The Ethics of the Press: Should We Trust Our Media?
‘Fake News’ may be the most infamous term of the decade. It creates universal distrust, dubious ethical consequences, and regression of the world’s intellectual views
The UK Government went so far as to ban it in parliament. The fight against fake news involves every one of us. It’s a war worth fighting.
Fake News and The Media
We used to rely on the press to be truthful but now too often they’re not. Ridiculous fake stories (that made the news) like the queen being declared a Japanese citizen are bad enough but the real danger are the smaller stories passed around social media that influence the masses.
For example, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, had to respond to a fake story that did the rounds saying that she fired stones at squirrels. Some people may have seen the story and not the resolution, influencing their vote all because of a rogue Facebook share.
The fact is that media outlets thrive on sensationalism. They don’t check the facts, as was the norm not so long ago. It means that any old lie spouted by certain leading politicians gets printed in the headlines. That stays in people’s memories, regardless of its falseness.
What has happened to old-fashioned journalism?
The standard of journalism in the mainstream media (MSM) has deteriorated markedly. Many commentators reckon that critical investigation of news stories has effectively disappeared. Newspapers and TV merely regurgitate whatever it is their owners or controllers demand they broadcast all too often. They are rapidly losing credibility outside of their core target audience.
This political misinformation is especially important to consider. It can come in many forms from memes to actual broadcast stories, but it’s often converted to multiple formats as it picks up traction. This video about Fox and Friends in the US and its effect on the President is especially interesting:
Imagine if the people running our countries were there due to falsehoods, and those who should be in office weren’t – for the same reason.
Results and Lies
It isn’t just the potential for large-scale harm that is so important. No-one wants to be lied to, especially from a trusted source that helps you navigate the world. There are countless stories of families being torn apart by biased news.
Lying is wrong in most ethical systems, but it seems that the line is blurring. The Political Compass poses a question, asking people whether or not there is a worrying blend of entertainment and news at the moment. That’s for you to decide, but there seems to be a case for a divorce here.
“Deepfakes” and The Future of Fake News
Deepfakes are false videos or images using an existing piece of media and altering the person’s likeness by replacing them with other people. This gained a lot of traction when items of pornography were released with celebrity faces superimposed on the faces of the original actors.
More recently, the application has widened, and pretty startling and shocking political videos have sprung up with deepfakes within them. You really cannot believe what you see any more:
This is disinformation at its finest, albeit for comedic purposes. Some may see it and genuinely believe it. But more importantly, it shows the power of the deepfake. This could change the country. It is the most credible form of disinformation yet.
As we have mentioned before: There are many institutions dedicated to helping the youth grasp this such as The Philosophy Foundation’s ‘Fake News and Critical Thinking’ programme, for example, which goes into schools and looks at training children to think in a different perspective. The course looks at bias, amongst other things, and can help students truly understand.
Being vigilant is the best policy. That quote about the queen being declared Japanese? I made it up – the link doesn’t go to that. The reference with a hyperlink made it look credible. Be careful out there and check everything you can. Read more on specific subjects. The other side of the argument is as valuable as your own and you can learn from it and how it’s presented even if you vehemently disagree with it.
The Philosophy Foundation. Fake News and Critical Thinking Programme: https://www.philosophy-foundation.org/critical-thinking
Dale, I. (Nov 2019) Jo Swinson responds to ‘very fake news’ story which said she fired stones at squirrels. LBC. Retrieved from https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/iain-dale/jo-swinson-responds-to-viral-fake-story-squirrels/
Information Is Beautiful. (Jan 2019). Biggest Fake Junk News of the Year. IIB. Retrieved from https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/biggest-fake-news-of-2017/
O’Neil, L. (Apr 2019). ‘Fox News brain’: meet the families torn apart by toxic cable news. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/apr/12/fox-news-brain-meet-the-families-torn-apart-by-toxic-cable-news
Murphy, M. (Oct 2018). Government bans phrase ‘fake news’. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2018/10/22/government-bans-phrase-fake-news/
The Public Purse. (Oct 2019). Essay – Critical Thinking About Critical Thinking: A New Generation Of Arguments. TPP. Retrieved from https://www.thepublicpurse.org.uk/education/essay-critical-thinking-about-critical-thinking-a-new-generation-of-arguments/