from: Ivy + Bean: No News is Good News
written by Annie Barrows
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle Books, 2011
Before I decided on my undergrad major, I took a basic class in journalism. One of my first assignments was to interview someone and write up my discoveries as a public interest piece. Being naturally shy, and less confident than I needed to be, I (foolishly) decided to write a fiction piece instead. I created an interviewee and wrote the public interest piece based on the information I (supposedly) gathered.
I did not get a good grade on that assignment. I already knew the assignment needed to based on truth. Now I had a (bad) grade to prove it.
Journalism is based on facts. Journalists collects facts and create readable and informative true stories.
Since 2017 (around January 20), we as a citizenry learned about “alternate truth” which is just another word for “fake news.” So what’s the difference between that and a lie? or many lies? Oh. Nothing. Right.
We have libel laws to protect us against people who would do us harm by printing lies. We have slander laws to protect us against people who would do us harm through verbal abuse.
But political speech falls under the protection of the First Amendment, protecting free speech. Candidates can (and do) take comments of their opponents out of context, mislead us through manipulation of data, and even outright lie. And that is allowed. It’s political speech.
Political speech includes not just speech by the government or candidates for office, but also any discussion of social issues. And remember, political speech is protected by the First Amendment.
There’s a thing called the illusory truth effect. Science is validating Joseph Goebbel’s statement that if a lie is repeated often enough, people will believe it to be true. Until recently, marketing was the primary user of the illusory truth effect.
Lisa Fazio, a psychologist at Vanderbilt University, explains that after the second or third time hearing some information, our brains misinterpret the repetition as a signal for truth. It is our brain’s efficiency at work. For example, we don’t need to hear that plants need water to thrive. We see a droopy plant and give it water.
But, mis-information, can trigger the illusory truth effect and influence people’s entire outlook on the truth, which is already subjective.
And, we’re all subject to confirmation bias. We believe what we already know is true and we seek out information that is consistent with our own beliefs.
Enter the Internet and social networking.
Although Facebook is surely not the only platform Americans use, here are some interesting facts from a recent Pew Research poll: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/16/facts-about-americans-and-facebook/
- Almost 7 in 10 Americans use Facebook (69%) and 74% of those users check it at least once a day.
- Facebook is dominant among all demographic groups, but a few more women use it than men. (75% to 63%)
- 40% of older Americans (age 65+) use Facebook, while 79% of those age 18 to 29 do.
- About half of American teens use Facebook.
- 43% of American adults get their news from Facebook.
- About half the American adult users don’t know how Facebook’s newsfeed works, that is, why some items are included in their feed and others not.
- A little over half of American users have altered their privacy settings, especially since it was disclosed that the former Cambridge Anaylitica collected data on users without their knowledge.
- 74% of adult Facebook users in the U.S. were not aware that the site collects ad preferences information about them until they were directed to that page.
- A little over half of the American adult Facebook users said they were uncomfortable with Facebook keeping those records, even though most admitted the information about them was accurate.
Facebook has a policy against fact-checking politicians’ ads and political speech. Mark Zuckerberg claims he is protecting free speech with this policy. Remember, political speech is protected by the First Amendment.
Mainstream news sources, CNN, FOX, NPR, and major newspapers and magazines have people on staff dedicated to making sure what is reported, verbally or in print, is accurate. That’s fact-checking.
But Facebook does not fact-check. And political speech is protected by the First Amendment. Try FactCheck.org to see if the ads targeted to you or that you see on TV are true:
You can find recent articles that tell you in clear language what was said, by whom, and whether or not it is true. Look under the “articles” tab.
Click the “ask a question” tab and type away. I didn’t try this, so I don’t know how long it takes for a response. If you try this one, let me know!
And finally, two good articles on how and why you can do your own fact-checking:
-—stay curious! (and seek truth)