Fake news on the internet
Fake news deserves to be ignored. But that will never happen unless there is an infrastructure dedicated to channelling credibility for both support and refutation.
The world needs to defend real news. We need the same mechanism to objectively criticise fake news.
This is the responsibility of the crowd. The consumers of news.
Real news is very valuable because it saves us time. However, we are all responsible for personally establishing just how credible any news is before we allow it to adjust or confirm our world view.
The obvious solution is to educate everyone to ignore unsubstantiated news. That may take a number of generations but I cannot see any other solution.
Post truth, we badly need universal education and a simple infrastructure to complement such education.
When reading something on the web, my browser has a button to help me check the veracity of what I'm looking at.
- Develop infrastructure to permit external comment on any statement on the internet
- Provide a link to background research or credible information supporting a statement.
- Provide a link to background research or credible information discrediting a statement
- If such doesn't exist, create the pair of pro and con web pages to carry such information
Proposed infrastructure to support real news
- Education. The entire world adopts as a tenet of primary education that an unsupported written statement must not be fully trusted. That means "facts" and "news" must be held in the mind as theory awaiting objective corroboration.
- The HTML standard is enhanced to provide two new tags <cred> and <discred> for use by article authors.
- A publically funded website (perhaps called Credipedia operating like Wikipedia.org) is established to carry cred and discred pages. Cred and discred pages carry supporting and discrediting information including links to other pages on the web.
- An author of a statement wishing to provide credibility encloses a key word or phrase in the statement within a <cred> tag and includes a mouseover precis of the supporting information.
- A <cred> tag when clicked would take the browser to the Credipedia page for the URL involved. Links elsewhere must not work inside those tags.
- If an author wishes to use a <discred> tag instead of a <cred> tag the effect is the same except when the reader visits Credipedia, the discred page is shown instead of the cred page - although both pages may be viewed at the same URL.
- Anyone (ie the crowd) should be able to contribute to cred/discred pages. Like Wikipedia a certain degree of moderation might be required.
Now ... for those who prefer to avoid the truth ...
Proposed infrastructure to discredit fake news
All news including fake news needs independent scrutiny by the crowd. Any statement on the web needs a pair of cred/discred pages. Fake news usually won't have <cred> or <discred> tags but it doesn't matter if they do because the proposed tags cannot take the reader anywhere else than the Credipedia page for the statement.
- All browsers incorporate a button (menu option) to visit the public cred/discred infrastructure for the current page
- <cred> and <discred> tags, when clicked do exactly the same thing
Problems are Opportunities
Many and varied problems. Primary will be getting buy-in from all browser manufacturers to support an independent site such as Credipedia. Then of course, the funding of such a monster site - and its essential bandwidth!
Meanwhile, it would also need significant voluntary support from a team of qualified moderators (ie., professional journalists/scientists) willing to help make it work.
And a team of specialists to help prevent hijacking by those with mischief to make.
And a team of IT specialists to make it work on all platforms.
Not to mention the enormous education task ...
Enough for the moment to ponder the proposed solution and see if others are interested.
A worldwide culture of objectivity and anti-bias would seem wishful thinking. But there is a business case in favour.
People with a vested interest in a topic are best placed to curate information on that topic. This is the secret of Wikipedia's success. Despite the fact that pages get hacked occasionally, curators do moderate that hacking.
If there is a website, to which everyone can turn and see statements and opinions argued and supported/decried, it will likewise contribute to the human condition just the way Wikipedia contributes with curated information.
The very existence of such infrastructure ought to have a moderating influence on fake news and promote that culture of objectivity and anti-bias. Journalists at least will recognise they cannot make mistakes public without the public being able to respond.