Final Project

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As social media use grows, ‘fake news’ grows along with it. According to a recent report by Data and Society, fake news is a very abstract term; it can mean hoaxes, misleading political headlines, propaganda, imposter sites, or disinformation. Despite its broadness, fake news’ generally consists of the spreading of misinformation or disinformation. Disinformation typically causes public harm and/or is executed in hopes of profit gain. In order to address this issue, numerous methods have been introduced and executed both domestically within the US and internationally in countries such as Mexico, India, and Brazil. The report mentioned four specific strategies that can potentially lessen the amount of fake news being spread on the web: trust and verification, disrupting economic incentives, de-prioritizing content and banning accounts, and regulatory approaches. Within the strategy trust and verification, as mentioned by the text “Dead Reckoning,” the authors touched upon the specific approach of ‘debunking’ or fact-checking. This strategy of intervention is said to help determine the accuracy of the information that we come across on the web. The use of this method, the authors claim, will make it more clear for readers to deem information as accurate or not. The spread of checking whether or not information is accurate ultimately led to the development of coalitions throughout the nation and globally.  

Because fact-checking and debunking is a global phenomenon, people of various backgrounds are involved, whether that be of differences in culture or differences in their expertise. For example, according to “A Global Approach to ‘Fake News’,” the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) — an international coalition—consists of teams in Asian or European nations that not only have different specialties in news editing, policy making, and media technology but also familiarity with the cultures and norms of their specific countries. Like many other international coalitions, ASEF claims that with such diverse teams tackling the issue of ‘fake news,’ different perspectives will be incorporated into this process which will make it more of an accurate depiction of what information is accurate. Although we might assume that having people of different backgrounds and expertise are an effective method of debunking and fact-checking in a global context, I want to suggest that the idea of truth is fundamentally subjective and that having diverse teams involved in this process will lead to different interpretations. International coalitions have people of different cultures involved in this process which means that their idea of what is accurate can be influenced by their experiences and ideologies.

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Fact-checking and debunking information is said to help users of the web obtain information that is accurate or most closest to the truth. With fact-checking and debunking, information is processed through people with an expertise that pertains to some form of editing and is analyzed by them. Once they deem it as accurate information, the information is certified and continues to spread throughout the web.  In a report published by The Odyssey, it was said that fact-checking works as a method to confirm the verification of politicized information. The report also mentions that although some articles or pieces of writing may seem mostly accurate, fact-checking filters out sources of inaccurate or false statements within the work. A report from Medium expressed that inaccurate information can take many forms, including being incorporated into memes. Some people may come across these subliminal fallacies while browsing on their social media accounts. It insisted that with fact-checking and debunking, people will be able to decipher false information from accurate information. All-in-all, fact-checking and debunking information seem to move us towards a more ‘honest’ world and reduces the amount of deceit in the political scope. However, the report “Dead Reckoning”  proposes that, “Research has shown amplifying false content with the intention to debunk it can actually make the false content more familiar to audiences” (18). Fact-checking and debunking information can actually increase the amount of false information being put out on the web. Thus, fact-checking can expose people to more inaccurate information which will eventually cause them to become more familiar with it. 

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Similarly, in “Reality Bites,” Cloud argues that fact-checking is not as honest as many think since “all truth claims are mediated, or in other words, filtered through the perception, interpretation, and explanation of people with varying power and perspectives” (56). Cloud is claiming that truth is merely subjective; it is determined by one’s perception and interpretation of things. The process of fact-checking and debunking works to find the truth among information on the web, but is executed by different people. So, when fact-checking, information that is deemed accurate or the ‘truth’ is determined by someone else’s perception of what truth is. 

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Image result for American and japanese flag gif

A prime factor that influences the way we think is our culture. In an article by Association for Psychological Science, there was a case study that was conducted by Shinobu Kitayama, in which he analyzed the Japanese culture and the American culture. He found that the Japanese have a more of a collectivist and/or interdependent culture whereas Americans typically have more of an independent and individualistic culture. Once showed a salient image and asked to describe what they have seen, the Japanese spoke about the focal object and disregarded the overall image, whereas Americans perceived the image in the opposite view. With this sample set, this case study reinforces the ideology that our culture influences our perception of things. People of similar cultures tend to have similar influences on what they deem as believable. With that said, international coalitions incorporate people of different cultural backgrounds which makes the interpretation of truth while fact-checking broadened. What one may deem as the truth, may not be the same case for someone of a different background. Some people may also deny the information that is fact-checked because it does not resonate with their perception of the truth. In an article from Psychology Today, there is a mentioning that “Humans process information in a highly selective way…The information we select tends to be the pieces that reinforce our prior views and positive perceptions of ourselves; the rest we tend to overlook.” Even with fact-checking, the audiences only accept what they believe in rather than information that is said to be verified. On an international scale, fact-checking may not be as effective because people have their own version of the truth. When fact-checkers interpret information, they are doing so with their own perceptions of the truth which does not assure the accuracy of the information. 

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Truth within international coalitions are dependent on one’s culture as stated in the article “Boundaries Not Drawn.” The report highlights that within each nation the goal of fact-checking differs. In Ukraine, the objective of fact-checking pertains to eliminating propaganda that is Pro-Russia, whereas in other nations like the UK fact-checking has more to do with investigating political claims. Fact-checking coalitions for different nations have differing perspectives on what political accuracy is based on their cultures and what they believe is most important in their country. In Ukraine, maintaining the sense of nationalism seemed of top priority and seemed most accurate to them. Going back to Cloud’s ideology, one’s perception does indeed determine their ‘truth,’ as shown in the different goals of the international coalitions. Although fact-checking may be a universal method to reduce inaccurate information on the web, through international coalitions what one culture may deem as the truth differs from that of other cultures. 

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