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