From the Publisher’s Desk: The real fake news
In newsrooms across the country, editors make sure that news stories are accurate. When a reporter comes in with a story, the editor makes sure that there are corroborating witnesses or sources. Except for tabloids sold in the grocery stores, newspapers rarely play fast and loose with the truth.
Social media on the other hand has spawned a new type of reporting that has no such ethic. Any group or country, such as the Russians, can send millions of pieces of false information through Facebook and others. Recently the Russians were caught and expelled from social media because they made up false Americans to interject false narratives.
Their goal is to mislead the American audience and create dissension. When we are polarized or fight each other, then we are vulnerable to attack. Not a physical attack but one that breaks us apart politically or psychologically.
Politicians do the same thing. Recently we’ve seen several instances where elected officials have outright lied to us. They do it with impunity, knowing they’ll never have to pay consequences. The new theory is that if you tell a lie over and over again, it becomes the truth. And that’s how propaganda works.
We should not forget that in the Christian faith and the Jewish faith there are 10 commandments literally carved in stone for us to use as a moral compass. The ninth commandment says, “You must not give false evidence against your neighbor.”
Facebook confirmed it will not fact-check politicians’ speech or block their content if it’s newsworthy, even if it violates the site’s hate-speech rules. This comes directly from Facebook’s head of global policy and communication Nick Clegg, who gave a speech about Facebook’s plans to prevent interference in the 2020 presidential election.
By seeking neutrality, Facebook may become complicit in the misinformation and malevolence from some politicians. It leaves users to fend for themselves as they try to discern fact from fiction and opinion from reality. Clegg claims the idea is for users to “judge what politicians say themselves.” Good luck with that!
They ignore how politics has evolved in the post-truth era. Rather than win with facts, it’s easier just to shout lies or insults frequently enough that they’re accepted at face value, rebroadcast and ingrained. Sensationalism spreads further than what’s level-headed. Fact checking never gets as many shares as the crazy lies. And those with a bully pulpit can keep an iron grip on their megaphone.
In 2020, let us resolve to be careful of accepting everything we read on social media. It may be full of lies whose motives are to divide us as a nation and undermine the fundamentals of our democracy.