In an interview with Seth Meyers, South African comedian Trevor Noah raised a funny but interestingly sensible point. He said it’s good that not everyone in the world speaks English, that not everyone understands what US President Trump is saying. Otherwise, everybody would be terrified, offended, or have some other adverse reaction to many of the American leader’s pronouncements.
The Internet connects people in different parts of the world but the language barrier puts a little hurdle along the way. Thanks to language translation service providers this hurdle is being hurdled. However, this use of translation to break the language barrier is not always positive. It can be used, for example, by one state to interfere with the affairs of another — just like what happened in the alleged Russian intervention in the 2016 US presidential election.
So what’s the significance of mentioning Trump, language translation, and the global implications of fake news here? This is to highlight the role politics played in the spread of fake news, the relevance of language translation in crafting and spreading fake news, and the globalization of the fake news “industry.” Yes, fake news manufacture and dissemination is already like an industry itself that is being marketed globally.
Globalized Fake News
For the uninitiated, fake news is a term used to refer to a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that involves misinformation and disinformation. It seeks to mislead, deceive, or muddle the truth. It is often used online, especially through social media, but it can occasionally be circulated through broadcast, print, and other forms of mainstream media. Fake news is spread to attack the reputation of a person or organization, attract clicks or readers for financial or political gain, sensationalize issues, or create confusion or chaos.
Fake news usually has to be targeted to a specific audience to be effective in achieving its specific purpose. For example, to influence the outcome of an election, the propagators of fake news need to identify specific people whose voting decisions can still change. The fake news being created and spread has to assail the reputation of the opponent of a favored candidate or create doubt or confusion that will make voters hesitate in voting for the candidate they had in mind earlier.
In determining fake news targets, it is important to analyze certain data and statistics. This is what was found recently when the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal broke. It was learned that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, had been collecting and analyzing data from dozens of millions of Facebook users. The data collection and analysis had been useful in coming up with strategies to influence voter preferences or decisions. Cambridge Analytica operates globally, serving political figures and groups in different parts of the world. This means they had to have language service providers to analyze the data they collected and to communicate with prospective clients.
Fake news is not just a local issue. With the help of the internet and translation, foreign governments or state actors are able to influence the affairs of another state. Through the collection of social media data and translation, there are companies that are able to offer fake news as a global product that can be instrumental in winning elections.
The globalization and commercialization of fake news are serious issues. Because of these, the internet and language translation are getting disreputed as they are viewed to be playing roles in the proliferation of a problem. The things that are supposed to be helping connect people and enable understanding are becoming tools for creating chaos and unjustifiably influencing behaviors. That’s why it only makes sense trying to address the problem of fake news.
At present, the solutions in addressing fake news are centered on fake news identification and removal or counter-speech. There have been ongoing efforts to list sources of fake news to have them banned or identify individual posts and tag them as fake news and present sources that debunk their claims. This is what’s being done with the generation of lists of fake news sources on established resources like Wikipedia, and the fact-checking systems that employ longtime myth/hoax debunkers like Snopes.com and Truth or Fiction as references.
Facebook also introduced its own solutions. It has started banning websites that are deemed as sources of false or misleading information. For specific posts, Facebook has created a system that enables the flagging of contentious posts. It then presents related links for these dubious posts through which users are aided in determining on their own if the story is real or fake. Additionally, Facebook allows users to decide what they trust so they may only get content from sources they consider trustworthy.
Artificial intelligence is also being considered as a solution against fake news. The solutions employed at present mostly involve human inputs or evaluation. These are just not enough to keep up with the pace by which fake news are fabricated and disseminated. As such, AI systems are being developed to automatically crawl over content and determine if they are fake or real. Facebook is in the process of developing an AI system to scan and filter news on the social media platform. There are also other similar efforts such as the Fake News Challenge initiated by San Francisco AI research company Joostware.
The Need for Cooperation Among Media Platforms
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges the problem of fake news. While his company is already in the process of doing something about it, he knows that what Facebook is doing is not going to be enough. He understands that the fake news problem afflicting Facebook can also happen to other media platforms such as Google and Twitter. Because of this, he is calling for cooperation with other companies to collectively fight fake news.
This certainly makes sense since as fake news evidently appear in many other forms online. For one, there’s a multitude of videos on YouTube that exhibit various attributes of being fake news or propaganda. There are numerous videos on YouTube that appear to be aimed at stirring sensationalism or damaging the reputation of personalities or organizations by showing videos with contentious titles and thumbnails. There are many comments on blogs and news sites, through the blogging network Disqus for example, that spread false claims, misleading information, and fallacious arguments designed to promote or discredit something or someone.
The Issue of Censorship
While many are thankful that there are already efforts to identify and remove false news online, there are those who argue that this is not the right way to deal with the problem. For them, identifying and taking down fake news content is tantamount to censorship, a violation of the right to freedom of speech and self expression. Because of this, they are championing counter-speech as the more appropriate solution.
Counter-speech means presenting content that counter or debunk the claims of a content deemed to be fake news. It’s about pitting bad content with what is supposedly good content. There’s a school of thought that suppressing speech is just as bad as spreading false news. There’s the valid concern that what’s being taken down as fake news may not actually be fake news so it’s better to present counter-speech than to suppress speech or resort to censorship.
Everyone Has a Role to Play
There’s no doubt that the propagators of fake news are clever and crafty. They know how to muster rights and freedoms as defense. They also seem to have the forethought that mainstream media and established institutions will be a bane to their devices so they made sure that they damage the reputation and credibility of mainstream media. They can validly argue that censorship or the exercise of control over published content is not the solution as it can be prone to abuse.
That’s why everyone needs to get involved. Everyone has to participate in suppressing fake news by making sure that what’s being taken down is indeed fake news. There’s sense in saying that counter-speech is the better solution but how can it be a solution when people are apathetic? How can counter-speech be a solution if governments, for example, are hiring trolls to make sure that critical views are buried deep in a deluge of fake good news? How can counter-speech be the better solution if facts can be clearly established but the false claims cannot be stricken down because more people are posting and supporting the false claims?
Everybody needs to play a role in obliterating fake news. This role can be to object to a wrongful deletion, present counter-speech, identify fake news, or call out mistakes or abuses in the implementation of systems to fight fake news. For now, it’s difficult to determine what is the best solution to fake news but what’s certain is that everybody needs to get involved to address the problem.
For years, Day Translations, Inc. has been providing high quality translation, localization, interpretation, and other language services to clients in different parts of the world. This global language service provider guarantees professional language solutions for various purposes through human translators who are not only experts in the language they handle but are also well-versed in and exposed to cultural and sociopolitical nuances in doing translations. The company is always ready to serve clients 24/7, 365 days a year and can be reached via form at our contact us page or by telephone at 1-800-969-6853. Day Translations also has a free-to-download Android and iOS app, Terpy, which makes it easy to contact the company and ask for a quote for a translation job.
Image Copyright: sdecoret / 123RF Stock Photo