I thought I would take a step back from the nuts and bolts of our Internet gadgets, and talk about what happens when we use them.
You may have heard the phrase ‘fake news’ used a lot recently, Collins dictionary defines it as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting”.
But when we access the Internet on our connected devices, how do we know what is true and what isn’t? We naturally choose the information websites we agree with editorially, and after all, that’s what people have done for many years with their choice of newspapers and journals. So what’s different?
Multimedia is so much more compelling. You see a video and hear the commentary and will tend not to filter what you are seeing and hearing as much as if you were reading words. We are used to doing this because of television, but most aspects of television are regulated by Ofcom (www.ofcom.org.uk), whereas there is currently no such regulation of the Internet. This is not so important if you are just watching entertainment, but if you are watching something which will inform your views on the world, that’s a different issue.
The trouble with the Internet is that you don’t really know where the article or video came from originally, and whether the commentary is the original. With modern technology, it is so simple to download a video, add a new soundtrack and upload it as representing something it never did originally.
There have been very many recent examples of this happening, with the resulting videos being shared with dubious intent by many other websites. Photos are even easier.
The first rule of thumb is to think twice before believing something you have seen or read on the Internet. There are a number of technical ways in which to check the veracity of images and videos, sometimes a simple Google image search is enough. But mostly we don’t have the time or inclination.
There are authority websites which we might reasonably expect to be truthful, run by nationally or internationally recognised news organisations, and we would expect them to be factually correct. Trouble is, they have to keep up the stream of new material to get visitors coming back, and are sometimes duped themselves.
For a handy info graphic, Google ‘how to spot fake news’ and visit the IFLA website (www.ifla.org ).