All news lacks truth to some extent, i.e. – it can never be fully verified. The mere absence of the reader/observer, makes it impossible for them to fully know and assess what exactly happened and why. This opens up plenty of room for a middleman – the reporter, the editor, the media company, the megacorporation and the state. Add to that the fact that news, once in the past, becomes all the more difficult to track and verify. So, it is safe to say, that all of us are walking around with some half-truths we take comfort in knowing – nothing new or wrong in that. And that there is alot that can go wrong in the multiple layers through which information makes its way as news to us.
Media outlets and digital services which involve a social platform of any kind cannot go without a front or an act which engages in some level of fact-checking. Nowadays, in fact (pun intended), it is expected that a piece of news should carry a tag of its trueness. It doesn’t matter who is checking the veracity, the information must ultimately be true in the eyes of this verifying party, or the platform. The platforms try hard to convey that this verification party is independent and reputed (usually is a cabal), and ofcourse, a casual user would not bother going past a few clicks on the topic’s veracity. The platforms still have the final say as masters of the technology. So, if a ‘fact’ is checked and proven to be true, they can still not let it fly if it goes directly against the company’s agenda.
This also creates a false-demon, especially for the younger or late adopters of the internet, that propaganda and information control is something new and very unique to the internet. It tries to erase the key historic role of mainstream traditional media in propaganda, and positions the discontent and rage against independent individual sources in this new digital battlefield. Somehow, all their previous crimes are absolved, because this new medium has a faster and wider outreach. When the internet was not around, it was only easier for them to get away with the biggest lies ever told, so now they create a boogieman. There is a good reason why newspapers consistently choose words and slogans reinforcing their commitment to truth and bravery.
The trend of fact-checking is going to be a short-lived one – it is an attempt at self-preservation by an industry and related professions which are about to be made obsolete by technology. The assumption that the internet can be controlled like this comes from the lack of understanding. Many have tried. A common man with his camera can report things to the whole world as they happen. This man alone replaces an entire vanful of crew which could only deliver a correspondent talking over looped footage for two minutes. Machines are already doing most of the research, writing and editing work – so that is also taken care of. The landing pages of the news-giants begging for a subscription speak a lot – this was not the case a couple of years back.
The control over the spigots of information is their last stand. But this is where they falter – while they blame AI being used to create misinformation / disinformation / fake news, they also accept the importance of using AI to catch and control this dangerous knowledge. They forget that technology is neutral, and it won’t think twice before replacing them and even maybe benefitting the centers of ideas they set it up to fight.
The role of the newspaper will be reduced to that of merely gathering content using its own algorithms from citizen reporters, and then posting it in a news marketplace where other sophisticated algorithms will verify and select the competing pieces for their aggregators. Ofcourse, information will never become free from control; but the propaganda, will come clearly cut in different tiers, and with reducing central authority. The AI delivered propaganda will be what the swarm desires, or even needs. I bet that it will be a lot of pro-AI news, to begin with.
This shift is occurring, and the new systems that arise will take time to stabilize, but they will stabilize for sure. And that is a fact.