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The digital age and ‘information pollution’

by | Feature

Jul. 18, 19 | 3:37 pm

DUBAI: Experts have warned that while social media and connectivity have seeming limitless benefits, it as well has spawned what they call as “information pollution,” where it has become quite challenging, even almost impossible, to discern true information from mere propaganda, or worse, outright lies.

This has resulted to alarming findings about how much most people actually distrust websites, according to a report by the Council of Europe (CoE) which, cited a study by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) World Service conducted in 18 countries.

The study revealed that 79% of respondents said they were worried about what was fake and what was real on the internet.

Why is this so?

Dr. Claire Wardle, executive director of First Draft, and Hossein Derakhshan, researcher and pioneering blogger, argued in their CoE-published report that contemporary social technology has created “information pollution at a global scale; a complex web of motivations for creating, disseminating and consuming these ‘polluted’ messages; a myriad of content types and techniques for amplifying content.”

It has also created, they said, “innumerable platforms hosting and reproducing this content; and breakneck speeds of communication between trusted peers.”

The scholars, while noting that traditional media have, itself, long disseminated misleading stories for shock value and rating, stressed that “the complexity and scale of information pollution in our digitally-connected world presents an unprecedented challenge.”

What has made it even more challenging to discern the truth is that popular social networks make it difficult for people to judge the credibility of any message, because posts from publications like the New York Times, for instance, and a conspiracy site could look nearly identical, the two said in their report.

What this means, they said, is that people are increasingly becoming “reliant on friends and family members to guide them through the information ecosystem.”

Noting arguments by fellow scholars and academicians, Wardle and Derakhshan said social media has had two effects:

One, by collating stories from multiple sources, the focus is on the story, and not on the source;

Secondly, endorsements and social recommendations guide readership rather than traditional gatekeepers (editors) or ingrained reading habits.

What can be done?

Wardle and Derakhshan, in their report titled, “Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking,” proposed that national governments commission research to map information disorder, regulate ad networks and require transparency around Facebook ads, among others.

Companies, the two suggested, should create an international advisory council, to begin with; build fact-checking and verification tools; and work collaboratively, among others.

Media organizations should, for their part, run stories about the scale and threat posed by information disorder; ensure strong ethical standards; and refrain from disseminating fabricated content, among others.

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 1 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

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