A November 8 event in London on the “Post-Truth” era came towards the end of another year of apparently declining trust in all forms of media, serious questions about the creation and spread of hoax content, and seemingly limited progress on potential solutions.
The diverse panel provided a clear sense of the contrasting opinions on both the real issues faced as well as potential solutions. Jo Fidgen, a broadcaster and anchor of BBC Outlook, pointed out that information bias and ideology often have a large role to play in news stories, with emotional frameworks often integral.
“Truth is not the same as fact and we (the media) should focus on the facts.” — Jo Fidgen
The impact of social media networks was key to the discussions with Nick Pickles, the UK lead for Public Policy at Twitter, highlighting how their research has shown that content and subject matter often trumps the news source when it comes to sharing of articles online. Increasingly, social media platforms can track the most-‘shared’ single-issue stories which reflect public opinion and interest, and monitor how they filter into political spheres.
Giles Kenningham MBE, of Trafalgar PR and formerly 10 Downing Street, repeated calls for more regulation and responsibility in the social media community. He suggested that “false news could have serious consequences” and should be tackled at various levels through adding media-literacy to the curriculum at schools, the work of third-party independent fact-checking bodies and increased regulatory mechanisms by social networks.
Fatima Hashem-Morales, an Internews Project Manager stressed that this shouldn’t come at the expense of accurate, first-hand news contributions by citizens; especially in highly-politicized contexts like the Arab Spring, She stressed the key role of citizen-led movements that moderate online sharing of content suggesting that “top-down solutions are not one-catch-all” and that solutions need to come from the grass-roots level.
The debate was chaired by Internews’ UK CEO Daniel Bruce. After the event he said, “It was really clear to me from tonight’s discussion that we are still at a stage of defining the new problems with the global media environment that need to be addressed. This makes the search for solutions even more challenging. In particular, the term ‘post-truth’ is, for some, a byword for the more hyper-partisan, populist cultures in which many of now exist – as opposed to the rather more toxic challenge of purposefully false content dressed up as news. There’s a lot we can learn from Internews’ media partners around the world when it comes to creative and innovative solutions to this.”
“We would like to wholeheartedly thank 12 Hay Hill for opening their exclusive members club for this important discussion in addition to Curzon PR for their support,” added Bruce.