The Media Throwing Stones at Glass Houses during COVID-19.
Can blockchain catch them?
The COVID-19 pandemic and everything about it has dominated the news and global media in print and digital since January.
The only thing bigger is the pandemic of false, distorted, fanciful, fictitious, feigned, ill-informed, misinformed, preposterous, fake, conspiratorial and just downright utter nonsensical media reports and news articles that has spread and infected the world.
It is a big problem when leading Universities including Stanford and Princeton establish a COVID-19 Disinformation Data Site to record the code and source for false reporting. It is a big problem when communication giants like WhatsAPP place restrictions on ‘Forwarding’ messages to try and slow the rate of infection and to use language we are familiar with ‘flatten the curve’!
“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.” by Abraham Lincoln
This quote on the media via Dr Google including the author assures me that all that I read is not true, and yet also reminds me that many news reports have been forwarded by learned and esteemed academics, professionals and otherwise really switched on people. So, I wonder is there a digital skill deficit for people within our economy, or other drivers to this far reaching behaviour?
The false media pandemic needs an urgent lockdown, elimination and a permanent eradication vaccine!
In the past week though I have also watched with interest the Australian Government reveal their plans to adopt a mandatory code to require tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay local media for reusing their content. The reason cited to “protect consumers, improve transparency and address the power imbalance between the parties”.
This is not new. Other Governments have sought the same resolve. And failed.
However, this is not an article about the rights and wrongs of these giants, or the way they create and share profits. In the alternative, I find it incongruous that at the same time the media industry is wanting a share of ‘their’ pie, and Governments are advocating it, NOTHING is done to introduce a way to cut off at the knees with rigor the media pandemic around COVID-19 and any other crisis situation.
Why would any government be advocating at this time a code to pay any media whether local or international that is so entirely inadequate, false and that can potentially cost lives — or at best incite fear and anxiety and false hope to vulnerable sick people? And why would the media be allowed to be such strong advocates for making money off their ill-gotten gains. It is really a matter that those in glass houses should not be throwing stones — and either party could be throwing!
Dr Greg Nyilasy of the University of Melbourne in his recent publication very aptly states:
“…we as consumers of information need to practice vigilance. Ideally, this would mean fact-checking everything that hits our screen…..”
He also goes on to broadly talk about two types of false reporting, disinformation, which is spread intentionally by people in bad faith and misinformation, which is spread innocently despite being incorrect. I would argue that the media pandemic is both, with an additional genetic mutation of deliberately trying to sensationalise and sell news at all costs.
It seems that apart from consumers practicing vigilance, and having the digital skills and nouse required, that the media also require some pretty basic learning in self control. This discussion is also not about ‘freedom of the press’ and the rights for different views — and even alternative thoughts on medical and health treatments and approaches. It is about how and what the media deliver that information.
By way of example:
This is a recent lead article ‘Headline’
BREAKING: Israel finds possible 100% cure for COVID-19
No, this headline is NOT true. This is NOT a 100% cure for COVID-19.
It is currently, at best, a very immature innovation, that may or may notimpact positively or negatively, a symptom of those with severe illness, that has been used on 7 [seven!] Israeli patients and 1 US Citizen on compassionate grounds. It is NOT a clinical trial or a control group — and albeit that the company CEO does state this in other articles, the media have deliberately chosen to falsify the headlines and initiate false news.
In this case it didn’t take more than 1 minute to identify veracious information, entirely and conveniently omitted, including the original publication by the Company that includes a very lengthy Safe Harbour Statement.
In the alternative, and still in keeping with freedom of the press, the provision of information and delivery of positive research, why couldn’t the media have produced a meaningful balanced account of the truth?
Israeli Company commences innovative research using placental cells to treat seriously ill patients with COVID-19 … or any derivative of something truthful.
Leading with FALSE headlines by journalist Emma Couson from The Daily Vendor warrants a robust public disgracing. Perhaps some community service would be fitting punishment, in one of the many hospitals around the world where reality is tantamount.
A way forward — an immediate response.
The media produce the false reporting, myriad of poor and misleading content and plethora of fictitious articles. However, consumers spread them! Our digit that presses send needs to practice vigilance!! Fact-check everything that hits your screen BEFORE you forward, send or replicate it.
Call out robustly false reporting, myriad of poor and misleading content and the plethora of fictitious articles. Send it to the the COVID-19 Disinformation Data Site.
DON’T forward false reporting! Call out others who do.
Implement core digital skills and learning programmes and information fit for the future of work, learning and life — for everyone.
Can Blockchain catch the stones and make the glass houses transparent moving forward?
Absolutely they can. But what is our appetite and how does that align to the revenue streams created — and desired even from false or fake media?
By 2023, up to 30% of news and video content world-wide could be authenticated as real by blockchain according to the Gartner 2020 Predicts report released in December 2019.
We are at a pivotal moment whereby we can chose to move forward with authentic transparency or not. Already initiatives using immutable blockchain ledgers can record information about content and then use it to inextricably linked back to that content from all sources to ensure its authenticity. Data stores can also allow companies and individuals to retain control over content they make or consume.
In the immediacy of the short term, and considering the vulnerable nature of people and the economy and their appetite for any inkling of hope, the consumer, learned academics, professionals and those with ability to determine authenticity by a few simple clicks on the web — simply need to take a step back and NOT forward or replicate on social media false or fictitious media. Simple as that. Socially distance from the media pandemic, STOP the spread and flatten the curve.
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