Against fake news, Journalism

January 22, 2018-Reading time: 3 minutes

The phenomenon of fake news (hoaxes) and disinformation is due to the elimination of barriers on the Internet between information senders and receivers. The author, an acknowledged expert in this phenomenon, has collected texts of his own in the newspaper El Mundo and states his thesis: to strengthen journalism.

 

VICENTE LOZANO

-Doctor in Journalism. Editor-in-chief and columnist for El Mundo.

Expert in fake news.

At the beginning of last year, Zygmunt Bauman, one of the thinkers who has best analyzed and disseminated what is happening to this world at the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era, passed away. It says a lot about his intellectual power when, in his old age, he has been so clairvoyant in delving into social changes that are occurring at an accelerated pace.

The birth of the smart phone, for example, caught Bauman at the age of 81. Despite this, he immediately saw the mirage that could be produced in people by the inflated capacity to communicate brought about by the new technologies. Social networks, Bauman said, "they are a trap". Because the individual believes he is in permanent contact with hundreds or thousands of people. - "friends"., "followers"- and only realizes his loneliness when he turns off his cell phone in the room: "Virtual relationships are provided with delete and spam keys, he explained, which protect from the heavy consequences of in-depth interaction.". Individualism "rampant" The current situation does not seem to like social responsibility too much, and Facebook provides a great loophole to avoid facing it.

Networks are one of the manifestations in the world of communication of its concept of "liquid modernity"but there are others. Bauman has offered several definitions of this mother idea. On some occasions he spoke of it as the "absence of form" in an unstructured world: job security is being lost, the welfare state is crumbling, globalization is blurring the established local powers... In other words, it refers to the fact that "the conditions on which members of society act change faster than they take to consolidate into habits and routines.". In this case, this liquid world is shown as a current whose speed and power overflows the traditional channels: change flows so fast that it leaves the advances before they have been taken advantage of.

As I say, these premises also apply to social communication. I listened to a professor explain, stretching Bauman, that communication was liquid from the beginning of history - the minstrels of the Middle Ages spread the events of the time by word of mouth, for example - until the appearance of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century.

This invention solidified communication: an editor decided what was information, when and how it was disseminated. The citizen had only to adapt to the process. This remained almost unchanged until, around 1990, Tim Berners-Lee launched the world wide web. With it, he returned liquidity to communication. Today, written, spoken and recorded content is disseminated without control by citizens, who are both receivers and senders. Millions of minstrels explain every second of what is happening around them. And at such a speed that it unsettles the citizens themselves and disturbs information professionals.

In this context, the Spanish government announced in December two initiatives related to disinformation, media and social networks. One of them is the creation of a commission made up of politicians and editors to study hoaxes -the fake news- on the internet.

It is something that has become a global obsession since, against the tide, Donald Trump won the U.S. election and supporters of the Brexit won the referendum in the United Kingdom. The other measure aims to put an end to anonymity in social networks, which provides a space of impunity for those who use them to threaten or insult.

What has changed so that the fake news have become a worldwide fear? Well, the very process of disintermediation brought about by the Internet, which has been eliminating barriers between the senders of information and the receivers. There have always been hoaxes and most of them were controlled by the political or economic power. What is one of the main jobs of the intelligence services? What is what is known as "hoaxes"? "crisis communication". in the communications offices of political parties, companies or government agencies?

Now, for better and for worse, information flows from point to point and from one part of the world to another without control. In the United States, more than half of the population already has Facebook as their main - and sometimes only - source of information. And Facebook has acknowledged that about 126 million Americans were exposed to fake news from Russia during the last electoral process. This is the key condition: there are no intermediaries.

Previously, the fake news They had to jump over the wall of journalism to reach citizens -sometimes they succeeded- and now they reach public opinion directly. Therefore, when disinformation is a whole framework that seeks to destabilize, one of the best ways to unmask it is to strengthen journalism.

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