These fake news that distort our judgments…

– Jean Gabriel Ganaschia © MoricetteMartin –

“Fake news” is false information transmitted with the deliberate intention to deceive. It is a practice that begins very early with libels, rumors and “propaganda”. In the latter case, it is states that are trying to forge the collective imagination. In the 20th century, the USA played a central role in their theorizing. Philosophers like Walter Lippmann have thought about how to “manufacture public consent” using social stereotypes and subliminal images, among other things. Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, used these techniques to manipulate public opinion through the mass media. In France, the 20H newspaper has long played this role of creating a collective conscience.

With the advent of social networks, “fake news” is no longer so much disseminated by states wanting to forge a single vision, but by very small communities with particular perspectives, which results in a crumbled collective memory and a fragmented society. . We have gone from the scarcity of information and a central power that monopolized it to “information bubbles” that lock individuals into their universe, each receiving the information that satisfies them thanks to “profiling” carried out at the using artificial intelligence. If there was violence in the fact of wanting to impose a single vision, there is also violence now in a fragmented society, where no one understands each other.

The springs underlying the dissemination of “infox” relate to the saturation of attention in a universe of information overload. Social network algorithms do not censor, but they promote the most radical content that screens other information. Striking posts that are highly emotional, and especially those expressing anger, as whistleblower Frances Haugen explained, are favored by social media because they elicit strong reactions, which increases the flow. In addition, it is now possible to manufacture “deep fakes”, these fake videos allowing someone to deliver a false speech, including political figures, which amplifies the possibilities of astonishing the public and, again , to elicit strong reactions.

The rise of infox is all the more worrying as a denial will not erase from all memories the memory of the false information, a fortiori when it comes to visual or repeated content. Moreover, some “legends” will even be reinforced by attempts at denial, as we have seen during the COVID-19 crisis. Hence the need to detect false information upstream, before it is encoded in our memories.

Alongside education in the scientific approach – more than just in the critical sense – it is necessary to regulate social networks. This was done in the first half of 2022 at European level, with the adoption on April 22, 2022 of legislation on digital services, the DSA (Digital Services Act), a new regulation which aims to increase the repression of certain abuses on Internet. We can also recommend the consultation of fact-checking sites when information seems surprising or suspicious to us, in particular before transmitting it or talking about it to others.

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These fake news that distort our judgments…

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