It seems the notion of “Fake News” is the biggest news of all at the moment. You don’t have to scroll far in your newsfeed to see a story warning you of fake news or politicians calling each other out for spreading “alternative facts”.
This hot topic is the discussion of the latest episode of The Digital Week. Host, Monica Bradley, is joined by QUT’s Professor Michael Rosemann and Professor and PwC Chair in the Digital Economy Marek Kowalkiewicz.
Professor Kowalkiewicz explains fake news as “a case where beliefs and emotions are more important for individuals than facts. And that, in itself, allows news to spread”.
The Office of the Canadian Prime Minister called out Fox News for “false and misleading” reports following the shootings in Quebec. Fox sent a tweet falsely identifying the ethnicity of the shooting suspect to its 13.5 million followers.
Social media plays a significant role. “News spreads so quickly. So the impact of the news, true or not, is massive very quickly” explains Professor Rosemann.
“Everybody can be a producer of news” he states. Professor Rosemann compares the current news climate to years gone by where only limited and trusted sources had the ability to report to the masses. Even then, the news was delivered once or twice a day, now we face a 24hour new cycle.
Accountability is shifting, platforms are under pressure to ensure the news shared within their platform is truthful. Monica Bradley comments this has produced an “interesting model for platforms like Facebook. Where they’re actually commissioning truth telling news, with credibility and some sort of verification, to go into their networks”.
It isn’t just political campaigns and media agendas; businesses and individuals can also feel the repercussions of fake news. Brand reputations can be seriously damaged when fake news spread with such intensity, leading to customers making wrong decisions and businesses experience financial loss. McDonalds, Pepsi and New Balance have felt the impact of internet hoaxes and fake news.
Professor Kowalkiewicz comments on the untapped opportunity to for what he refers to as a “truth rank”. “This is a huge opportunity. Whoever creates a truth rank, that works, this is a huge billion or maybe trillion-dollar industry.”
Professor Rosemann states the future could see qualification engines taking over search engines. “It’s not just finding facts but wanting to know are the pieces of information I just consumed true or not”.
Professor Kowalkiewicz hits on a positive note when suggesting combating fake news may lead to new job opportunities. “Being a news curator, I could be paid for verifying whether this is truth or not”.
Professor Rosemann sees this “fact checking” being done by Artificial Intelligence (AI). “…a lot of fake news is ‘fact intensive’ news. And facts probably could be checked (by AI). So we could see that the detection engine of the future, is completely automated and within milliseconds your piece of content is qualified as fake news.”