This article, while interesting, seems, at the end, too optimistic about the progress of the world. We should also have reservations about professional journalism, highly praised in this article, because it also needs a critical look. The major media quickly fall into the ease of repeating general opinion. It is also necessary to know how to look for alternative sources and it is there that it is not always easy to spot the producers of Fake news. A good alternative is also university research.
Before its last elections, Europe was drowned in floods of misinformation, like the alleged reconstruction of Notre-Dame with a minaret, or gangs of migrants who would attack the police! For months, Avaaz investigated this tsunami of false information in Europe and discovered a staggering reality: content from these misinformation networks have been viewed hundreds of millions of times, if not billions!
Studies show one after the other that no one is safe from these toxic lies, but the more we are aware of this danger, the more we will be able to protect ourselves from it.
5 things to know about misinformation
1-. It feeds on our fear and spreads quickly.
Humans are set up to retain more negative than positive information: this is how we learn. The peddlers of disinformation know it and play on our deep emotions, which makes us much more inclined to share fake news on social networks - where they spread and six times faster than the facts.
2-. It abounds on social networks and affects millions of people.
The more time we spend on social networks, the more the net giants earn money. They know that shocking or extreme content gets our attention, so they program their platforms to promote them. This affects millions of people. The largest newspapers sell a million copies, while the information shared on Facebook reaches more than one billion people a day.
3. It is used as a weapon against us.
From Brazil to China, authoritarian rulers use misinformation as a weapon: it is the last arsenal at the service of the classic strategy aiming to divide for better to rule. However, it is Russia that uses it the most - its huge "troll farms" (French expression to name the fake news factories) employ legions of people to create millions of false accounts and spread misinformation. The RT, the showcase of Russian propaganda, is one of the most followed YouTube channels with about 2 billion views!
4-. It kills, and poisons the democracies.
Disinformation has prompted individuals to bring justice to themselves in India and Brazil, and fueled violent ethnic cleansing in Burma. It also poisons our political life: false information has contributed to Brexit, and the elections of Bolsonaro and Trump. It destroys our trust in our major media, our democratic institutions, our leaders, creating the perfect breeding ground for strong "anti-system" leaders. Due to misinformation, social networks have become a threat to democracy.
5. Nobody is immune.
People on each political edge are micro-targeted as part of a strategy to polarize and erode societies. In the United States, the Russian troll army has created a fake page of black American activists that has attracted more subscribers than the official site of the Black Lives Matter movement! We think we will never be fooled, but studies show that even the most educated among us tend to believe misinformation, and older people are more likely to share it.
Disinformation conveys mistrust, fear and lies. However, the more we know, the more we can act.
5 ways to protect yourself from misinformation
1-. If you see something, say it!
Do not believe everything you read on the Internet. Do you see a Facebook post with shocking information about a political candidate? Do not believe it! Check the facts with reliable sources of information.
2-. Continue to support real journalism.
Most traditional media are governed by rules and ethics that make them far more trustworthy than famous online strangers. They are not perfect, but they check the published facts and we can hold them to account! Following quality journals, while reflection of true journalism work, with critical thinking is a determining act for the truth of information.
3. Join the campaigns to clean social networks.
We must encourage the Internet giants to stem the epidemic of misinformation on social networks by publishing factual corrigenda made by independent sources in case of fake news, so join the campaigns!
4-. Do not give up democracy!
The purpose of the troll armies is to create such a climate of mistrust that ordinary citizens break away from democracy. Then fanatical extremists can take power. We must continue to go to the polls and vote, encourage our friends and families to do the same, and put our elected officials to their responsibilities.
5-. Choose to have faith in humanity.
Disinformation attacks our deepest fears, feeding on our natural tendency to the negative while highlighting our irascible and cynical inclinations. Nevertheless, if we come to dialogue with those who do not think like us, with empathy, wisdom and an attentive ear, we can exchange despite our differences. We have more in common than our fears let us think. If we believe in this, extraordinary things can happen.
From human rights to democracy, our civilization is in many ways the most accomplished in the history of Humanity. We are on track to end poverty within a generation and on the verge of successful schooling for all children. Thanks to democracy, to great journalists, to responsible leaders and to our own fellow citizens. However, forces spreading misinformation are powerful and threaten to destroy everything. Do not let them win by giving up all hope!
See the original texte : Fake news : la menace pressante de la désinformation et comment nous en protéger