Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Disinformation Age, by Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu


tiamin rice

Disinformation, popularly known as fake news and also known as pseudo-news, is any false information or propaganda news deliberately created to deceive some sets of targeted people via conventional, new or traditional news media. Unlike mal-information that is shared dangerously with the intent of causing harm, misinformation is false information shared without the intent to cause harm because the sharer doesn’t know that he is sharing either fake or otherwise information.

Disinformation, the term writers and researchers prefer to use to avoid Trump-painted “fake news”, is usually as a result of partisan and yellow or checkbox unethical journalism. With many people driven by emotions using social media today, disinformation mostly comes from social media users that find free platform to promote or demote some people due to their religious views, political affiliations, ethnic background, gender or sexual orientations, colour of their skins or their geographical locations.

The term fake news was popularised by President Donald Trump to attack or reduce any information that is not supporting his political cause. His assistants invented “alternative facts” that are not really facts but distractions from the obvious facts. Though Donald Trump is known for labelling information that are not in line with his personal whims and political views, it is not only the President that is driven by cognitive dissonance. Psychology says human beings are only rational when they are confronted with what they don’t like. When man come across plain old lies that support him he quickly shares, likes and copy to paste the garbages somewhere. It is an era of post-truth. The philosophy is no longer “I think, therefore I am” it is “I believe, therefore I am right”.

Social media helps users in selective information-seeking that is congruent with their prior knowledge, beliefs, political orientations and personal opinions. Users share and like information that is in line with their cognitive dissonance through confirmation or disconfirmation bias. This, mostly, works at subconscious level and therefore one has to be very careful in sharing everything he sees on the Internet without deeply analysing the content. In a time when most of the Internet users share and like fake or otherwise information instantaneously without reading or analysing the content, fake news gets wide spread more than genuine information because the selection and the dissemination of the information work entirely on the sharers’ cognitive dissonance.

Fake news, disinformation and misinformation are, day by day, becoming real and obvious dangers to the information flow on the Internet. Almost everyone knows that in an information age the real danger we face is no longer lack of the information but its overload and rapid dissemination of the distorted information. While most of the fake news known are in form of manipulated texts and photoshopped pictures, we have new and the most dangerous “deepfake” videos that work with artificial intelligence in creating and sharing fake video that looks almost 90% real! This is another enigma for fake news researchers.

Another problem is how people turn social media into echo chambers with newsfeeds adorned with filter bubbles, which enables them to be surrounded by like minded people supporting themselves in the confirmation bias and thereby distorting reality. In this room no one criticise the fake information shared because everyone is eager to have his views accepted. Here fake news attracts wider shares and reach more audiences than genuine information.

The solution to all of these problems is to develop critical mindset while reading any information we come across on Internet, new or conventional media. We should consider reporters’ prejudices. Check our source and compare them with other reputable sources. We should also examine the evidences presented in any news as even the genuine information can be manipulated.

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