Saturday, April 28, 2018

What is fake news

I heard a comment that Png EH might not be fielded for the next general election as the candidate for Hougang under the Workers Party. He also said that Png has not been appearing in wakes in the constitutency recently.

I do not believe this "rumor". But I do not consider it as "fake news". The person who told me might have heard it from somebody else, and he did not verify it. I do not think that he "fake" the news out of the blue.

Somebody else could have "fake" the news or made a mistake. Maybe Png was absent from a wake or two due to his schedule.

This is how the rumor mill works. It has been around for decades or centuries. With technology and the use of fake identity, the rumor could travel in the social media quite quickly.

Sometimes, I shared a news that may be untrue. I thought it was true, but did not verify it. It does not cause any problem. Someone will point out the other source and I could delete the post or make a correction.

A few gullible people might have believed it (and I did!). But the "wisdom of the crowd" has a self correcting mechanism.

There is another common incident. I often get an item that appears in my newsfeed. The natural instinct is to believe that this is "current news". Sometimes, it turned out to be old news, so the timing is out of context.

This is easy to correct. Someone would have pointed out that it was "old news". I delete it immediately.

I now pay attention to check the date. But I might still overlook this check.

Sometimes, somone shared an old news without stating that it was dated. Sometimes, the old news appeared automatically by the algorithm of the website, which recycled the old news.

As I considered this context, I think that the effort by the government to legislate against the creation and spread of "deliberate fake news" is difficult.

I also consider that there is value in allowing the free flow of information, including untruths. Let these untruths be sorted out through the process of vetting. The alternative is to allow the rumor mills to continue unabated, even though the social media is silenced.

On balance, it is better to continue with the current situation or status quo, and let the existing laws deal with the matter.

Do you agree?

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