Information verification and credibility in social media
Talking TR is a monthly series of talks and discussions from leading analysts and academics on key issues for Turkey and the region, filmed in front of a live audience. This essay is a modified transcript of the talk presented by Asst. Prof. Erkan Saka of İstanbul Bilgi University at Talking TR in September. Saka addresses the intertwined issues of digital reputation and online information verification in social media Discussions are still going on in Turkey as to why social media is necessary and, among some powerful groups, these have even become the source of a kind of “moral panic.” So, unfortunately, at some level we have to discuss why social media is needed. But I think we have to go beyond that. There are so many users in Turkey and there’s a substantive mass of users that are able to go beyond that. When we try to go beyond the necessity of social media, several issues emerge. In fact, there are so many issues emerging that maybe we can only focus on some of them. I personally have focused recently on verification issues, which I’d like to connect to digital reputation issues.
Perhaps there is some sort of existential assumption that, at the moment, the Internet is reality itself -- or, perhaps it is better to say that the distinction between online or offline is nearly gone. We cannot talk about real life versus online or virtual life at this stage. People may not accept it, but it doesn’t matter really because it is now beyond our control. And, in parallel to that, I think reputational issues cannot really now differ in the offline or online context. When we think about the personal or the group level, or even institutional reputations, this must be done in all contexts. While I will limit myself to social media, we have to accept that this is not just about social media but applies to all such content. In a way, it’s become holistic.
My contention is that you can’t simply escape from social media; some kind of involvement is inevitable. Furthermore, it is necessary to become proactive in building your reputation or creating digital traces on social media.
Some of you might hate Facebook, Instagram or other specific platforms, but in principle you will become involved in some form of social media. In the coming years, there will be so many tools so that, for example, even if you don’t like Facebook, you might find yourself on, for instance, Snapchat. Demographically, Snapchat is still at the high-school level, but its use is increasing, so it’s really hard to limit demographics here. You might choose to use only certain tools but in the end, everyone will use social media in one way or another. In fact, you have to use it; there are indications that employers already look at potential employees’ social media traces. Furthermore, we always talk about “checking traces” in