An Insight Into the World of Fake News With Vincent F. Hendricks

By Nicolai Fast Sørensen

Did you know that misinformation aka Fake News is a threat to democracy on a par with world hunger and climate change? That’s the case according to reports published by the World Economic Forum and the UN.  On 3 December Vincent F. Hendricks presented his findings at our online event IWDK Network: Festival and Fake News. Here we share a summary from the lecture. 

On average more than 6 billion pieces of news are being exchanged on Facebook every day, 100.000 million hours of videos are streamed on the platform and as you have been reading this article hundreds of videos have been uploaded to Youtube. Vincent argues that even though we live in the information age and have access to knowledge it might not make us wiser. We are constantly overwhelmed with information as the stream is immense, both media and we as a people struggle to gain attention and the fear of missing out

Vincent continues to question the overload of information, which creates a market that is a very complicated eco-system, where tech giants have a chokehold on our attention. They represent 90% of our online traffic, have been allowed to grow in size and take over other companies. An example is Facebook buying Instagram or Google buying Youtube. Companies such as Amazon provide streaming services, everyday consumables and products to an extent where they offer almost everything.

If you don’t pay, you’re the product! 

To the Tech Giants ‘data is key’ and even though Social Media is free for us consumers, we pay with our attention and data. Traffic generates money and the business model consists of selling ads and enabling companies to segment their marketing and predict the consumer’s behavior.

We as consumers are the information prostitutes who work for some great pimps called the tech-giants.” Vincent F. Hendricks recites.

Online, information are peddled on the basis of anger, fear and fascination. Polarized opinions are often shared with commoners and the power of social media has grown to a size where a single wrongful tweet can get us fired or in it’s worst state make stock markets lose millions of dollars.  Going forward it is important to acknowledge that Facebook or Twitter, as a social media isn’t necessarily a news outlet but a way in which we as a people try to gain social recognition from others by sharing news articles. What is viral online isn’t necessarily the truth and what is the truth isn’t necessarily viral.

The truth is in the eye of the beholder

A study from the Swedish election in 2018 showed that 30% of the news being peddled was fake news and that most people are aware that they are peddling wrongful information. While you might think that bots are distributing fake news another study showed that we as people distribute news. So what is fake news? It’s false statements made to look like simulated journalism and truthfulness.

At the end of the lecture Vincent F. Hendricks presented his findings on how we as voters, readers and users can fight Fake News by bursting our own bubbles, taking our time learning the real truth, reading up on statistics, and treating narratives as skeptical as the one we don’t believe and lastly fight off our own conspiratorial thinking.

If you want to read further on the matter of Fake News the lecture is based on Reality Lost – Markets of Attention, Misinformation and Manipulation by Vincent F. Hendricks & Mads Vestergaard. A book that is free for download here