Fake News! Readallaboutit!

Our discussion brought up the question of how to solve the relatively new problem of fake news. Although news has been around for centuries in the form of newspapers and magazines, it seems as if false news articles are making headlines more than ever before. If we are in the age of information, then why are we so bad at addressing this problem? I think this has to do with the fact that you can’t pass a law that says no one can lie because, well, we all do. However, we have laws that protect against fraud, so isn’t this the same thing?

Facebook receives a lot of public pressure to combat this problem because a large amount of traffic to these false news sites come from it. In my opinion, I don’t think Facebook is obligated to do anything. They are, after all, a corporation. They exist to make money. Some might argue that they are a service, but it is a service that people have a choice to use.

I don’t trust any source 100% because there is simply not enough curation or fact-checking that goes on behind these reports. I appreciate websites like Snopes that work to disprove any false news, but how far is this from the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984?

I’ve seen a couple of talks by people who have escaped the brutal regime of North Korea, and they always talk about how blinded they were to the rest of the world. All their books and images in North Korea served to praise Kim Jong Un. They had no idea, and there really wasn’t a way they could have known. This makes me wonder if I am living in someone else’s world as well. How can I know what is true or false without personally witnessing it myself? Even if I am present to witness something happen, it’s not always what it seems. These questions just leads into the rabbit hole of existentialism.

Nevertheless, when it boils down to it, there’s a clear line between events that actually occurred and completely fabricated news. People will create the craziest conspiracy theories which are all fun and games until someone takes it too seriously and kills harmless people. I think the government should be responsible for monitoring fake news and punishing those who create it. Obviously, there will never be a perfect system, but we need to start somewhere. Quantitative sources like statistics are pretty black and white; they’re either right or wrong whereas opinion and commentary are easier to misconstrue. But, then again, there’s the age old quote that still rings true, “Statistics don’t lie; statisticians do.” I guess as long as humans are a part of the picture then lying will always be a problem.

2 thoughts on “Fake News! Readallaboutit!

  1. I always enjoy reading your questioning thoughts and then the way you work to answer these questions as best you can. It’s a great skill. Keep questioning, and especially keep questioning yours and others’ assumptions.

    I’m not sure I’m more comfortable with the government being more responsible than companies (I’m bothered by the fact that these companies can make money off fake news). Perhaps it is not an either-or solution that will win out. Our government works because there are checks and balances. Perhaps there’s a solution in a world with more checks and balances.

  2. Great thoughts, good questions…

    Your last paragraph made me think of the statement various attributed to Mark Twain or Disraeli or… that there are three kinds of lies– lies, damn lies, and statistics. With the right spin, it can be hard to find the truth.

    But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any truth, just that it requires some skepticism (and some trusted sources) to find it. I’m not sure I trust either governments or corporations (in general) to help us find the truth, unless there is an incentive to show it. Maybe that’s what we need to find…

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