HSS8120 Reliable sources of information in a Post-Truth era

Uncategorized

Traditionally we are used to get our news from newspapers, the radio and television. As previously discuss this has tremendously changed with the advances made in technology and the proliferate use of the internet.

The decentralisation and widespread of knowledge empowered a new generation of people. Many hoped that the Internet would become a beacon of hope for humanity, the tool that would unite mankind. It was supposed to make us more tolerant toward each other and free us from the shackles of politicians and men of power.

As discussed in my previous article, however, the power of the Internet and media can be used to manipulate our views and further polarise people. Search engines and social media pages, powered by algorithms, show you information based on your preferences effectively forming a bubble around you were it is almost impossible for you to find information you did not expect or opposite to your point of view.

Arguably the Internet is, if not the best human invention, in the top 10 best human inventions. The way it affects our lives in the real world, our relationship with each other, our creativity and even our way of thinking is paramount. Although it can be used to quickly spread dubious claims and false information the opposite is also true. In a society thatis increasingly relying on the Internet and online services, it is very important to discern fake information from real information and differentiate between fact and opinions.

Human’s tendency to instinctively accept information that feels right as fact needs to be constantly challenged. More than ever before people must be taught how to recognise biased information in order to protect democracy. We do not want to end up like Russia where no one knows what is real anymore. In that respect, in order to survive in a post-truth world, more and more expert bodies and independent research groups are needed to form and offer factual open source information. These could hold accountable any person or entity trying to pass non factual information as such by increasing reputational consequences.

More fact checking websites are needed in order to keep debunking myths and counter the quick spreading of false information and rumours. Recently news site CNN featured a screenshot of video game Fallout 4 in a story about Barack Obama expelling Russian diplomats following accusations that they had interfered in the US elections. Reddit users were however quick to show the origins of the photo. This isn’t the first time a news channel has used a screenshot of a video game as part of a news story and it probably won’t be the last therefor the need for Guardians of the truth is becoming increasingly central to saving democracy and freedom of mind.

tp3yxdnlza7y

Picture source: Reddit

Our moral duty now is to make sense of the information given to us and make sure we understand it. The message we pass on and share when debating or talking with others must be genuinely true. This would allow us to use the power of information and social media for good. In my previous post I mentioned how social media was used during the Arab Spring to fight against their corrupt governments and dictators. Around the world more and more people are able to speak out against their governments. More recently a video where a soldier alleged to the bad working conditions and shortage of food in the Indian army went viral. This prompted the Indian home minister to start an enquiry into the matter. In Mexico social media is actively used to find and combat governmental corruption. We can see the positive impact of the internet here and it’s refreshing.

Fact checking Organisations and independent research groups are continuously forming, fact checkin services are multiplying..Already labelling stories as opinion or related, Google has now even launched a “fact check” label appearing on Google News and other websites who apply to be featured. The New York times also runs a fact check site keeping tabs on the 2016 election. “Africa Check “is another one of these groups, a South-Africa based non-profit, who raise the quality of information available on the continent. All is still not lost and we can see that Guardians of the truth are quietly but surely coming. It is now our responsibility to find the information that we need, websites such as PolitiFact can teach you how to fact check and offer you the tools to do so, independent source of news such as The Conversation can offer you more factual and researched base information.

As I finish to write these lines, listening to Harry Frankfurt’s charismatic voice on Youtube, I can’t help but think that this post-truth era is going tremendously change us and our way of life.

I am however full of hope concerning the next few years of our lives in the current political and social climate of the world. Almost as if walking on a fine thread between order and chaos, the fragility of the world and our reality becomes more and more apparent to our societies. The mistrust in our establishment and ourselves is driving an increasing wedge between us but there is hope. We can see the battles between ourselves are unfolding with some pretty interesting results. How these results are going to affect us? No one really knows. However as ever before I quietly watch, almost with a detached but sympathetic look, at the unfolding of these events…Leaving you with some wise words by Philosopher Harry Frankfurt.

“Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial—notoriously less stable and less inherent than the nature of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.”

― Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit