For a long time now, humans have been struggling to figure out why fakeness spreads faster than originality and facts. The speed at which falsity travels is appalling too. Why exactly is it that well-choreographed false news is, in most cases, music to the ears while the truth is ignored and sometimes bashed as nonsensical?
As Garry Kasparov aptly put it, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” Most people believe that bots and technological advancements are to blame for the mess that we now find ourselves in. While technology has boosted the spread of falsehood, the main culprit is humanity. Humans control everything on planet earth, including technology — mankind is not robots and machines, they are more intelligent and more calculative.
A study by Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy and Sinan Arail reveals that humans are to blame for the twisting of information to make others think or act in a certain way. The researchers objectively looked at hundreds of thousands of stories and came up with a staggering verdict — fiction spreads faster, wider, and more intensely than facts in all aspects of the data gathered and examined. It may be easy to point fingers at politicians, government officials, news outlets, and marketing agencies, but the buck stops with all of us.
Going by the statistics, there is a worrying trend on social networks and discussion forums. False posts, tweets, or comments are more likely to be shared than truths. There is verifiable evidence that factual news does not go far — its reach barely goes past 1,000 people in most scenarios.
How can we Reverse it?
Is there a possibility that this trend can change? A look at ‘the situation room’ appears hopeless and disheartening, but there is room for significant improvement, and why not? A solution for posterity. in the current landscape, this change can start with major media companies and their advertisers. Have you noticed that whenever you visit a retail shop, products are labelled with helpful information about usage, nutritional content, source, and expiry dates? Sadly, we are not afforded this privilege with news items. Do we stop to ask the pertinent questions on the veracity of the information we are about to consume with pleasure? Questions touching on the identity of the distributor, their objectivity, the identity of the writers/contributors would be very helpful.
Arguably, Social media companies are currently encouraging the spread of lies and falsehood since advertisers get returns pegged on the number of views, reach, or engagements. Consequently, a reduction in false information directly translates into a reduction in profits, a choice that is difficult to make for most businesses. On the flip side, consumers are likely to realize that false information is unhealthy and poisonous. This is possible if platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter were to look at the long-term and sustainable fruits of sanity in the distribution and spread of news. Media companies like Google and Facebook have the capabilities to design algorithms and machine learning systems to deal with information verification and subsequent action if need be.
There is a myriad of options we can look at now and going forward. You are welcome to participate in taking the conversation on disinformation and misinformation further to find solutions to the ever-bugging problem of the wildfire-style spread of falsehood. Converse with us on our social media channels and become a contributor in finding sustainable chain-breakers to the spread of false information.