The way for South African me­dia in­dus­try to solve the fake news chal­lenge

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Wes­leyDiphoko is the On­line Ed­i­tor for Busi­ness Re­port and head of In­de­pen­dent Me­dia’s Dig­i­tal Lab. Wes­ley Diphoko

RE­CENTLY South Africans have been ex­posed to a mul­ti­tude of re­ports about #Gup­taE­mails. Some have used these re­ports to mo­ti­vate the call for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to step down.

Some have ques­tioned the au­then­tic­ity of these e-mails.

The fact that some in so­ci­ety have ques­tioned the ve­rac­ity of these e-mails points to a chal­lenge in so­ci­ety, which re­lates to the bro­ken trust be­tween so­ci­ety and the me­dia in­dus­try.

Ev­ery­day so­ci­ety is bom­barded by fake news which cre­ates a chal­lenge for even most au­then­tic news and con­tent.

This means that even news or­gan­i­sa­tions that try to pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion in the form of news will be con­fronted with an ex­pressed lack of trust by its in­tended au­di­ence.

It means that there’s a need for the me­dia in­dus­try to re­gain the trust of so­ci­ety. The ques­tion is: How can the me­dia re­gain so­ci­etal trust?

A num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions are think­ing about the so­lu­tion to this chal­lenge, among such or­gan­i­sa­tions there’s Google.

The lead­ing tech­nol­ogy or­gan­i­sa­tion Google has just an­nounced its in­ten­tion to work closely with the me­dia in­dus­try.


Part of its in­ten­tion is to as­sist the me­dia in­dus­try to re­gain the trust of so­ci­ety through its tech­nol­ogy.

The chal­lenge with this move by Google is that as long as the so­lu­tion to the me­dia trust chal­lenge is led by en­ti­ties with com­mer­cial in­ter­ests it will be dif­fi­cult to built a so­lu­tion to this chal­lenge.

The fact that servers of multi­na­tion­als such as Google are based in the US cre­ates doubts in the minds of in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ments.

This will be­come an­other source of trust is­sues, es­pe­cially with lead­ers such as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (fa­ther of fake news) at the helm of the US, where Google is based.

Google un­der­stands that to as­sist in re­gain­ing the trust of so­ci­ety in the me­dia in­dus­try, data will be at the cen­tre of de­vel­op­ing a so­lu­tion.

The only is­sue is that such a so­lu­tion should not be led by an en­tity with com­mer­cial in­ter­ests of such data.

The me­dia in­dus­try can use data to re­gain the trust of so­ci­ety by re­port­ing based on facts that can be ac­cessed by so­ci­ety.

It should be pos­si­ble for a reader of #Gup­taE­mails to view the raw ver­sion of the e-mails and also know how the e-mails were ob­tained.

Go­ing for­ward, the me­dia in­dus­try in South Africa there­fore needs to de­velop a neu­tral en­tity that will serve as the guardian of data, upon which the in­dus­try will base its re­ports.

So­ci­ety should be able to iden­tify ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion based on an iden­ti­fy­ing mark of con­tent that in­di­cates that con­tent is sourced from a cred­i­ble and neu­tral en­tity.

This is not a task that should be left to or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Google.

It should be an in­dus­try-wide ini­tia­tive in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try in its purest form.

In my ca­pac­ity as the head of In­de­pen­dent Me­dia Lab I pro­pose that the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try in South Africa should col­lab­o­rate with the me­dia in­dus­try to solve the cur­rent chal­lenge of fake news and not leave this is­sue to or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Google.

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