By Farhan Hussain, CEO InterDigitel
Over the course of the past 2 decades, we have moved towards a society driven by an unprecedented flow of data and information. With the progress in information technology, we have been able to create a hyper-connected world where information flows at an incredible rate. This hyper-connectivity has allowed people to take charge of their lives providing them unlimited access to literally everything at the tip of their fingers.
As more and more data is generated, intelligent algorithms have further allowed us to efficiently harness the power of data analytics to accurately predict the needs and preferences of people based on their traits and past activities. In short, every digital footprint ever created when an individual conducts any sort of activity online, be it sharing an article, liking a post, buying a product or making a review, leaves an inevitable impression in their digital attribution, classifying them into prospective targets for certain types of information based on their activity history. This serves the purpose of corporations or the media houses dispensing information directly targeted to their potential audience.
At first, it may indeed seem convenient to have a system that disseminates information tailored to our preferences cutting out all that’s unnecessary and doesn’t resonate with our mindset, however considering the fact that news and information shapes our world view and directly impacts our lives, the sheer significance of this interdependence cannot be undermined.
It shouldn’t be hard to realize that all of us innately have a certain degree of confirmation bias to ideas and thoughts that have grown with us and in some way confined us to our own imagination, as such the perils of becoming a potential victim of misinformation and propaganda are real and can have a big impact on our society. Understanding the fact that targeted access to information shapes our perspectives and opinions driving us to further confirm with what we have already chosen to believe, it’s safe to assume that this kind of preferential flow of information is pushing us deeper into a proverbial box rather than out of it.
With a lot of fake news feeding into people’s biases, the dangers of this deepen as people mostly get to hear what they have already subconsciously submitted to as being true, furthering an ideological divide within the secular fabric of our societies. The ramifications of this are quite evident in countries where political ideologies have in a way held people, hostage, to their agenda by propagating selective or biased information in order to induce fear in the hearts and minds of the masses and then providing the ultimate solution to such irrational fears in advocating or supporting their policies. Even though this nature of politics is not new, the sheer scale and ease at which this can be achieved in this age of social media are unprecedented.
The only way out of this dangerous ideological divide that is threatening the very foundations of secularism and democracy is to call on the organizations and media houses that are at the crossroads of information flow, to be more accountable and not influenced by political ideologies.
More importantly, it’s imperative for the users or the audience who are at the receiving end of all the information to act with more responsibility and not consider every piece of information directed at them to be necessarily true. Before giving in to that impulse of hitting the share button upon reading something that excites us, we should do our research to substantiate such information. It can be as easy as copying and pasting the headline or title into Google and comparing sources with similar information, giving more preference to independent sources that may not have any political inclinations. This kind of responsible action is attributed to an aware Netizen who can help break the chain of biased or fake information from spreading to an extent that it can be potentially damaging to our society.
In these times of Covid 19, we hear a lot about the significance of social distancing to break the chain in order to stop the pandemic, it’s even more critical for us Netizens to be aware and break the chain of potentially damaging information from spreading like a virus and destroying the fabric of our secular society. While this pandemic that’s currently threatening us will eventually pass, the dangers of fake or biased information in leaving a lasting scar in the ideas of peace, harmony, and sustainability are real and call for us to act now.