What is the future of media with experience?
Fake news has always existed and has been part of governments, companies and organizations strategies to win elections, to increase financial performances, or to manipulate the social and economic order, however, in the last years it has been transforming into a massive and daily phenomenon, becoming, in the collective imaginary as one of the biggest negative consequences of the internet.
As we have extensively analyzed in previous articles, Brexit was the first warning bell about the severity of this phenomenon and subsequently the Trump’s election in 2016. Then the automation and robotization came and the problem escalated alarmingly all over the world. As an example, in the Brazilian presidential and government campaigns, in just one weekend, 35 publications with fake content were shared 400.000 times on Facebook and only four videos uploaded in this social network had at least 2.7 million of views, as indicated by the Monitor of Political Debate in the Digital Media Project, of the University of Sao Paulo.
As “Fake News” has become part of the digital landscape, especially of social media, the credibility of the internet is in free fall and for the group of global citizens it has become very difficult to differentiate between fake news and a real one, because in many cases are the same trusted friends and family the ones who without knowing lend themselves to share this type of information.
The role of media with experience
Although traditional media hasn’t been exempt of falling in fake news and in many cases of losing objectivity, their experience and journalistic support that backs up them, have become an important differential value across the digital universe, which is why it has become a global trend that citizens are choosing to return to the media with experience, as recently was confirmed by a study called “In News We Trust”.
“Fake news has caused that more than sixty-five (65) percent of global respondents to say that is more likely now they search for reliable and high-quality, news sites.”
Likewise, the annual survey made by the Ogilvy Media Influence team, evidenced that given the increase of “Fake News” experienced media have become the most reliable source of consultation in the digital environment.
But, without a doubt the greatest evidence has been provided by a study called “Trust in the news”, elaborated by Kantar Media, from a survey of 8.000 people in Brazil, France, United Kingdom and United States about the media coverage of electoral calls in these countries.
The results of the study evidenced that news about politics and electoral campaigns published in social networks and messaging systems as WhatsApp, are less reliable for almost six of every 10 respondents that read news (58% and 57%, respectively).
“Three quarters consider their trust in printed publications has remained “the same” or is “even greater” than before the ‘fake news’ phenomenon, a ‘confidence rate’ that almost doubles the rate of social networks and messaging applications, which is around 40%”.
Television channels ‘all news’ also keep a strong position as reliable sources, since 78% of respondents considered “equally” or “more reliable” than before the appearance of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. Kantar Media
New winds blow through Silicon Valley in the face of the crisis
Google (alphabet) and Facebook Inc., are globally still the most successful information containers, their media as Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook, Waze, among others, together they concentrate more than half of the global information so they are far from losing exposure, reporting a clear trend in increasing users. However, the same is not happening with credibility, since these companies have positioned themselves at the center of the debate. Even Mark Zuckerberg had to testify to US Congress over “Cambridge Analytic” scandal, evidencing a limited commitment to this problem, insisting those are distribution platforms and they are not able to assume responsibility for the content that passes through their platforms.
However, in recent months both Facebook and Google have shown symptoms that allow us to see of a new stance towards “Fake News”, possibly because their reputation and credibility are being affected, which ultimately also affects their financing models, as evidenced by the scandals of platforms of YouTube and Facebook, which led Nestlé, Disney, Epic Games Inc., Unilever, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble, to suspend their advertising contracts on these platforms () () ().
Nowadays, both Facebook and Google have included in their Staff experts in subjects of Xenophobia, protection of minors, “Fake News” and even journalistic ethics, and have started to participate in forums and public debates as the recently cited by the special rapporteur for freedom of expression of the Organization of American States, in which the risk and impact of the content circulating on these platforms was widely discussed.
At the same time, social media have been modifying their algorithms to discourage “Fake News” for example, Facebook now punishes with less exposure messages that don’t have a native origin in users and WhatsApp limited the number of people to whom a received message can be forwarded, while YouTube incorporated control over words, phrases and images related to sensitive topic as Xenophobia, abuse, male chauvinism and racism.
Superficial contents and battlefield
The greatest risk platforms have detected is that they are turning into a media to a superficial and conflictive communication, in other words Instagram is turning into the “Selfie” media par excellence to talk about daily life, while Facebook to tell stories and light thoughts, YouTube is the channel of Video Bloggers and Twitter the battlefield for the conflictive debate of ideas, scenarios that, although will allow to keep captive audiences, they would be losing credibility as information and communication media, giving ground in global influence, specially in political and economic terms, in addition to the risk that may represent losing audiences with more cognition ability and influence power.
Self-regulation is the way
Faced with the evident credibility crisis of digital platforms traditional media are acquiring a new space in the digital ecosystem, positioning themselves in a little more than 60% of the population –as evidenced by aforementioned studies-, in the highest level of credibility agents, however, not all the population believe in them, since credibility is nor an acquired right and impartiality is a very complex ideal to reach and in every case, a big additional effort is required, which is why this void will possibly be filled if media reinforce their journalistic responsibility.
Taking into account that “Freedom of Expression” is in the middle of the debate, participation of the state in this issues can always threaten that freedom under the ghost of censorship, and this is why traditional regulation is inadequate, being the only viable way the self-regulation in a democratic environment.
One of best examples of self-regulation in the world is the Swedish, where every media develop their own self-regulation manuals, but in addition, they voluntarily decide to submit to the figure of “Ombudsman” a kind of hearings defender that mediates in any conflict with customers, but additionally his concept escalates to a “Media Council” that evaluates their peer’s behavior and when an irregularity is found, he issues concepts in this regard that end up producing corrections.
The Swedish “Ombudsman” and “Media Council” is promoted and sponsored by the same communication media, the state doesn’t intervene in these processes and their members are prominent journalists from the media that make up this initiative that has been proving its effectiveness for more than a century.
To be part of the Swedish “Ombudsman” and “Media Council” has given a high level of credibility to experienced media, to the point that new emergent media have decided to join and submit to this figure, because this guarantees a higher level of credibility.
Nowadays Swedish media have reached to keep one of the highest credibility rates and although they have not been immune to the advertising crisis that has been developing in the digital environment, the evidence shows that they have managed to stay afloat with very high indicators above the global average, keeping high reputation, sustainability and credibility indicators.
In Conclusion, in the face of the global crisis that “Fake News” has unleashed on the internet, traditional media are recovering part of the space that they had lost by virtue of the journalism that supports them in the professional practice, however, that will not be enough to reach trust in the vast majority of audience, which is why self-regulation emerges again, as the best model to consolidate the credibility space in the digital media troubled ecosystem.
By: Gabriel E. Levy B