'Newsweek' Initiative Encourages Gen Z To Debate Impact Of Social Media

Newsweek is launching a contest to inspire youth-led dialogue about social media in partnership with the producers of the Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma" and the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues.

The contest, called the Social Dilemma Debate Project, is asking students nationwide to record two-minute videos debating potential policy solutions to address the harmful effects of social media’s business model, as exposed by the documentary. That is, that social platforms are designed to maximize engagement, which in turn fosters inflammatory speech and serves to separate people into opposing groups that receive self-reinforcing content. In addition, social platforms are viewed by psychologists and academics as addictive.

Submissions for the contest are due by March 21, after which The Social Dilemma impact team will share selected videos with legislators working on tech policy. Newsweek will feature the videos on future episodes of its flagship podcast, "The Debate."

The project kicked off on September 28 with Washington, D.C. and Boston Urban Debate League students sharing arguments before a panel of guest judges.



Judges included Newsweek Global Editor-in-Chief Nancy Cooper, as well as Rishi Bharwani, director of partnerships and policy for the advocacy organization Accountable Tech; Jason Downs, chief deputy attorney general for the District of Columbia; Ariel Fox Johnson, senior counsel of global policy at Common Sense Media; and Jeff Seibert, former head of consumer product at Twitter, who was prominently featured in The Social Dilemma film.

“This project centers the voices of Gen Z, whose lives have been shaped by social media since childhood, and who will be left to deal with its impact for decades to come,” Cooper said in a press statement. “Newsweek is dedicated to creating constructive dialogue on the biggest debates of our time and we believe it’s critical to engage young thinkers when asking questions that will determine our future. That’s why our podcast, "The Debate," is the perfect home to elevate youth voices on this topic.”

“If social media continues to erode our shared sense of truth and makes it harder for us to find common ground, how are we going to address the many seemingly insurmountable threats we face as a society?,” asked Jeff Orlowski, director of The Social Dilemma. “We are thrilled to partner with Newsweek and open the doors for young people to participate in public discourse. Social media and our broken information system are the starting point through which we can confront our world’s biggest challenges.”

“Open and civil debate is a foundational element of this country, and our goal as an organization has always been to encourage the freedom of speech, the importance of dialogue and youth engagement in civil society in order to create stronger leaders and better conditions for tomorrow,” said Rhonda Haynes, executive director, of NAUDL. “This project focuses on one of the most urgent questions facing young people today.”

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