Why Fake News is More Dangerous than it May Seem

In the last few years a new enemy is silently making Internet at risk and nobody knows how to stop it

“Protesters holding various signs during a rally at LAX Airport against Trump’s muslim ban” by Kayla Velasquez

When Internet (WWW) became available to everyone back in 1991 one of his main goals was to create a distributed network to share informations without any form of censorship. In the following years this network grew at an impressive rate, reaching almost everyone in the world.

So, it could be easy to think that the original goal was finally reached, but no, absolutely not. In the past years people learned to trust internet and his informations and this is a great thing. But nowadays people trust this data more than a scientific book or an encyclopaedia. The problem here is not just about trust, it’s also about laziness. Internet users think too often that any information read on the web it’s absolutely right and irrefutable without check the sources. Let me be honest, check the sources it’s not always an easy job but many people don’t even try. This phenomenon it’s also called post-truth, ‘Word of the Year 2016’ for the Oxford Dictionary.

How is the phenomenon growing?

The main role of this story is played by social networks, they’re like a centre of aggregation for news powered by “share” and “retweet” buttons. Once a news is published there, it is going to grow easily in an exponential way. Another point in favour of social media is the possibility to react to a post and be able to comment it. The emotional side is very important in this phenomenon, it’s not a case that the adjective post-truth is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

Photo by Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab

The reason is clear: is easiest to believe in what my feelings say or in what the reality says? And that’s why the original Internet goal of a world based on truth seems farther than ever.

How can we solve this problem?

It is very difficult to answer this question, because the problem involves many different areas like technology, psychology and politics but anyway there are some considerations that we can make:

  1. Education: the new generations have to learn to understand how to recognise a fake news and how to check sources correctly.
  2. Technology: yes, a part of the problem can be the solution. There are many new services that are trying to make easy to understand which articles are fake and which are not. A great example is Bitpress, a service that use Blockchain technology to identify fake news.

Post-truth and fake news are two sides of the same coin and currently corresponds to one of the most serious problems of the Internet.


If you’re interested, I wrote a thesis about (in Italian) that you can find here.