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Experts divided on the future of truth and misinformation online

We’ve previously published a number of articles exploring the significant phenomena of online fake news and misinformation. What do experts predict will happen in the online information environment in the coming decade – will there be a reduction in false and misleading narratives, or not?

Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center have conducted a large non-scientific canvassing of technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others, asking them to respond to this question:

In the next 10 years, will trusted methods emerge to block false narratives and allow the most accurate information to prevail in the overall information ecosystem? Or will the quality and veracity of information online deteriorate due to the spread of unreliable, sometimes even dangerous, socially destabilizing ideas?

Respondents were then asked to choose one of the following answer options:

The information environment will improve – In the next 10 years, on balance, the information environment will be IMPROVED by changes that reduce the spread of lies and other misinformation online.

The information environment will NOT improve – In the next 10 years, on balance, the information environment will NOT BE improved by changes designed to reduce the spread of lies and other misinformation online.

There were 1,116 responses to the canvassing: 51% chose the option that the information environment will not improve, and 49% said the information environment will improve. The majority of respondents elaborated on their views in detail.

Overarching and competing themes were clear:

  • Those who don’t think things will improve felt that humans mostly shape technology advances to their own, not-fully-noble purposes, and that bad actors with bad motives will thwart the best efforts of technology innovators to remedy today’s problems.
  • Those who are most hopeful believed that technological fixes can be implemented to bring out the better angels guiding human nature.

Major themes are summarised in the following graphic, and longer responses with selection of representative quotes can be found in the Pew Research Center article. The full report is also available for download.

Major themes on the future of the online information environment

Article source: The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online.

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Also published on Medium.

Stephen Bounds

Stephen Bounds is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist with a wide range of experience across the government and private sectors. As founding editor of RealKM and Executive, Information Management at Cordelta, Stephen provides clear strategic thinking along with a hands-on approach to help organisations successfully develop and implement modern information systems.

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