A great piece about the shift of public perception of media bias, facts, truth, fake news and why journalists not only need a soul, but a spine, too: It’s the Reuters Memorial Lecture delivered by Martin Baron, Washington Post Executive Editor, at the University of Oxford on February 16, 2018
A terrifying look at the future — not just of “fake news”, but of a world where information is so freely available and manipulatable that people begin to doubt that anything is actually real, or that truth even exists.
If only jolts of electricity to my brain could make me less forgetful. If only mice and baby pigs could read; or, at least, learn which oils and infant formulas are good for them. If only headlines — like those we feature below — would stop misleading people. Especially when it comes to common health problems like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease that are of interest to millions of people. It’s a lot to ask, I know. So how about just one of the above?
So, once again, we’ve decided to take a look back at the news stories and releases we’ve systematically reviewed to see if the headlines and the content are in synch. This is what we found when we looked back at what we’ve published so far this year.
When Kim Hyeongsoo, 53, got his degree in biology, he hoped to be part of a team that conducted research of global significance. But Hyeongsoo was born in North Korea, which had a different mission for him: figure out how Great Leader Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il could eat without getting fat. Isolated from the rest of the world, North Korean researchers struggle to balance rigorous scientific work with the demands of a dictator.
In a world where post truth, alternative facts, and fake news are everyday terms, a team of researchers have developed a strategy to help debunk misinformation about climate change. In their paper (to be published in Environmental Research Letters), they present a process for evaluating climate change denialist arguments, and how to apply it to common denialist claims. Dr John Cook, from the Centre for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, Virginia, is the paper’s lead author. He said: “Misinformation spreads easily, and can have profound consequences for society if left uncorrected. Climate science is particularly problematic because it describes such a complex system.”
Dr Cook explained: “When people lack the expertise to evaluate the science, they tend to substitute judgment about something complex (i.e., climate science) with something simpler (i.e., the character of people speaking about climate science). This can leave them vulnerable to misleading information. The advantage of our approach is that you don’t need to be an expert in argumentation or climate science to put it to use.”
The team’s six step process, based on critical thinking methods, helps people detect and analyse poor reasoning. It includes detailing argument structures; determining the truth of premises, and checking for validity, hidden premises, or ambiguous language. The researchers applied their approach to 42 common climate science denialist claims, and found that, in a variety of different ways, all demonstrated erroneous reasoning. Dr Cook explained: “A common denialist claim that we’ve seen recently goes: ‘It’s cold outside, so global warming isn’t happening’. If we break the logic of this argument down, we see that it implies that because some parts of the world are experiencing record cold temperatures, the world cannot be warming. While the first premise is true – some places are seeing record cold temperatures – the argument as a whole is false, because global warming doesn’t mean that cold will never happen anywhere.
Here’s what I’ve learned, and why I did it. In December 2015, I wrote a story about the potential uses of the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR. That piece, based on a conference that I attended in Washington, D.C., quoted six men and one woman. The six men included five scientists and one historian, all quoted for their professional expertise. The one woman was a communications director at a tissue bank organization, and her quote was about her experience as the mother of a child with a genetic disease. These disparities, both in the absolute numbers of men and women, and the ways in which their quotes were used, leapt out at me, but only after the piece was published. They felt all the more egregious because the CRISPR field is hardly short of excellent, prominent female scientists. Indeed, two of the technique’s pioneers, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, are women, and both of them spoke at the same conference from which I reported. And yet, if you read my piece, you could be forgiven for thinking that CRISPR was almost entirely the work of men.
The earth is 15 years away from a “mini ice age” “that will cause bitterly cold winters during which rivers such as the Thames freeze over.” That was the claim that kicked off an article in The Telegraph in July 2015.That assertion doubtless had many climate scientists rolling their eyes. But rather than just ranting on Twitter or screaming into a throw pillow, this time they had an outlet they could use to set the record straight. Emmanuel Vincent, a climate scientist, had launched ClimateFeedback.org, a site where climate scientists rate the scientific credibility of climate change reporting.
L’équipe des Décodeurs a vérifié plus d’une centaine d’informations douteuses. Ces informations ont été massivement partagées sur les réseaux sociaux, en particulier Facebook. Nous y avons repéré 131 pages particulièrement trompeuses, qui ont diffusé au moins trois des intox de notre corpus, pour différentes motivations (politiques, idéologiques, économiques…). Ces contenus, qui représentent la majorité des intox de notre corpus, mettent en avant des éléments factuels erronés voire fabriqués. Par exemple, lorsque la sous-préfète de Saint-Martin a été accusée à tort d’avoir quitté l’île après le passage de l’ouragan Irma. Ou bien lorsqu’il a été écrit que l’argent liquide allait disparaître en 2018. Ceux qui diffusent de telles fausses informations le font avant tout pour des raisons idéologiques, et une grande partie d’entre eux militent pour un camp politique.