With social media there is no conclusion, no judge, few rules. Superior arguments do not silence an opponent. Journalistic ethics do not apply and there is no requirement for either truth or ideological balance. Online publishers often prefer alarmist headlines or humorous memes, that can be digested in seconds, over long-winded arguments and well-documented facts to make their points.
The authorship and origin of news on social media is often obscured, and its accuracy doubtful. Yet it makes its way into social media newsfeeds to people who are ready to believe it because it confirms their views.
The internet promised to free us from the control editors had over news, but it has replaced it with the less visible control of social media companies. And a few social media companies have eclipsed the rest so that “news organisations will often tailor their own work to the demands of this new medium” in an effort to second guess the algorithms and make it to the top of the news feeds and maximise page views that are generated by Facebook and the like. This has led to a move away from quality public interest journalism and truth-seeking and towards sensationalised and sometimes distorted news; “chasing page views” and virality and “clicks” that might attract advertising money.
Reference: Katherine Viner, ‘How Technology Disrupted the Truth.’ The Guardian. 12 July 2016.
The most extreme manifestation of this phenomenon has been the creation of fake news farms, which attract traffic with false reports that are designed to look like real news, and are therefore widely shared on social networks. But the same principle applies to news that is misleading or sensationally dishonest, even if it wasn’t created to deceive: the new measure of value for too many news organisations is virality rather than truth or quality.
© 2017 Sharon Beder