age of misinformation

The Internet has made it possible for people to access information whenever they’re connected. Reviews, ratings and the best prices… this easy reference system is great for consumers putting more knowledge and buying power in their hands.

Walking through a hi-fi store, people will be able to see what they like, get a quick demonstration and then check online to see where they can find it cheapest and whose delivery service will get it to their home fastest. The Internet has created a culture of apps, where there’s a quick fix for just about everything whether you’re getting groceries delivered to your door with a 1 hour delivery service like Checkers Sixty60 or downloading a movie for your kids to watch on a long car journey.

While the Internet has created a smorgasbord of options, reinventing news services, which are now having to bridge the digital divide – it’s not a perfect solution. Being able to modulate content through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, we’re seeing the rise of political upsets through swing votes and misinformation.

Peddling all kinds of adverts and “news” in an age where most people only read headlines, the Internet is becoming weaponised by unethical PR firms trying to bend public perceptions and the truth. This dark side to social media has been well-documented, yet the addictive quality of the scrolling through reams of news and personal content means many choose to ignore the insidious misinformation.

This modulation, perception-shifting and twisting the truth is one reason that people are being suspicious. Simply feeding users more of what they like and agree with has created an echo chamber where everyone thinks they’re right and everyone else is wrong. This bipolar effect is playing out in the real world with many disturbing repercussions from taking the law into one’s own hands in acts of vigilantism to hijacking elections. With so many publications using their platforms to push certain agendas, it’s becoming more and more difficult to decipher the hard truth.

Before the advent of the Internet it was a good idea to cross-reference by consulting a few sources. This hasn’t changed, it’s just intensified with limited accountability on a medium where anyone with a blog or podcast has an opinion.

Bellingcat is a citizen-led detective agency who make it their business to cross-check news stories and denounce fake news through independent investigative journalism.  What is worrying is that the need for such an agency even exists. While journalistic endevours and certain publications were trusted over others, the Internet has pushed speed over accuracy making the rush to get the story out ahead of the pack more important.