IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 7th Oct 2020
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.– Michelangelo
EDITORIAL HUNT #175 :“How to Handle Fake News“
How to Handle Fake News UPSC
Siddharth Pai is founder of Siana Capital, a venture capital firm focused on Indian Deep Tech and Science
Approaching the misinformation storm
Those who use social media must pull in another direction to maintain access to a range of views
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : Media
Developments in the last few years have placed journalism under fire. Comment -(GS 2)
- Important definitions
- Biased News
- Things to do.
- SPREADING UNTRUTHS : At the same time, orchestrated campaigns are spreading untruths – disinformation, mal-information and misinformation .
- DISINFORMATION : Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organisation or country.
- MAL-INFORMATION : Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, social group, organisation or country.
- ORGANISATIONS CONQUERING NEWS : The travesty is that many of these organisations are not news outlets; they are social networks such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.
- OPINION IS NOT NEWS : Everything is an opinion, but not clearly labelled as such. As a result, much of the ‘news’ available on these platforms is biased.
- PRIVACY ISSUES : The unscrupulous sale of personal information and meddling by inimical foreign regimes can potentially even influence the outcome of an election.
- VIRAL CONTENT : Worse, the spread of false and malicious news can stoke violence at short notice.
A STARK WARNING
- ASCENDANCE OF JIO : The response from its competition means that anywhere between 500 million and 700 million people are now newly online, almost all from towns and rural areas.
- AMERICAN NEWS POINT : Most Americans now get their news from dubious(doubtful) Internet sources.
- ACUTE POLARISATION : The hardening of political stances on both sides of the divide is plain to see, and the acute polarisation of the average American’s viewpoint is painful to watch.
- TARGETED ADVERTISEMENTS : Also, the echo chamber has been greatly enhanced by the highly targeted algorithms that these Social Media companies use.
- CLICK THROUGH MECHANISM : The algorithms were built around making users stay online longer and click through to advertisements.
- INFORMATION OVERLOADED : They are likely to bombard users with information that serves to reinforce what the algorithm thinks the searcher needs to know.
- ADVERTISEMENT NETWORKS : It is the same with news. They are paid heavily .
- LEARNED ALGORITHMS : If You show a preference for right-wing leaning posts, the algorithms are likely to provide me with ever more right-wing posts from people and organisations.
- SOCIAL MEDIA PREY : As they familiarise themselves with the Internet, newly online Indians are bound to fall prey to the echo chamber algorithms that social network firms use.
- TIME SPENT : Other algorithms that ensure that they spend inordinate amounts of time within the bubble of one social network, therefore becoming easy marks for targeted advertising — both for products and of political viewpoints.
- MISINFORMATION STORM : Much can be said about how we should approach the impending Internet misinformation storm.
THINGS TO DO
- TECH GIANTS : First, we know that tech firms are already under fire from all quarters.
- ACCUSED AND SUPPRESSED : Tech giants are struggling to contain the online spread of misinformation and hate speech online, they are being accused of suppressing both left-wing and right-wing views.
- CHECKS AND BALANCES : Second, unlike the U.S., which has now become unlikely to directly regulate such firms, India might need to chart its own path by keeping them under check before they proliferate.
- REGULATING THIRD PARTIES : Google and Facebook clearly engage in both free speech and press activities when they display content created by third-parties.
- DECORUM OF INTERNET : New Indian legislation needs to preserve free speech while still applying pressure to make sure that Internet content is filtered for accuracy, and sometimes, plain decency.
- CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY : Facebook, for instance, has started to address this matter by publishing ‘transparency reports’ and setting up an ‘oversight board’ to act as a sort of Supreme Court for Facebook’s internal matters.
- TRANSPARENCY : However, for all these companies’ efforts at transparency, we cannot ignore the fact that these numbers reflect judgements that are made behind closed doors.
- CLARITY IN DATA : What should be regulatory attempts to influence the transparency of information that members of the public see are instead being converted into secret corporate processes.
- EXTENT OF BIAS : We have no way of knowing the extent of biases that may be inherent inside each firm.
- HYPER-PERSONALISATION : The fact that their main algorithms target advertising and hyper-personalisation of content makes them further suspect as arbiters of balanced news.
- ACCESS TO VARIETY : This means that those who use social media platforms must pull in another direction to maintain access to a range of sources and views.
We need strong intervention now. Else the media, which has largely been the responsible fourth estate, we may well witness the creation of an unmanageable fifth estate in the form of Big Tech.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | How to Handle Fake News