Media in the contemporary world has become instrumental in how people obtain information. Earlier people relied on first-hand experiences and other primary sources for information, but as the body of knowledge expanded and human capacity remained limited, primary sources of knowledge became unviable. Thus, there arose a need for secondary and slowly tertiary sources of knowledge. These sources developed as media for knowledge. With the emergence of the internet, reliance upon these media increased drastically with globalisation acting as a catalyst. Therefore, for every piece of information people relied on media like the news and other types of mass communications which later included social media.
Need for Media
Globalisation has arguably brought the world closer through a technological revolution. This technological revolution transformed the media and changed the way people received their information. It not only made information accessible but also provided various platforms for people to discuss matters or exchange ideas and perspectives. This led to an increase in awareness about various political and social issues which in turn led to a lot of conflicts being brought into the light. Media played an instrumental role in these chain of events as people relied upon media for every piece of information which was instantaneously available.
In the contemporary world, media has brought to light various hidden issues and has become a crucial element in countries around the world to the extent that it is widely held as the fourth pillar of democracy. The importance of media and its consequently arising need is visible from its ability and power to make information instantaneously accessible to the masses.
The rise of fake news and deepfakes
Due to rising competition and emergence of alternatives like social media, a lot of the traditional media agencies like news channels and newspapers started misusing their power and discarded unbiased and objective journalism in the pursuit of popularity. They began to inflate, contort and misrepresent facts to become the talk of the town. It is pertinent to note that not all media agencies spread fake news, but it is difficult to verify and ascertain news and even more difficult to establish the credibility of any particular media agency.
Fake news as described by Forrest Stroud is “Fake news, or hoax news, refers to false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news. Fake news websites and channels push their fake news content in an attempt to mislead consumers of the content and spread misinformation via social networks and word-of-mouth.” (Stroud, n.d.) Therefore, Fake news is not only detrimental to society but also the state as a whole.
One of the biggest and perhaps the most popular name associated with ‘Fake News’ is the President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump who on numerous occasions constantly attacked news channels for spreading Fake news when they were basing their reports on facts. Such instances confuse the masses who are unable to distinguish facts from fiction.
Deepfakes is another emerging technology which contributes to the spread of ‘fake news’. John Villasenor describes Deepfakes as “Deepfakes are videos that have been constructed to make a person appear to say or do something that they never said or did. With artificial intelligence-based methods for creating deepfakes becoming increasingly sophisticated and accessible, deep fades are raising a set of challenging policy, technology, and legal issues.” (Villasenor, 2019).
Deepfakes, when circulated on social media, misguide the people who become convinced of the video’s credibility. This makes deepfakes a dangerously powerful tool which can be used to contort and manipulate any person or individual into believing propaganda without any suspicion. For instance, Jordan Peele and BuzzFeed teamed up to make a deepfake in which they make former president Barack Obama say things which he never remotely mentioned. Thus, such technology has allowed miscreants to manipulate the masses through manipulation of facts and the spread of fake news.
There has been a meteoric rise in the use of deep fakes as well as the prominence of fake news across the world. This has brought media under immense pressure to curb this menace of fake news and the misuse of technologies like deepfakes which help in its proliferation.
Analysis of the credibility of media
Fake news has profoundly affected the credibility of media in the contemporary world. Due to the contortion of facts and misrepresentation of news, the masses have become extremely sceptical of media. Although it is wise to be sceptical of news and media, scepticism to the degree of baselessly dismissing all information is harmful to the working of any state or society because the masses would simply doubt everything all day instead of working. For example, if we choose to believe that whatever Donald Trump says is false without examining his statements and basing our belief on extreme scepticism, then we would never act upon his statements even if they are true.
On the other hand, some people blindly believe in whatever the media feeds them. This is as dangerous as being extremely sceptical of media. For instance, in recent years there has been an increase in mob lynching because people acted upon rumours passed around on WhatsApp. This compelled WhatsApp to limit the number of times that a message could be forwarded. “The initial limits were prompted by a series of mob attacks and killings in India, set off by the spread of false information about child kidnappings” (Kastrenakes, 2019). Therefore, having blind faith in media is as also as detrimental to the state and the society because it allows the media to manipulate the masses and to make them believe in their false narrative.
Another aspect which requires scrutinisation is media funding, specifically unethical media funding. Unethical media funding can be described as sourcing funds from undisclosed investors whose interests are protected and represented irrespective of facts. What needs to be critically analysed here is the transparency of all media funding so that the masses can ascertain the nature of information or news that they are fed. Various media houses tend to be politically inclined and biased which ultimately leads to the advocation of political propaganda rather than an unbiased report of factual events with logical and rational opinions by qualified people.
Therefore, if we critically analyse these two extremes of the same spectrum, it can be inferred that neither of these two extremes is reasonable.
After analysing the importance of the credibility of the media and the impediments faced by it in the world of fake news, it is safe to assume that there is a need for rational scepticism in the way in which we receive our information from the media. There is a need to ascertain the credibility of the information which we receive from the media. That is, we need to examine every piece of information which we get from the media based on reason and to the extent where the credibility of the information can be rationally known.
Thus, we cannot hinge on extremes and must rely upon the mean of rational scepticism. Therefore, with the help of such a method, we can re-examine and bolster the credibility of media in the contemporary world.
Kastrenakes, J. (2019, January 21). WhatsApp limits message forwarding in the fight against misinformation. Retrieved from The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/21/18191455/whatsapp-forwarding-limit-five-messages-misinformation-battle
Stroud, F. (n.d.). fake news. Retrieved from Webopedia: https://www.webopedia.com/TERM/F/fake-news.html
Villasenor, J. (2019, February 14). Artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and the uncertain future of truth. Retrieved from Brookings.edu: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2019/02/14/artificial-intelligence-deepfakes-and-the-uncertain-future-of-truth/
Image Credits- Socializingai
Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Get all our posts, blogs and video content via e-mail.