
The reason why they so often pop up on your screen, says former Google employee Guillaume Chaslot, is YouTube’s algorithm. Chaslot was one of the engineers who helped shape the YouTube recommendation engine, the mechanism that determines which videos the site suggests you watch next.
He was sacked in 2013, and since then he has become a critic of the company. He now says that YouTube’s obsession with keeping people watching has turned the platform into an incubator for false, incendiary, and sensationalist content – and this, in turn, is having a very real impact on the world we live in.
Presenter: Marco Silva
Photo caption: YouTube logo on a smartphone
Photo credit: Getty Images
Is Russia trying to sway the European elections?
Officials in Brussels are worried. With the elections for the European Parliament rapidly approaching, they say Russia is using disinformation and fake news to sow discord and to undermine people's trust in the European Union.
Moscow flatly denies such accusations. But EU officials say Russian disinformation could help anti-EU parties and movements. And, if you were to believe the polls, populist and Eurosceptic parties are indeed likely to increase their number of seats.
While the EU talks of a threat that can’t be ignored, others argue that European governments are missing the point: it's not foreign threats they should be tackling, but rather issues such as economic uncertainty, worries over immigration and discontent with traditional politics.
So, how seriously should we be taking the EU's warnings?
Presenter: Mike Wendling
Reporter: Marco Silva
(Photo caption: Mural depicting a man chipping a star off of the European Union flag, by British graffiti artist Banksy / Photo credit: Getty Images)