Google has made several headlines for spending millions of dollars to prevent the spread of misinformation on social media. Other big corporations must follow Google’s lead, as this is the only way to fight against polarization and save our modern democracy.
“Polarization” has recently become a popular word. It is normally attributed to political leaders, as they often operate as ideological puritans with a distinct set of political beliefs in line with their party.
However, these effects have been grossly underestimated. The contagious nature of political polarization has also severely affected common people, as bite-sized information is constantly circulated through social media to target audiences. This information, often created independent of truth, has an unspeakable and firm grasp on people, who often lose the ability to recognize common ground with controversial issues.
One of the biggest consequences of polarization is the rise of fake news, mainly targeted to specific political groups on social media. If someone is only ever hearing news from like-minded people, they can easily fall prey to the spread of vicious propaganda.
When a lot of people hold a specific set of ideas in higher esteem, they do not feel the need to confirm the source of information. As a result, even people who claim to be moderate might end up having extreme beliefs. This is how fake news outlets so effectively spread misinformation.
Without greater scrutiny, people are far too willing to claim that they are “righteous” in spreading fake news. Every opinion their political party holds is only ever seen as rational, and never investigated further. If I am a conservative that only ever sees news which glorifies my party, I will naturally believe that only conservative parties hold sane opinions.
Such beliefs create a huge rift among people with different beliefs and opinions. It is harder to get people onto a common ground while fake media outlets keep confirming their narrow views of the world. Anyone who opposes my belief suddenly becomes an extremist. Negotiation, communication, coordination and compromise are almost entirely unattainable, as these methods are only seen as an obstacle. Some people even argue that yielding to opponents is a form of surrender.
It is surprising and ridiculous that we can claim to know everything through our purblind political lens. Attesting everyday activities of a person to their political inclination is the best example. It shows how we have been duped by fake news, showing how they successfully get us to see the world as they intend us to see it. In creating a space where fake news is better accommodated, these media outlets do not need to be as stealthy as they used to in the past.
As citizens, we always have to confirm the news we consume before we embrace it, and must readily accept to view our opponents as equals. But even then, it is not completely possible to stay away from misinformation, as these outlets are everywhere.
Big corporations like Google, then, have a huge role in stopping fake news. If successful, they can help secure fair elections, get rid of unwanted foreign governments meddling in politics and even help promote harmony in our society.