The jungle will continue to try to sneak into Mark Zuckerberg’s rosy walled garden
“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”
“If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do read it, you are misinformed.”
The first quote is from Thomas Jefferson in an 1807 letter to John Norvell, who sought his advice as he prepared to start printing a newspaper, The Baltimore Whig.
But the second quote is from the actor Denzel Washington, in a quick conversation with reporters this month. Mr Washington was last month the subject of a fake news article that said he had unexpectedly thrown his popularity behind Donald Trump after the November election. A month after her defeat, Hillary Clinton described fake news as “an epidemic.”
Because it happened in the United States, 2016 will be remembered as the year the world started to debate about fake news. But the phenomenon, as the Jefferson quote indicates, is as old as democracy — and maybe politics in any of its forms, as a story by the Columbia Journalism Review website noted this week (http://www.cjr.org/special_report/fake_news_history.php).
But the news of today’s over-connected world is that anybody who wields a smart telephone has clout but almost nobody has reputation. In the US, a place where almost everything gets polled instantly, the media dropped this year to its lowest public approval since Gallup measures it in the early 1970s: only 32 percent responded that they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mass media this year.
Despite the downhill decline of the mass media’s reputation, analysis of the Gallup poll offers some optimism. It explains that new media might be in a transition to that it will eventually settle from the “explosion of mass media” in recent years and that, through time, as blogs and social media “mature,” they may improve in the public’s eyes. “This could, in turn, elevate Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media as a whole,” the report concludes.
In Facebook we trust
Confidence is something that most worries the Citizen Kanes of this 21st Century, starting with the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook has been in the spotlight for being the main platform guilty of the dissemination of fake news, something that was notorious during the recent presidential campaign in the US. Within weeks, Zuckerberg moved from a position that was initially reluctant to assume any responsibility for the bad content that circulates freely on his social network to a person who is now promising to establish a whole procedure to expose the evil.