Everyone encounters big data: via social media, financial transactions and public transport. Although all of these things are useful and fascinating, they simultaneously arouse feelings of discomfort: how far does the – largely invisible – influence of all of these data collections reach? In this article republished from Green European Journal, they interview Marleen Stikker, an expert who has been following developments in this sphere since the beginning of the digital era.
A revolution is taking place in our communication. Across the world, structures have collapsed because of their dependence on a funding model that no longer works. This has allowed new digital platforms to expand their reach ever further, and to tighten their grip on the information we circulate and are exposed to. Fake news is thriving in this new media environment – presenting a threat to our democratic societies which we underestimate at our peril. In this article republished from the Green European Journal, they sat down with Aidan White from the Ethical Journalism Network to discuss what fake news means for our society.
Green European Journal: How would you describe the media landscape today, and the main changes which have been occurring?
Aidan White: The landscape has been transformed by technology, essentially by the internet, in a way that allows us as individuals to have more choice and access to faster information from a greater range of sources. But this has come at a high price – that of our privacy and protection, and our access to pluralist and reliable information.
The capacity of social networks to provide rapid information has meant that the role of journalism to inform people about news events has become less important. But what has not changed is the need for reliable and accurate information to help us better understand the impact and consequences of events, and that also provides context – not just reporting a series of facts but explaining why things are happening. While social media can provide us with instantaneous coverage of an incident or disaster, we often miss the filter that journalism provides, for instance to provide news while sheltering others, especially vulnerable people such as children, from views or images that can be damaging. There is no moderation because the tech companies have always said they leave the content generation to users without interfering with it. This has left the door open to unscrupulous communication, such as special interest groups who are only interested in pursuing their own narrow agenda, not the public interest.