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For all the good the internet has produced, we are now grappling with effects of digital pollution that have become so potentially large that they implicate our collective well-being. We have moved beyond the point at which our anxieties about online services stem from individuals seeking to do harm—committing crimes, stashing child pornography, recruiting terrorists. We are now face-to-face with a system that is embedded in every structure of our lives and institutions, and that is itself shaping our society in ways that deeply impact our basic values.
We are right to be concerned. Increased anxiety and fear, polarization, fragmentation of a shared context, and loss of trust are some of the most apparent impacts of digital pollution. Potential degradation of intellectual and emotional capacities, such as critical thinking, personal authority, and emotional well-being, are harder to detect. We don’t fully understand the cause and effect of digital toxins. The