Negotiating the net in an age of Fake News

Negotiating the net in an age of Fake News

Fake news and our appetite for it go back a long way. 3300 years ago, the Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses the Great, believe me he’s the greatest, beautiful man, depicted a stalemate with the sad, loser, low-energy Hittites as a win with depictions of him personally doing the smiting in bas-relief and poetry. Fake news gives us what we want. We all want to be on the winning side. Surely, it’s the ‘other’ who are the dumb, misguided or evil. If you really want to look at how persistent humanity’s need for fake news to justify pre-existing prejudices, I recommend a thoroughly depressing google search, ‘blood libel’. Blood Libel is the belief that Jews need human sacrifice and blood for their religious ceremonies. The first recorded instance was 2500 years ago and that chunk of racist horse-shit is still being passed around to this day.

No, fake news is anything but new. But, it does feel like something is different with fake news these days. Is it that the advance of technology has ‘weaponised’ fake news? Do we feel inadequate against AI technology? Spoiler Alert, that technology is only getting better, more subtle and it’s already here. For example, you can pretty well make anyone say anything, Radio Lab had an episode on the subject, or was it Black Mirror, I can’t tell anymore.

Maybe it isn’t so bleak. Maybe, we as a populace are more aware of fake news and its consequences. One can hope.

What are we to do? How are we to identify and protect ourselves from fake news and not just the stuff we disagree with.

During, the panel we will aim for solutions. We will explore the fake news that isn’t often discussed. The fake news that is ‘laundered’ by press offices, wire services and the marketing industry. How do we find the journalists still doing their duty in an industry that treats their work as undistinguishable grey goo called ‘content’. I want us to come away with strategies for convincing that uncle we all have on Facebook not to repost the obvious nonsense that just makes this world a little more polarised and a lot more hateful and ugly. I don’t want to absolve anyone; we are all guilty of contributing to echo chambers and filter bubbles that exacerbates the problem.

Join Jarred McGinnis in conversations with BBC’s Engineering Manager Jeremy Tarling as they dissect today’s news at the Litro weekender 24- 27th May London. #LitroWeekender’18

Jarred McGinnis is the co-founder of The Special Relationship, which has been recently chosen for the British Council’s International Literature Showcase. In 2015, he was the creative director for ‘Moby-Dick Unabridged‘, a four-day immersive multimedia reading of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’ at the Southbank Centre, involving hundreds of participants. Previously Jarred McGinnis was the Head of Research, Semantic Technologies, at the Press Association, investigating the role of technologies such as natural language processing and the Semantic Web in the news industry. He received his PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh in 2006.

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