I think those of us who study and think about mis- and disinformation, it’s very tempting to study what’s in front of us. And so there’s a disproportionate focus on Twitter, because it’s the easiest to study because there’s an open API—although, caveats—and Facebook. That’s a lot of the places that we study. And similarly, that’s a lot of the places that journalists look for content and sources and stories. And so we end up kind of really just thinking about that as the “problem,” when actually we need to think about the full ecosystem.
When you’re looking at something as big as these questions of verifiability, truth, truthiness, disinformation, so on and so forth, I find myself now trying to pick apart the questions we talked about this morning from the perspective of tractability. So let me use that to sort of frame a couple of the conversations we’ve had and then a couple of things that haven’t come up, and then see if I can sort of push us forward a little bit into where we go this afternoon.
I’ve experienced first hand the challenges of trying to correct misinformation, and in part my academic research builds on that experience and tries understand why it was that so much of what we did at Spinsanity antagonized even those people who were interested enough to go to a fact-checking web site.
This idea of control is so baked into the journalistic psychology that actually this articulation, done in a highly-controlled environment with an advertising agency, is one which even though it’s not new to the open Web is still very very very new to journalism. And what we don’t have at the moment is anything like a balancing investment in the kinds of things which allow us to participate in the crowd.
The danger is that we are taking the agenda that is being set by those who are the political players, and by checking within it ignoring the things that are consequential that we ought to be debating, that to some extent exist in another world which is a world about what is desirable and good, and what the trade-offs actually are and how we should arbitrate those track trade-offs.