Fake news, crafted to exploit us, wreaks havoc on our health, finances and politics. VeriSign founder David Cowan avers that science is the key to combatting the spread of disinformation.
How Science Will Explain & Fix Fake News
The instant, global spread of information through the Internet clearly benefits us as individuals and as a civilization. But the Internet can also be wielded to spread disinformation, a formidable downside of the technology that we’ve recently labeled “fake news.” Simple web publishing tools enable anyone to fabricate stories that appear identical to legitimate journalism, which prompts social media users—both human and robotic—to share them as easily as real news. Fake news, crafted to exploit us, wreaks havoc on our health, finances and politics.
Reality constrains the quantity of real news stories, but our boundless imaginations unleash a torrent of fake stories that now overwhelm our news feeds. Not only does fake news deceive us, it undermines our trust in legitimate news sources. This is the real catastrophe and, many believe, the objective of Russia’s fake news campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. elections. Fake news threatens the institution of democracy itself, because an uninformed public cannot make sound governance decisions.
Many groups have tried to stem fake news through various fact-checking initiatives that have all failed, because they fundamentally misunderstand the problem. Some employ human editors, who cannot possibly keep up in any useful timeframe. More scalable schemes crowd-source the work, as though the public could possibly know what is happening elsewhere in the world. Others employ machine learning, as though reality follows some recognizable pattern. Others use automated reference-checking to verify facts elsewhere online, defying the very definition of “news.” Some internet media platforms necessarily publish “both sides of the story” side by side, serving up contradictory facts that guarantee misinformation and confusion. Some find the problem so intractable that their only remedy is to “educate the public” that news sources simply cannot be trusted, and that truth is a matter of opinion always “worthy of respect.” […]