Disinformation in the Digital Age
By: David Vauthier
Today, disinformation and ‘fake news’ is more prevalent than ever before.
Seeing the rise of COVID denial, anti-vaccination movements, and Qanon (amongst other things), one begins to wonder what exactly has made our time so conducive to the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation. Without a doubt, one of the main contributors to this is the fundamental shift in how people consume media and where their news is coming from.
Before the rise of digital media, broadcasts and paper journalism were the main sources for society to receive information. The news was slower, there was a greater emphasis on the vetting of journalists and sources, and there was less of a focus on producing sensational content. Rather, the goal of the industry was genuinely to represent accurate facts and important information. This is not to say that false information was completely avoided back then, as bias and propaganda have always plagued journalism. Still, it was much harder for “fake news” to be a headline in the newspaper and to be seen regularly by the general population.
This is a stark contrast to the state of the news industry today. In our current world of instant gratification and the bombardment of our senses by every device around us, companies have to work much harder to catch and hold our attention; attention is currency. The journalism of yesteryear is a dying industry, and now rapidly pumped-out, and attention-grabbing content dominates. As a product of this, there is overall less accuracy, and less accountability. Pretty much anyone with access to a phone and social media can write the “news” and tailor their own set of facts to fit their worldview and bias.
While there is certainly something to be said about the democratization of ideas and the benefits of having new perspectives, cooler heads rarely prevail in the discourse. Instead, our news and social media have become infested by bots, trolls, and bad actors, all of which make it harder than ever for an average individual to have a firm grasp on the reality of current affairs.
As we have seen, this current state of affairs is truly dangerous. It moves objective reality into the domain of the subjective and, in doing so, limits the discussions we can have as a society. How are people meant to debate a topic when they can’t even agree on the underlying set of facts?
As we saw just a few days ago, as a mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill-based on disinformation, the situation is dire. The consequences of unfettered viral disinformation have become ever more concrete and we can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand.
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*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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