News designed to confuse and mislead

Misinformation has always been with us, but has never before had so many many real chances for liftoff.   Skeptical…
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Misinformation has always been with us, but has never before had so many many real chances for liftoff.


Skeptical thinking and critical reasoning have taken a hit in an era when trust is just as important as ever, yet taken for granted when so much information is presented authoritatively. We’ve become lazy at fact checking – not that it was ever easy. Truth and lies mingle on digital platforms brimming with immediacy and confidence, working to state with authority that the information they help get across is accurate. Although we know this is not always the case, seeing is often believing. Over 60% of respondents in a recent survey expressed difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction in the news that they are consuming. Another report finds that seven out of 10 times, fake news ends up being retweeted than verifiable stories. Even when we try to distinguish what’s real, fiction ends up being more entertaining and worthy of sharing.


Freedom of expression and censoring where needed


YouTube is widely appreciated for its usefulness in providing free entertainment, though often raises concerns related to intellectual property and profit. The video-sharing site is also awash in conspiracy theories that can get users thinking at best, and believing in mistruths and engaging in dangerous activities at worst. Misinformation is everywhere, and it takes a lot of effort to get to the truth sometimes. Facebook’s iffy algorithms may end up isolating posts when they are found to be based on inaccuracy, but ignore posts more deserving to be taken down. Then, of course, there are grey areas.


Even though censorship was anathema to many of the founders of social media platforms, these modern venues for exchanging ideas need more guidance and regulation if their more dangerous roots are to be weeded out.


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