Never has it been so easy to spread factual mistakes, lies and distorted messages to billions of people, without any counter speech, and have your own advocates (or evangelists) waving the flag for you.
On branded and rather closed platforms such as Facebook, your community and source of information are from your ‘friends’ — as opposed to an arguably open search engine as Google — these messages give an aura of trust and truth. So people just believe what they see, because “it was on Facebook”, and take it from there. Click Share or Like, pushing that ‘incorrect fact’ and message forward. Social media has become a platform for manipulating people on a large scale.
post-truth is the international word of the year
We discussed this in our previous blog Freedom of Speech and a “postfaktisch” society and this is even more enforced, as the Oxford Dictionaries declaring “post-truth”, which is almost a direct translation of “postfaktisch” — as its 2016 international word of the year, reflecting what it called a “highly-charged” political 12 months.
The internet, a giant web of messages, where any message can be shared, whether true or false, has been a powerful tool for individuals and organisations. Trump, for example, used this to his advantage, using legions of tweetbots to influence people’s opinions. Russia, also for example, uses the media directly and is running a massive Troll army in St.Petersburg. Even worse, now many of these trolls tried to influence the US election, of course favouring Donald Trump — was it successful? You can’t measure it or prove it directly, but it would appear so.
Only the same opinions appear in your timelines
Like the television, and printing press before that, the internet and social media has become a powerful medium for influencing crowds of people for not necessarily to best intentions for humanity. As Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are just streams of opinions, which are parallel to each other, a discussion is avoided by the filter bubble we live in. Only the same opinions appear in your timelines. And if these opinions include wrong “facts”, they become true somehow. Is there a way of avoiding this? Any solutions out there, where we can have freedom of speech based on correct facts?
Fact-checking websites are a great way forward, and ideally would be almost as common for us to check-in everyday as we do with Google.
4 fact-checking recommended websites:
Full Fact is a registered charity in the United Kingdom. They are independent and try to explain — based on real facts — mostly the procedures in politics, helping understand complex numbers and topics in a more easy way.
Factcheck was strongly focused on the US elections, but has some very interesting facts in general. It is still double checking “facts” from candidates and also compares now what they said during election to what they say now.
Politifact is a winner of the famous Pullitzer Price and it is well deserved. They are also focused on US politics and elections and have a very interesting category called “Truth-O-Meter”©.
This is maybe the most interesting one as it not only checks facts, but also gives a great overview on how to protect yourself from scam on the internet. It is kind of a must-read for nearly everyone on how to use the internet and which sources are trustable and which you should be careful with.
We would like to think about a blockchain that is like a certificate for true facts:: a TruthChain.
If these websites grow and maybe even can be kind of a plugin or permanent link to our facts, supporting the true opinions, this would be a great step forward for all of us. We should start using these websites, media should start using these websites — as they might have the ability to give the truth a foundation of opinions again. What would be the next step? We would like to think about a blockchain that is like a certificate for true facts: a TruthChain. A blockchain, that acts like an add-on for browsers or social media platforms, confirming if a fact is true or false. Not influencable by governments or single institutions. But that is, so far, still a vision.