I was recently thinking about times, when I used sit down every morning at the library to read newspapers from all around the globe, and it made me realize how the world changed in the last 15 years.
Today I wake up, grab my mobile and check Facebook first. All the good old newspapers are already there with digital versions and even the ones which were never available at my library are now with one click, within easy reach. This new way is comfortable, cheap and makes my life much handier. I can get the latest news in zero time and I don’t have to wait until the next day to learn what happened in Karachi or Timbuktu . I am able to watch a live video of a coup d’etat in Turkey or have instant access to information from people in countries where the press is censored by state or government.
The only problem choosing the right news, but Facebook can help me with that too when it makes suggestions for you according to the things you like, follow or comment on.
Sounds good so far?
But that’s exactly where the problem is.
The old newspapers are in trouble because most people don’t buy them anymore, but prefer to read them online. Thirty per cent of the printed news publications have already vanished in the last ten years according to the Thomas Reuters Foundation and in some parts of the world even more as they lack customers. Journalists are forced to produce ‘likeable’ stuff to get clicks, instead of focussing on background stories and serious reportage. And they need to do it faster than ever, because when you post something first, you will get more clicks and likes and the reach of your page will increase.
The yellow press like the German Bild or British tabloids like the Sun always focus on stories like that but to stay with the competition nowadays, their stories are getting more absurd than ever.
Some of them spread so much hate that people in UK started a campaign against them after the Brexit vote. Stop funding hate wants to persuade advertisers on such newspapers to pull their support.
On top of all of this, there are a lot of new online-only media groups which in some cases, are run by those with a hidden agenda which are producing ‘news’ that are fake or a mix between lies and truth to transport their political aims. In some countries the owners of newspapers are clearly using their influence on the editors to report topics in favour of the owners political views.
If you want to find out the truth, you need to read a lot of different articles on the same topic.
And all of these entities are on Facebook competing for likes and shares. The amount of news, fake or half-true is incredible and the Facebook algorithm is sorting the content of your personal newsfeed. Which means that if you are clicking like on pro EU pages for example, you will get more suggestions on this type of subject. This is the beginning of the one sided view on all of what is happening in the world and the beginning of a division in our societies.
You will be living in a virtual world, where all people you meet online are sharing the same views as you do. We all are spending more and more time online and the virtual reality is influencing our real lives already. Words are still mightier than the sword.
The hate on foreigners and the fear that you will get less because of immigrants and the feeling that your government have lost control is increasing with every minute you spend on the wrong pages and groups on Facebook and other social networks. If you are reading the wrong news, all provided by the wonderful Facebook algorithm, you will think the world is doomed and go out of your house and start to do something against it . This has led to a lot of violence against refugees, immigrants and all kind of foreigners already in real life.
Trying to find out what is real and what is fake, gets more difficult every day and people are starting to act based on feelings and half true news which are easy to consume and are supported by others online that you meet on your internet pages and groups. It’s becoming less possible any longer to discuss things logically with each other as the reality is completely different and the facts are no longer acceptable.
This leads to a dangerous split in our societies and we need to counteract.
We need to point out what is happening, stop the hate speech and provide decent factual information. Most of all we need to appeal towards the positive feelings and good side of people which are not reachable with facts anymore.
What else can we do?
Facebook announced a program in January to detect and stop hate speech and wants to take better care of fake profiles and articles which are just there for clickbait or complete nonsense. But a lot of people don’t think that is enough and I am one of them.
In Germany the laws were changed in 2015 to make online incidents of hate speech categorised as any other hate speech offence.
I think this is a move in the right direction and the EU should follow.
But it’s a start and should be supported.
What can you do to protect yourself against fake articles like this one?
Use and provide pages, which are detecting fakes and clear people up like this one
And of course, if you spot a fake profile or article report it to Facebook. The same goes for any incidents of hate speech. Only if we all are working together, can we make a change.
And last but not least, read everything and double check if its fact or fiction . Check the sources, build your own opinion and don’t rely on Facebook and your newsfeed.
Go out, ask people and talk with them.
Ohh, and visit a library. You do remember them don’t you?