Fighting all forms of fake news is our collective responsibility – Business Daily
Not long ago, the rise of social media in people’s lives inspired great optimism about its potential for flattening access to economic and political opportunity, enabling collective action, and facilitating new forms of expression.
The world is not sanguine about that potential anymore. Social media has unbelievably allowed rampant disinformation and spawned fake news. We expected the tech tools to help the world to push back against common threats such as food insecurity, climate change, pandemics and nuclear war.
However, they have become a vehicle for a constant stream of inflammatory disinformation, tailored to our individualised psychological profiles and devised to thwart social and political cohesion.
Today, we have fake news, false social media profiles, and fabricated narratives created to mislead—sometimes as part of coordinated cognitive warfare campaign. Disinformation is a threat to security, public health, civic discourse, community cohesion, and democratic governance.
The spread of disinformation—the use of half-truth and non-rational argument to manipulate public opinion—is made possible largely through social networks and social messaging. It begs the question: to what extent should regulation and self-regulation of companies providing these services get?
Despite Google, Twitter and Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news in all forms, its prevalence in social media has increased. In Kenya, political misinformation has certainly got a lot of traction over the past months or so.
We have also had plenty of misinformation in the realm of health, science, and nonpolitical news. The motives behind the production of this misinformation is all over the place. It’s getting more difficult for people to separate reality from fiction. However, can we blame the knife for a murder?
Is it then fair to blame social media or messaging platforms alone for the problems of hate messaging, propaganda and misinformation? Like any other mobile-savvy person, chances are you might have unintentionally forwarded, retweeted, or shared “fake news” or misinformation online.
Whether we accept it or not, fighting fake news is a long process that involves education, awareness and socio-behavioral changes. It’s a collective responsibility that we have to acknowledge.
Lessons from other subjects such as Covid-19 vaccine ingredients and technologies show how timely responses and proactive “prebunking” with accurate information, help to mitigate misinformation.
To try to control the Covid-19 infodemic, WHO teamed up with governments to create and distribute content to combat the spread of misinformation through a series of communication campaigns.
This was one of several initiatives to combat misinformation taken by WHO on its own and with partners since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The consequences of ignoring the political misinformation risk posed by these information gaps could be severe. Already, in Kenya, voter trust in elections has plunged in 2022.
I think that we can all help citizens become critical consumers of information. Political elites can help by calling out bad behavior on their side. News organizations can help by telling us how they know what they know and being more transparent and responsible about news gathering process.