My Thoughts on Fake News

I’ve spent the last 10 years working in social networks and the digital world. I like to think that I’ve seen quite a bit. I also think about how lucky I am — my first job, in 2012, was at a social media company. I had no idea at the time this digital world would become what it is today.

I remember first joining Twitter in 2010. I was absolutely amazed by the number of people sharing their ideas and thoughts online. I had to get involved. I’ve seen some inspiring stories in my time. Stories of people connecting online to learn, grow and build. I’ve also watched sad stories. Of people losing it all, being duped and tricked by online scammers. Rest In Peace to one guy, a great trader, who eventually took his own life. I never met him, but we knew of each other by our online presence.

Our ability to connect online isn’t going anywhere and, to some degree, it’s still just getting started. I, for one, am always taken back by how often people forget that social media, in its current state, is still less than 20 years old. We still have so many more mistakes to make and things to learn about the online world. It is truly the Wild West out there.

One thing in particular keeps me optimistic: people are smart. People learn over time. We make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. It is the basic building block of human achievement — we test, we experiment, then we learn and try it again. We may get duped once, but rarely get duped two or three times. I actually recently wrote a tweet about this: I said people are smart and they make the right decision over time in regards to fake news, that they can freely decide for themselves. I was amazed at how many people disagreed with me. They said that’s wrong, that people don’t make the right decision. I can’t stop thinking about what the opposite of that is in the context of fake news. The people telling me I’m wrong are essentially saying they know better than the average person, that the average person does not make the right decision, and someone should decide for them. That is a very dangerous way to think. It is also fairly arrogant.

As I dove deep into my thought process, I found myself making a chart to convey my thoughts more clearly. It’s not meant to be a fancy graphic, it’s meant to illustrate the simple point that we learn over time and get smarter. We get better at spotting fake news, doing our own research, and being skeptical of the things presented to us on social networks. I need to upgrade my Microsoft Paint skills, but I hope you get it:

I have a hard time thinking that the opposite of the chart above is true. The opposite would imply people are incapable of learning and doing their own research to make the right decision. I believe that if this next chart were true then we would not be here today, the iPhone in your hand would not exist, and the restaurants and coffee shops bustling with people in New York City would have never existed, we would have been duped long ago:

I think fake news is good for society. We are better off seeing all news and debating it rather than being censored for certain news. Censoring one piece of information is a slippery slope. The even better question to ask is who gets to play the man in the high castle determining what we see and what we don’t? And what makes this person more capable of deciding than you and I? In addition, we can’t ignore what fake news does for society in terms of the conversation. All rocks are turned over. All debates are had. The market for news actually becomes more efficient, nothing is hiding. We learn what is true and what is not over time by doing our own research and sharing with others. We give more credibility to those who are putting in the time vs. those who are not.

A mentor of mine once said to me that in social networking, over time, the cream rises to the top. The best people will shine. I still believe that. And for it to happen in the best way possible, we need to be free to explore anything and think for ourselves, which is the most important right. Those are my thoughts. I hope you enjoyed them. If you really want to get involved and understand why I wrote this post, please see the tweets below:

I should also make it clear that I am open to learning and listening to all feedback. If someone drops a fire response, I could very well change my mind. So send me your thoughts or tweets or blog posts.

One thought on “My Thoughts on Fake News

  1. I couldn’t agree more – a founding principle of any system more democratic than tyranny is that people in groups have the ability to use information to approximate the right decisions even though many may individually be incompetent. This drive to censorship is an intentional step away from democratic (small d) government.

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