The Washington Post now develops and publishes a weekly article, “What was fake on the Internet this week”. Just imagine a world where the falsity of the news becomes the news. No need to imagine it. That future is here. So, what news do we trust as news? What digital content can we rely upon as an accurate reflection of the world beyond the reach of our own senses? When is fake really fake?
What rules do you use to measure the reliability of stories and information on the Net? There are frequent targets of fake content—politicians are certainly high on the list. But I was to stumble onto a webpage that actually tracks all the false stories about Sarah Palin. Yep, someone takes time to debunk the false stories. The Post does a great job of surfing to find what needs to be de-bunked. But is that the best use of our time—how and why should we rely on news journalists or independent websites to track the falsehoods? Why can we not build interfaces that serve as our tools, proxies for filtering the information based on its source, its origin, its connectedness?
When a bad actor hacked into the AP Twitter account, the weakness was that none of the market players had in place the tools to distinguish a false tweet from a genuine one. Instead, automatic trading engines kicked in, causing billions of dollars in trades to execute based on the false content of the tweet.
So, every time we spend time chasing down truth, investing resources in exposing the fakes, we are diverting ourselves from other tasks, tasks which are functionally or economically more useful. After all, but for one lone journalist at the Post, none of us get paid to track down the fakes. Or do we?
How often does your job call upon you to validate the content of a report before taking action in reliance? How often do you question a grade card report that is sent from school, mysteriously showing a jump in your child’s academic performance? How often does the legal system devote billions of dollars to simply trying to find out the evidence of the truth?
As it turns out, we are all engaged every day in testing information and its validity. And so often, we are wasting our time doing so. That is what building digital trust achieves—preserving control over the time we do have to enable us to use that time more wisely, more efficiently, more joyfully. If we can achieve authentic trust in digital information, we spend less time tracking down the fakes, and more time productively relying on the information.
After you read this post, spend the rest of your day making some quick notes—how often are you questioning the accuracy of information? how often do you presume its authenticity? how often do you know something before you, offered as fact, is simply fake? I think you will be surprised by the results.