Confronting Lies on Social Media

by | Sep 20, 2020 | General

One of the major problems confronting social media platforms is the rise of “fake news” and a wide assortment of bald-faced lies. This problem impacts the vast majority of social media platforms and raises serious questions about “free speech” and censorship. Many efforts aimed at restricting the spread of so-called “fake news”  have undermined trust in the platform held by certain audiences such as conservatives. As a result, public dialogue becomes increasingly fractured, and false information goes unchallenged in ideological echo chambers. The basic problem with social media is it allows people to make extraordinary claims without citing any evidence to support them. 

Cite Your Sources

On Youtube, many content creators often use graphics, statistics, and quotes to buttress their arguments. Yet, very few if any content creators actually cite their sources in video descriptions or end credits when making factual claims. Essays and other written media have established standards for citing facts in support of an argument. These standards allow readers to make informed decisions about the veracity of a writer’s claims. The solution to misinformation on social media is requiring citation in support of factual statements. 

Fighting Lies on Social Media
Fight Lies on Social Media

Before we can address the idea of misinformation we need to outline the two kinds of statements that people generally make online. These statements can be divided into statements of opinion and statements of fact. Social media and modern news outlets fail to enforce a clear distinction between these two classes of statements. This creates an inherent problem on social media platforms where facts and opinions are treated equally. We can easily resolve this problem by enabling creators and users to flag content into one of these two groups. 

Statements of Opinion v. Statements of Fact

People are perfectly entitled to their own opinion, but they shouldn’t be permitted to portray their opinion as factual without citing evidence to support it. When content is uploaded users should be required to self-classify their content into one of these two categories. Opinions will not be required to prove themselves since they are purely subjective. Content that portrays itself as factual has an obligation to cite evidence in support of its claims. 

President Trump exemplifies the problem with allowing social media users to make factual claims without citing their sources. Mr. Trump is entitled to his personal opinion but isn’t entitled to portray his opinions as facts. The introduction of this requirement may raise the level of online civility by encouraging discussion of facts rather than personal attacks. 

We will continue to expand this piece in order to encourage further discussion and use of works cited on social media platforms and other online media. Major American social media platforms can play a leading role in improving the quality of online dialogue. By including works cited as a requirement for factual claims made on their platforms. 

What are we doing?

Nomadic Insights frequently produces content on major social media platforms such as Youtube and Facebook. As part of our efforts to encourage critical thinking, we are committed to sharing our works cited when making factual claims online. We follow Chicago Style in our works cited. Due to time constraints when researching we occasionally cite Wikipedia in place of a peer-reviewed source. 

Our team produces content meant to help content creators find reputable resources and information they need to produce their videos on our Youtube channel.

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