(Article by Claire Warneke first published on be30something.wordpress.com/)

There’s a crisis of knowledge and we are creating a formula for intolerance …

We live in a world with almost ‘too much’ access to information. There is SO much information that it’s difficult to sift through it and identify which information is ‘good’ information. This is the dilemma that publishers (particularly online publishers) are facing.

It’s also the dilemma that readers are facing. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between fake news and real news.

News is defined as: “newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events.”

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Through the Internet, readers are able to freely access any information they want. BUT they aren’t always able to distinguish between good and bad information. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s true … and just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s ‘right’.

And just because it’s there, at the top of the Google search listing, doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY information available …

Getting the ‘good’ information to people is becoming tougher and tougher

The production and collation of the good, reliable and truthful information is also becoming more difficult. Why?

Because GOOD information isn’t the kind of thing that’s easy to read. It’s the kind of information that challenges us, that points out corruption, bias, intolerance, and that ultimately calls us to action. Publishing good information requires truth-seekers to dig deep and uncover the cleverly hidden, insidious lies that seek to skew our perceptions of the world.

This kind of information SHOULD be written by professionals. Professionals who have taken years to hone their education, knowledge and experience … all of which come at a cost (financial and personal). Therefore, publishing ‘good’, truthful and reliable information generally costs money.

Copyright: alexskopje / 123RF Stock Photo

But who’s going to pay for it?

Most online media organisations make money out of advertising. In very basic and simplistic terms, this means that clever algorithms identify certain adverts that would appeal to certain readers. These adverts are identified based on the reader’s specific attributes (age, sex, previous browsing history, and various personal preferences right down to what type of toothpaste they prefer). The more times an advert is shown, the more likely a reader is to purchase a product.

However, there are very few advertisers who like to have their adverts displayed next to articles about war.

However, there are very few advertisers who like to have their adverts displayed next to articles about war. Or famine. Or corruption. Or politics. Or religion. Or sexual preference. Or the various other topics you never bring up at the dinner table with extended family.

Articles focussing on these topics are also, naturally, far less popular than articles on celebrity scandal, the weather and the latest diet fad.

Publishers are caught in a catch-22 situation:

They have a RESPONSIBILITY to provide good, truthful information to as many people as possible.

However, this kind of information doesn’t usually excite advertisers. And so, good information is often shelved and replaced by more sexy, glamorous or scandalous information that is easily palatable and digestible to the reader. Which also brings in a LOT more sustainable revenue, allowing the publisher to continue its business…

So who is responsible for ensuring the continued support of good information?

@GOOGLE, @FACEBOOK, @TWITTER … AND ALL THE OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS… I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE UP THIS RESPONSIBILITY!

@GOOGLE, @FACEBOOK, @TWITTER … AND ALL THE OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS… I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE UP THIS RESPONSIBILITY!

The Internet is a world-changing platform which can be (and has been) used for incredible good and bad.

  • It can educate future presidents, or indoctrinate future terrorists
  • It can skew our perception of what a real leader looks like, or what a real terrorist looks like
  • It can teach us that celebrities rule the world, or it can empower young people to take on the world

Creating algorithms that ONLY show us what we THINK we want to see is creating a world full of intolerance. If we can’t even tolerate seeing an article about something that doesn’t fit in our narrow perception of ‘things we like’, then how are we ever going to learn to tolerate human beings who are ‘different’ to us? How are we ever going to discover our passions if we only stick to the things we already know about? How are we ever going to change the world if we are stuck inside our own existence?

The clever algorithms have been designed to maximise advertising revenue by tuning in to our desires, and capitalising on our superficial wants. BUT they’ve also narrowed our worlds down to selfish microcosms in which discomfort, growth, learning, and change NEVER have to occur.

@Google, what kind of world are you creating?

@Facebook, is this really what you had in mind for your ‘social’ network?

  • What happens to the truth in this scenario?
  • What happens to GOOD information?
  • What happens to the truth-seekers?
  • What happens to society?

We end up with Trump. We end up with xenophobia. We end up with insidious corruption. We end up with the Kardashians.

We end up with narrow-minded, intolerant, inhumane societies focussed ONLY on serving themselves. We end up with truth-seekers flipping burgers because good information no longer makes ends meet.

We end up with the present situation.

Copyright: nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo

So what are YOU going to do about it?

Surely the platforms on which information is shared should hold some sort of moral and financial responsibility towards ensuring the viability of good, reliable, truthful information?

It could be a yearly grant based on certain criteria (which would allow publishers to pay professionals for their knowledge, research and information) or some sort of weighted system – giving higher advertising revenue to websites offering a more balanced approach to the dissemination of information…

The algorithms also need to change

We need to STOP placing financial gain above societal stability. These numbers put instant gratification ahead of logic, a balanced world view, and ultimately ahead of love.

We cannot love one another if we are constantly fed information and advertising that teaches us to only love ourselves.

We are creating a world of intolerance and ultimately an intolerable world.

What are we going to do about it?