23 January 2018

South Africa: Fake News? Blame God.

analysis

We should be talking about faith-based news, not fake news. And the way to fight it is by making news useful again.

A lot of time and money is being spent on trying to solve the problem of fake news, with the unfortunate consequence that funds and scarce resources are being diverted from other areas. It's one of the big new growth industries in media, with experts popping up all over the shop to peddle a combination of reader education, crowd-sourced and professional fact-checking, and machine-assisted quality control. The (sometimes literally) million dollar question people always ask is: How can we get people to stop being fooled by fake news? And the simple answer is: if you haven't been able to stop people from believing in fake news for the last few centuries, why do you think you can start now?

The truth is, we shouldn't be calling it fake news. It's actually faith-based news, and its essential motor has been with us for at least as long as recorded history. Yes, religion: a belief in god (or gods) exactly parallels susceptibility to fake news1. Ask any atheist who has gently tried to point out to a fundamentalist that it's...

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