“The Scourge Of Misinformation Is As Old As Language Itself”

Often overlooked in the outrage over the scourge of fake news that proliferated online during the Presidential election is that Fox News has been in basically the same business for 20 years, normalizing bigoted, dangerous, faux reporting long before neo-Nazi trolls took to Twitter and Facebook. Rupert Murdoch’s perversion of journalism is far better positioned than any other American outlet to lend a corporate respectability to such irresponsibility. When you examine the voting numbers, there was a significant bloc of older Caucasians positioned to have a real impact. Do you think they were more influenced by a toad like Bill O’Reilly or by Pepe the Frog?

From “How to Counter Fake News,” Martin J. O’Malley and Peter L. Levin’s Foreign Affairs article:

The scourge of misinformation is as old as language itself, but Internet-fast global manipulation is relatively new. The good news is that there are methods and systems that can help ordinary users discern what’s reliable from what’s invented. Major distribution platforms—from network and cable news to web-based platforms that service billions of users—should move quickly toward sensible solutions that do not censor, but that do provide citizen consumers with a qualitative indication of reliability. Software applications will learn how to do this, much like they already, if imperfectly, catch spam in email.

“Trust but verify” is a serviceable policy framework when there’s plausible reason to trust, and ready means to verify. The erosion of these traditional norms on the Internet scuttles authentic debate on the rocks of superstition, impulse, emotion, and bias. With new public-sector investment and private-sector innovation, we are optimistic that the United States can fight back against fake news and foreign influence in U.S. elections.•

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