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Social Media and Fake News

Fake news has always been with us. Tabloids were popular because people bought them more for the distraction they provided, especially in presenting the hidden scandals of the rich and powerful. No one expected to believe these entirely.

Media organizations which worked hard to check their facts held sway over everything else, with newspapers earning the distinction of being newspapers of record.

Social media disturbed this landscape and more and more people turned to these channels to get their news. Governments as well as political forces also turned to social media to compete with one another’s narrative and claims.

With this irresponsible use of a powerful tool, the values of democracy have been sidelined.

The press must retain their process of checking their facts and verifying the truth in the context of their stories. But the press cannot do the work of upholding truth on its own.

The press is only one of the institutions that must restore democratic values. Educators, teachers, parents, business and definitely government should be engaged in the constant exercise of managing their content on the basis of truth in order to make this a constant, something that can be relied on in the way citizens deal with one another.

The crisis of fake news, of false propaganda requires journalists to expose what is not true and to present events and developments according to the editorial process of verifying and ensuring accuracy.  Journalists must be ready to fact-check official statements or utterances to prevent their repetition. If repeated often enough, lies will be accepted as truth. News conventions have classified government information as official and thus credible. But experience around the world has shown us that governments are guilty of spreading lies and fake news.

But teaching media literacy, everyone can help correct these false claims. Faced with the challenge, building up the capacity of all members of society to evaluate the truthfulness of anything that is said in the public sphere is a responsibility of all citizens.

Personal values become public values once an individual engages in the public sphere. Today, access to the Internet provides the experience of the public square to citizens.  The inequality of access suggests another line dividing the haves and the have-nots.

But those engaged should exercise this access with responsibility, as there is nothing to be gained in a public square where people are determined to dominate the others, deceive or betray by their speech or their written word.

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