After combating disinformation/”fake news” online for years, are we actually winning? It feels like we are losing.
I personally know a couple of people who deny the existence of COVID-19. I know some who believe many of the more outlandish lies about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but absolutely believe Vladimir Putin has their best interest at heart.
And while we enact laws to limit disinformation, their most immediate effect is to limit free speech (see: NetzDG) and stories about people dying after getting their vaccine jabs are spread by traditional media*.
We’re living through a pandemic of misinformation, and as a consequence many minds have fallen sick with conspiracy theories. Recently we’ve seen wildfires blamed on space lasers, COVID blamed on Bill Gates […]
[…] the tech giants’ efforts are doomed to fail. Not only does the policing of conspiracy theories do nothing to stop their spread, it actually spreads them further. In fact, the most effective way to fight fake news is to do the very opposite of what is being done, and to simply let conspiracy theories run rampant.
The record of censoring harmful ideas speaks for itself. Here in the UK, police and tech companies have been working for 20 years to suppress the online spread of two problematic worldviews: jihadism and neo-Nazism. The result has been that jihadism remains the largest terrorist threat and far-right extremism is now the fastest growing threat in the country.
A mind unaccustomed to deceit is the easiest to deceive. You don’t stop people believing lies by making them dependent on others to decide for them what is true.
— Gurwinder Bhogal, “The Best Cure for Fake News is Fake News“
*) Technically true, as, just as with the HPV vaccine, someone was involved in a fatal traffic accident shortly after getting the jab. But any media that prints a headline that reads “man died tragically hours after getting vaccine” has crossed the barrier into passive lying.