The Concatenator

Can we trust (fake) news?

The traditional way to acquire news, was through the group you belonged to. For instance, when you were born in a Catholic community, you would read the Catholic newspaper. This way you got your information through the segregated channel. Today we call this channel the 'filter bubble', but considered this way, the 'bubble' is nothing new.
In today's modern society, news is published and multiplied via Internet on an unprecedented scale. And the reason is not that the once sole provider (the newspaper) now also has a website, it's because anyone is now able to publish content. This is accomplished via his or her own website, blog, vlog or more directly with the followers on social media or direct messaging with e.g. WhatsApp. These are all examples of channels through which the individual can publish his information. But during this process he also takes on the role of editor, journalist, director, final editor, etc. Combined with the possibility to publish directly on the Internet, this process has enormous potential in front of a worldwide audience. With all these individuals publishing content, will they be able to demonstrate enough self-reflection? Because, who will decide that the quality is up to a certain standard, that the spelling is correct, that the content might propagate a morally dubious message, that no privacy has been violated, or that the content even is relevant? In short: who will stand for the journalistic quality?

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And recently a new component has been added. The dissemination of fake news. Publishing or sharing information with a sensational headline and content, which lead to a website, where through advertising the owner hopes that you click the banner, and thereby earning money. The main purpose is not the actual news story, that is apparently fake, but a way of luring the visitor to a website. As a consequence, there will be news websites with articles where the visitor has to judge if the content is real or fake. When the content of the article is too extreme or too far fetched, this might be easy to determine. But when the fake news gets closer to reality, or is mixed in, than it will get harder and harder for the visitor to judge if the content is believable. Add to this the possibilities to edit any digital image or video file -which will produce better results and will be easier to implement in the future- and you have the means for endless information fabrication seamlessly fitting your desired end result. Watch this video to get a glimpse:


Copyright: Visual Computing Group

With everybody publishing news, the market share of the traditional news organisations in the information exchange will likely decrease. In this way, segregation seems to be back in the saddle. People will be watching, or be made to watch -depending on their internet behaviour or personal profile- certain, subjective, news items. But with the arrival of fake news it might just turn the other way. Just like before, when the stronghold of the local group and its corresponding newspaper was broken down by national radio and TV, so that people saw what was on the other side of the fence, fake news websites might face the same destiny. The question that will arise is: who will indicate what is real and what is fake? Can you still trust what you read? The consequence might be that we have to fall back on what we've always taken as a guarantee to be our information provider. In this way, the freedom of press in a democratic, open society as a correcting instrument turns out to be priceless. There is a golden opportunity for the traditional press, for qualitative journalism to regain the position as the only trustworthy news source, not by screaming headlines to gain attention (as fake news websites do), but instead to stand out with reserve and objectivity in mind.


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