Posted by Richard Willet Posted on 7 August 2020

In The Age Of Misinformation, Who Holds The Power To Categorize The “Truth”?

When confronted with basic information such as ”Boston is in Massachusetts,” for instance, humans readily limit feedback to “true” or “false.” This binary framework is simple and intuitive, but the world is far more complex, and humans require more nuanced categorical frameworks to determine the truth.

When technology companies and researchers go through the process of building and constructing frameworks for information categories, they are often prone to bias. Yet, companies obscure these decisions from ordinary citizens who eventually consume this information every day and ultimately shape their lives around it.

In Africa, where mis- and disinformation campaigns often go viral online, especially during politically charged periods, US-based tech and social media companies become arbiters of the “truth.” Millions of Africans use search engines and platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook, who filter information through their own biased lenses.

To complicate matters, these tech and social media platforms, who act as main gateways for news and opinions — often adopt dissimilar frameworks to categorize information.

For example, Google, the giant of the search industry, has developed a feature to check viral claims by categorizing news using a scale of False, Mostly False, Half True, Mostly True, and True. Facebook uses a similar rating but instead focuses on False, Partly False or False rating in reports submitted to them. Meanwhile, Twitter recently announced its framework that has three categories Misleading Information, Disputed Claims, and Unverified Claims.

Read More: In The Age Of Misinformation, Who Holds The Power To Categorize The “Truth”?

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