Today I came across one of the more interesting pieces of journalism I’ve seen this week; a fantastic NPR piece covering the “fake news” explosion (link at bottom).
After reading it I had a thought crystallize in my mind that I had only fragmented pieces of before: The solution to this whole fake news explosion isn’t filters: it’s education. Crackdowns by platforms (Google, Facebook, etc) won’t help. If they crack down people will continue to put their trust in platforms to deliver them “real news” — meaning any fake news they see on a platform that doesn’t crack down — or a piece that makes it through a platform that does crack down’s filter, might very well be perceived as legitimate. I mean, the platform is filtering fake news so this article must be real, right?
I think the solution here is the same one that we really need to start leveraging more heavily in society: education. If humans have a built in filter in their brains (powered by critical thinking), then they are empowered to accurately decipher what is legitimate and what is not themselves without the need for some central authority to do it for them.
Platform filters, chrome extensions and the like will certainly help save many human hours of interpretation of bullshit news, but they (in my humble opinion) will not solve the problem. Educate. Educate. Educate. There is no other way forward my friends.
p.s.: To be clear, I could use some of this education myself. I certainly don’t believe I’m infallible and I have certainly believed some “fake news” in the past. And when I did, it was quite simply because I didn’t take the time to properly investigate the source and think critically about its legitimacy. We all need to work on this together.