20 January 2017

Where do you get your news from? news

When we read the paper, we read stories that are selected and edited to compile pages of stories that we can trust to be well researched and truthful. The same applies to watching the news on TV; when we turn into the BBC for the ten o’clock news bulletin, we can expect to see a neutral representation of all the important things happening in the world right now.

But we are quickly coming to rely more on the internet as a source for keeping ourselves informed. Social media, in particular Twitter and Facebook, are platforms that allow us to not only read news stories but also share them and respond to them. Worryingly, reading news stories this way also means you mostly get to see news stories similar to the ones you have already read and liked – which is extremely limiting.

It’s been more than six months since the BBC reported that social media now outstrips TV as a news source for young people, and campaigning ahead of the American election really hammered home how important it is to realise this.

The elections highlighted the use of fake news to win votes. In most cases, ‘fake news’ isn’t even really the term we should be using: news isn’t news if it never happened.

However, whether we want to use the term ‘fake news’ or ‘misinformation’, it has become so much of a problem that social media bosses could now be questioned by MPs on whether they are doing enough to stop these false stories from being distributed on social media.

What can we do? And whose responsibility is it to do it?

It is hard to decide exactly who is responsible for tackling this fake news. Is it down to the tech firms, the individuals or the government? The question is complicated because we’re dealing with communication tools that don’t consider themselves a news source and we’ll never be able to stop people from saying things that simply aren’t true online.

But I suppose it does matter how this information is presented. The way everyone now uses social media has changed and we’ve gone from wanting to connect with our friends and family to connecting with the whole world – distributing our life and thoughts to ‘followers’. But with that changing function comes a changing attitude and I do believe that organisations should take greater responsibility for the content they make available.

In my opinion, it makes perfect sense that the internet has become the main source for our news, but we have to find a way of making our social media sources more reliable and balanced.

What do you think? What is the solution?

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