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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Fake news

Facebook and Google are embroiled in discussions on their alleged reporting of fake news (eg, NYT). Some people even blame Facebook's fake news on Hillary Clinton's loss, which Mark Zuckerberg denies. I have noticed fake news on FB but usually these sources are obscure and reading the first few lines was enough. Blaming others (eg, FB) is usually rooted in Kubler-Ross stage 3 - Bargaining.

Sometimes fake news isn't easy to recognise especially when mainstream media start repeating it. A recent example from Learning Mind: "Children Receive the Intelligence Gene from Their Mother, Not Their Father, Study Finds" (eg, Huffington PostIndependent, RedditTimes of India).

This news made no (biological) sense to me - or to others (eg, Quora). Hence, I started looking for a hoax. Fact checker Snopes confirms this story is bogus and so does Forbes. Interestingly, Snopes states that this fake news went viral after a “Second Nexus” [article] was reposted by notable accounts, including George Takei's Facebook page".

The choice of the name Second Nexus is probably not arbitrary as Dutch-UK publishing house Reed Elsevier (now RELX Group) runs "the world's largest electronic database for legal and public-records related information database", called LexisNexis.

My diagram on the left explains how fake news is related to facts and opinions, information, beliefs and belief systems, and to denial

Essentially, fake news is neither based on facts nor does it express a genuine opinion. Its sole purpose is to confuse, like hoaxes do. Its motto is: If you can't convince them, confuse them.

Mark Zuckerberg's dilemma is related to my diagram: "This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the "truth" is complicated. [] An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. [] I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves." My hat tip to Bloomberg's Technology newsletter "Fully Charged"

Mark Zuckerberg's words may seem politically correct to some but I think, feel and believe his words are wise. Facts are only facts until new facts prove them wrong (eg, Galileo Galilei's trial in 1615 on heliocentrism). Similarly, beliefs are only beliefs until new facts validate these beliefs. Fake news often disguises itself as beliefs or as denial

Back in the 1980s, the Dutch Elsevier magazine had a slogan: If the truth is in the middle then the left should read right wing media and the right should read left wing media. Until today, I am still doing that to balance my subconscious mindset. "The Truth is out there, way out there" (TIME).

Ian Gordon - The Truth Is Out There (2015) - The X-Files Song