• jscampos
    1
    Our modern world has reached an unprecedented level of freedom when it comes to information. Human history has never seen a moment like this wherein any individual has the ability to publish and spread ideas at such a scale that practically anyone can, to an extent, influence the minds of entire populations. However, with this progress, we must accept, are challenges that come with it. False news and information is becomming rampant and unfortunately many people are easily manipulated by these. I believe that freedom of expression and information is vital to our modern civilization (though feel free to express otherwise if you wish) that is why I believe that simple cencorship does not provide a true solution. Therefore I pose this problem to you philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, artists, programmers and other bright minds of our digital age."How can we help,teach or show people to think more deeply about their world, to take the effort and think with reason and logic rather than to simply take things at face value especially information. Because right now false news in social media seems to be like the superstitions of the past, they take hold of people's lives and they mislead those who simply believe them." I hope each of you can help in finding a solution and feel free to repost this and proposed solutions in other forums and even in social media because this may be one of the major challenges of our age.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k
    The answer to this is simply to teach kids, starting in elementary school, to not simply believe someting just because someone says it. That includes teaching them to not simply believe what teachers, parents, etc. say just because they say it.
  • Benkei
    2k
    The answer to this is simply to teach kids, starting in elementary school, to not simply believe someting just because someone says it. That includes teaching them to not simply believe what teachers, parents, etc. say just because they say it.Terrapin Station

    Yeah, because reinventing the wheel is such a great idea. Critical thinking doesn't entail being skeptical about everything and everyone.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k


    So you'd teach to believe things just because someone says them? (At least with respect to some people?)
  • zookeeper
    38
    The answer to this is simply to teach kids, starting in elementary school, to not simply believe someting just because someone says it. That includes teaching them to not simply believe what teachers, parents, etc. say just because they say it.Terrapin Station

    The problem with that is that we have to simply believe what others say all the time. In our daily lives we constantly have to basically trust what we're being told because there's no time nor means to try to verify everything. The basis for almost everything we do is ultimately based on what we've been told.

    With news this is particularly a problem, because the whole point of news is to be told things you don't know. Good old fashioned critical thinking will help you filter out the most outrageous nonsense you come across, but most of the time we can do little more than try to be smart about who to trust.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k
    The problem with that is that we have to simply believe what others say all the time.zookeeper

    You're not thinking that I'm saying that things aren't the case just because someone says them, are you?
  • zookeeper
    38
    You're not thinking that I'm saying that things aren't the case just because someone says them, are you?Terrapin Station

    No, I don't think I am.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k


    Right. So what does the fact that for practicalities' sake we have to do many things simply on the word of others have to do with my comment? That in no way changes the fact that something isn't the case just because someone says that it is.
  • zookeeper
    38
    Right. So what does the fact that for practicalities' sake, we have to do many things simply on the word of others have to do with my comment?Terrapin Station

    Seems to me that it shows why advice that one shouldn't believe things just because someone says is far from a complete solution, no?
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k


    Well, re "complete" it's not as if we're presenting a complete curriculum here or writing a textbook or something like that. (And I hope no one is under the impression that they're doing that or that they should do that whereupon they proceed to present a series of posts that add up to 100,000 words or something like that.)
  • Janus
    8.3k


    It's inevitable that authority must be respected. Nearly everything any individual believes is taken on authority. Of course I am not suggesting that authorities must always be believed, or must not be critically questioned.

    For example, what should one believe when it comes to nutrition and health; the official line (authority) or information coming from alternative sites? Authorities may well be biased by economic interests, as may alternative nutritionists, for that matter. There is no way that the lay individual could educate herself sufficiently to be able to reliably separate the wheat form the chaff, even just in this one area of nutrition; there just isn't enough time, and it would be too boring, anyway.

    The same goes for every practical area of human life. What is true in politics, in economics? Who are we to believe? It is an intractable problem for the thinking person. I believe the only way through is to be as educated as possible about, and critical as possible of, everything one reads, and beyond that to follow one's own intuitions and well-earned values, learn to have faith in one's own 'bullshit meter'.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k


    Again, though, you don't believe that something is the case just because someone says it is, do you?
  • Benkei
    2k
    So you'd teach to believe things just because someone says them? (At least with respect to some people?)Terrapin Station

    That's the most sensible approach. You trusted your teachers and parents to learn to read. Or did you go about challenging them "that's not really the letter D?" Even to this day, when you are uncertain of the meaning of a word you grab a dictionary.

    The same with mathematics, laws and most everyday knowledge which we receive through a heuristic filter of sources that we trust (teachers, friends, family, the government, your doctor etc.). There's hardly an original thought that we possess and when we do it's because "we're standing on the shoulders of giants".

    It's more about how to develop healthy relationships of trust and an openess to question our own beliefs.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k


    Actually, I regularly challenged both teachers and parents on various things, with the support of my parents. Did I challenge everything? No. That's not at all implied by realizing that something isn't the case just because someone is claiming it is.

    I find it distasteful and irresponsible that you'd teach kids that something is the case just because someone says it is.
  • Benkei
    2k
    Actually, I regularly challenged both teachers and parents on various things, with the support of my parents. Did I challenge everything? No. That's not at all implied by realizing that something isn't the case just because someone is claiming it is.

    I find it distasteful and irresponsible that you'd teach kids that something is the case just because someone says it is.
    Terrapin Station

    Look, I don't think we're really saying much different from each other but it's always nice to be judged by a complete stranger. I was pointing out that your "don't believe something just because they said it" is a completely theoretical way of living your life. We don't do that because it takes too much time and in practice we don't teach our kids that. If you do, you're either a very annoying dad/mother setting your kids up to be totally dysfunctional (although they'll probably get over it around puberty) or are just saying things but have no clue about actually raising kids.

    Do you trust the weatherman when he tells you it's going to rain tomorrow? Or are you going to check the barometric readings over a 250 mile radius, use it as input into an algo you've personally designed and coded on a computer which you've assembled from parts you've designed and built in machines you designed and built based on theoretical frameworks you personally verified for their physical and mathematical consistency?

    Problaby not. The point being that we continually trust, implicitly and explicitly, what other people say. We trust the weatherman he says it's going to rain tomorrow. Because we trust the barometers to work (and the guy who built it said it was accurate), the algo to predict, the computer to computationally be accurate, the parts not to degrade, the theoretical framework to be predictive and the mathematics and physics underpinning it to be correct.
  • Barry Etheridge
    349
    Do you trust the weatherman when he tells you it's going to rain tomorrow?Benkei

    This seems like a very odd example to choose because, well, most people simply never trust weather forecasters. In the UK there is a firm belief, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, that weather forecasts are always wrong and a very strong market in personal forecasting devices of all kinds from the ultra-scientific to the wildly esoteric.

    If you really are so complacent as to teach children that it is ok to simply take someone's word for it, even though they may be qualified to the hilt to give that word, then you are doing them a huge disservice. No source should ever go unchecked, no teacher should ever appoint themselves the guardian of all knowledge. Else nobody can tell when they are, as they inevitably will be (it is estimated that 90% of all current knowledge will be shown at some point in the future to be erroneous, inaccurate, or inadequate). just plain wrong.
  • Benkei
    2k
    But I said "knowledge which we receive through a heuristic filter of sources that we trust" and "It's more about how to develop healthy relationships of trust and an openess to question our own beliefs".

    If you really are so complacent as to teach children that it is ok to simply take someone's word for it, even though they may be qualified to the hilt to give that word, then you are doing them a huge disservice.Barry Etheridge

    :-}

    No source should ever go unchecked, no teacher should ever appoint themselves the guardian of all knowledge.

    Many sources do go unchecked as I just illustrated, whether you find the example quaint is neither here nor there as I could've mentioned many others. Like trusting the bread from the baker is edible because he says it is. Or do you have him go through an entire due dilligence process?

    Or how about the MOT? The garage tells you it's MOT compliant and when he does the government will trust your car is compliant. So that's a level of trust with even a clear legal effect. Trust. We do it all the time. Please note also, that I've never said we should trust everyone unconditionally. I merely took issue with this extreme skepticism that approaches people as if they are islands upon themselves. We're not even capable of checking all sources. So it's a nice theoretical idea but the reality is we trust other people to do the checking. The garage has a periodic check from the government but you trust the government to do that check correctly (and often enough to avoid the garage from breaking the law). Personally, I don't have expertise in cars and neither have the time nor the inclanation to verify my garage performed the MOT correctly.

    If you have a legal dispute and if you aren't a lawyer it is perfectly sensible to trust a legal advisor. You trust the school and academic system, the bar association and the legal system to be robust enough that what he says is correct. You don't spend 4 years getting a law degree to then sue.

    I also didn't say teachers are the guardians of all knowledge. I said we learn by trusting teachers, which is entirely sensible as well because we have a social history and social structure that by and large ensures that what teachers tell us is correct. Schools seem to be reasonably capable of teaching children how to read, do algebra etc. etc.

    Else nobody can tell when they are, as they inevitably will be (it is estimated that 90% of all current knowledge will be shown at some point in the future to be erroneous, inaccurate, or inadequate). just plain wrong.

    Hence, my earlier line to be open "to question our own beliefs".

    But please, continue to disagree for the sake of disagreeing. It's not as if what I'm writing is anything radical. it's all rather common sense.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k
    We trust the weatherman he says it's going to rain tomorrow. Because we trust the barometers to work (and the guy who built it said it was accurate),Benkei

    This would not be asserting that something is the case just because someone says that it is, though, would it? You have other reasons for trusting that it's the case (although trusting weather forecasters is a bad example for this in my opinion, haha). You're using past reliability, you're trusting instruments to work a particular way, etc.
  • zookeeper
    38
    This would not be asserting that something is the case just because someone says that it is, though, would it?Terrapin Station

    Pretty much no one ever asserts that something is true because someone says it is. Someone who believes that crooked politicians run a pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza joint isn't going to tell you that it's true because someone said so. They'll very specifically tell you that you shouldn't believe what people (such as the crooked politicians) say but that you should look at the totally credible evidence that was uncovered.

    Teaching kids that they don't have to believe everything they're told (which is what your position seems to be) isn't going to stop them believing in the aforementioned kind of misinformation, because that's not why people start believing in it now.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k
    Pretty much no one ever asserts that something is true because someone says it is.zookeeper

    Then why in the world would people be arguing with me that we should teach that?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    First of all, It's not the case that "fake news" is a new thing. (Why should you believe me?) A study of almost any historical period will reveal instances of political authorities inserting false information into the flow of conversation and printed information.

    Yes, children should believe what their teachers tell them because their parents told them so.

    First, the parents can select the teachers. If the parents believe in a 6 day creation, want their child to believe in a 6 day creation, they put them in a school that teaches 6 day creation (such things exist). If the parents want their children to learn about basic science, literature, and history they will put them in a normal sort of school which teaches basic science, literature, and history.

    Are the parent's safe in telling their children to believe their teachers? Yes -- until some time in their children's adolescence, when the children's teachers (in normal schools) will themselves tell the children to be careful about what they believe.

    What children in normal schools learn is basic science, literature, and history that more than a majority of people believe. Not everybody believes the earth is round, orbits the sun, and is part of a large galaxy, but most people do. Most people believe that fish have skeletons and extract oxygen from water. Most people believe that William Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of plays over 400 years ago, and that Massachusetts was once a colony of England and was never a colony of Spain or France. They believe that the United States participated in WWI and WWII. Most people believe Auschwitz was really an industrial death factory. Etc.

    Children learn basic facts in schools. They become acquainted with the general, over-all shape of their culture. It's up to parents to make sure their education continues after school: that children read well-written books, that they watch worthwhile television and movies, don't spend too much time playing games, soaking in social media, and surfing the net. Responsible parents model being informed of current events by consuming what they think are reliable news sources. They talk about current events with their children. They impart their own opinions about the world to their children -- not as LAW but as "this is what we think".

    From all that, children are able to put together a reasonably reliable picture of basic reality. As the progress through life, they keep reading, keep talking with other people, keep getting more education, and gradually become their own information curators, their own reference librarians.

    They can hear about a pizza parlor that is supposedly a front for a child pornography ring that included the Clinton, Bush, and Trump families, and step back to consider: "Well it is possible that a pizza parlor could be owned by a child pornographer, but they probably weren't including kiddie porn in the pizza boxes. So, how would non-porn ring people know about it? if the Clinton, Bush, and Trump families were all involved, then either kiddie porn is more mainstream than I thought, or somebody would have squealed on them long before now. And besides, it's just not very likely that such visible people as Clintons, Bushes, and Trumps would be involved in something that dangerous to their reputations, particularly, not on the scale of a pizza joint."

    They would conclude that that sample of "fake news" was, indeed, "fake".
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Pope Francis also does not like fake news:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pope-blasts-sin-of-fake-news_us_58484584e4b08c82e8892eb2

    Using precise psychological terms, [Pope Fancis] said scandal-mongering media risked falling prey to coprophilia, or arousal from excrement, and consumers of these media risked coprophagia, or eating excrement
    .

    He went on to describe
    ... disinformation as the greatest harm the media can do because β€œit directs opinion in only one direction and omits the other part of the truth,”...

    Profane phrasing for a Pope, Rome must be rubbing off on him.
  • m-theory
    1.1k

    I agree to an extent with one caveat.

    In the modern world it is possible that you are exposed exclusively to information that is tailored for your tastes.
    You can essentially be surrounding by only that news which confirms your biases.

    Google, facebook, and many online companies, implement filtering algorithms that filter the content you are exposed to in order to expose you to things you are likely to approve of and eventually spend money on.

  • m-theory
    1.1k
    Rather than focus on what in particular is the content that is being filtered for our consumption we should focus on the fact that companies are attempting to manipulate what we are exposed to without our consent or even knowledge.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.2k
    Relying on Facebook or some other company to serve up targeted news stories is ill-advised. Google or Facebook's intent may not be nefarious--I'm assuming their intent is merely mercenary--but the effect of getting only what you ask for, filtered by formula, is limiting more than the convenience is worth.

    But then, Newspapers (thinking of the New York Times) don't really print all the news, all the news that's fit to print, or all the news that everyone collectively might like. They gather what they can afford to gather, and publish what they think is relevant to a 'responsible paid-up readership'. I've been reading the New York Times every day for... I don't know, maybe a decade. Before I bought an on-line subscription I always bought and read at least the printed Tuesday Times--that's when the weekly Science Times section appeared.

    I am frankly getting tired of the NYT editors' ideas of what's relevant and important. I used to read the Washington Post. I stopped when they imposed a pay wall, and I didn't want to pay for two newspapers. I'm thinking of dropping the NYT and coughing up the much higher fee for the Wall Street Journal. (The NYT costs about $90 a year, at the low, low rate they gave me to keep me subscribed.) The WSJ charges more like $250 a year. I don't like their editorial positions, and a lot of their news is narrower than I would like, but their general interest articles are excellent.

    Ideally, I would subscribe to the LA Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and a Canadian paper. I would keep my sub to the London Guardian, and I'd like to read a French or German paper. I don't have time to read all that, don't know German at all and don't read French very well.

    I have also subscribed to several magazines (Monthly Review, In These Times, Progressive, Dissent, and The Nation in the past, but have found these sources to be very predictable and limited. Like, these magazines cover labor and leftist events, but they are SO predictable in what they will cover and what they will say.

    So, my news is narrowed to my preferences too, though not as much as it would be if I were depending on Facebook.
  • m-theory
    1.1k

    Well my point was this...
    In theory traditional news media was not bias by design even if it becomes somewhat bias in practice.

    That is not true in the information age, the news media you are exposed to is bias by design.

    I think that is a real issue worthy of public consideration.
  • Benkei
    2k
    This isn't news either. I think it was in 2006 that I suggested making it possible to sue politicians and newspapers for stating incorrect facts. ;)
  • ssu
    1.5k
    With the fake news, with the post-factual World, we have to understand some things:

    - It's one thing to understand that the main stream media can be biased at times, it's a totally different thing to assume that they don't tell the truth. Some Fox News does carry out the same news events as CNN, even if the commentary is one thing and of course just what news events are picked as the most important is another. Fake news and other conspiracy theorists depend on not only ignorance, but also total mistrust on other more established media sites.

    - The way the social media is formed improves the chances of fake news and basically disinformation. You actively or passively choose the information you get. The system now creates echochambers for people.

    - The actual danger is that it's truly disinformation intended on subversion done or sponsored by another country. And there's a lot of evidence that one country (no need to say which) has been especially active in these kind of "active measures" aktivnyje meroprijatija with striking success.

    - fake news & disinformation is a way to controll the social media. Just as are bloggers etc. that actively work for some organization or country have an effect on the discourse in the net. The idea that government loose power because they don't control the social media / internet and because people can get information from the net is an inherently naive idea.

    Here in Europe especially Germany is now afraid of being "the next target" of a large scale "active measures" operation when their elections are due to come at the end of the summer next year.
  • Gooseone
    107
    - The actual danger is that it's truly disinformation intended on subversion done or sponsored by another country. And there's a lot of evidence that one country (no need to say which) has been especially active in these kind of "active measures" aktivnyje meroprijatija with striking success.ssu

    Aside from what's actually going on with this issue, doesn't it assume (to some degree) that western news is somewhat impartial by definition and Russian news is biased?

    The issue you mention: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.a0fb35481dac

    I tend to look for news on a site where people can post the news stories which interest them and comment on them, at first glance this might seem like a bad idea but you can trust the divide between left and right and the self serving biases at work to provide a fairly decent allotment of news from both sides; it is necessary to check where the news stories come from though.

    The news / rumours on "Russian trolls" started in earnest when the crisis in Syria evolved and took a step up with the Ukraine crisis. The main thing which I noticed wasn't actual Russian propaganda but rather people being deemed Russian trolls when ever something was posted which wasn't necessarily negative about Russia.

    I'm aware Russia Today is filled with a lot of propaganda but also the Dutch state news network (NOS) isn't exactly impartial. I would deem it likely Russian trolls exist yet I feel that, like with most media outlets, especially online, such bias can be negated to a degree by trying to be well-informed.

    The way you frame it assumes "danger" instead of emphasizing the importance of being well informed. It doesn't help in being able to discern "false news" if we condemn specific news in advance, that's an ideological bias.

    If elections start in Germany next year and there's a lot of news pointing to "active measures", is the beneficiary of such measures automatically the wrong vote?
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