Fighting ‘alternative facts’ online

Posted on February 3, 2017 12:00 am

Alternative facts are simply defined as the unexpected truths about judgment and decision making. The phrase became popular thanks to Kellyanne Conway, a counsellor to President Donald Trump during her interview on NBC’s Meet The Press with Chuck Todd. Alternative facts are seen as falsehoods by the opponents and an alternative to truth by proponents. My elementary teacher taught me that in life, no one can ascertain what’s true, but reality is that each one of us can establish what’s false.There’s no doubt that world connectivity has brought many new opportunities and on the other hand bred a new generation of challenges. My blud recently told me that she believe that social media is a mirror of society, one that reflects all manner of human interests and ideas, invariably extending into the realm of politics and violence as witnessed in United States since Donald Trump was elected as President.Over the past few years, I have found that online behaviour is dominated by a tendency to listen to and associate with people who are similar in views, and exclude outsiders commonly referred to as homophily. Online users who are preaching about alternative facts have been coming together when facing a shared antagonist that they think is too strong to be faced by individuals. This behaviour has made social networks like Twitter bad at helping online users empathise with people not like them. Alternative facts proponents want their beliefs affirmed and they want to demonise the opposition at every turn. Social media platforms have reinforced them versus us narratives, exposed vulnerable people to destructive ideologies and even intensified long dormant hatreds like the social and racial divides in United States.

We all know that people who hear only similar voices end up polarised and thats why am not surprised with rise of white supremacists in US. A wealth of evidence in research that I have read before suggests homogenous groups breed extreme views. Nowadays, creating conflicts is as easy as putting thumbs to an iPhone. The outcome of such conflicts are determined heavily by activities in cyberspace. False news on social media is made to divide communities. Apart from those living in denial, psychological operations are now mainstream and tech enabled. Social media has created massive groundswells of popular opinion that are almost impossible to predict or manage. Who would have thought in 2017 Ku Klax Klan will be bullish as it was in 1960s? The invention of camera phones changed how we view conditions on the field and can shape such opinions. Unfortunately, the more extreme the personality and sensibility of the writer, the more the popularity on social media. It’s common sense that freedom of speech doesn’t give anyone the right to insult, offend, humiliate, vilify, incite hatred, disrespect, oppose human rights, spread lies or misinformation, argue against the common good, or promote ideas which have no place in society. All those who are educated know that we all learned this in school. In my view alternative facts is not free speech, as the oft-repeated saying goes. Freedom of speech is something that comes with responsibility and it has to be balanced against dignity and respect. Freedom of speech is a core individual value, but it’s not the only value available as those who are propagating alternative facts want us to believe. We are living in societies that are built on diversity and multiculturalism and thats why most of us refuse to tolerate any forms of hatred or racism. The need to protect vulnerable minorities from all forms of alternative facts is something that practically most us firmly agree with aside from racist bigots who want to incite hatred against vulnerable minorities.

The alternative facts movement has proved adept in its use of social media platforms, running a sophisticated propaganda campaign. The proponents are putting a lot of pre planning into its social media of how they moved their supporters from all around United States, Australia and Europe.The true purpose of alternative facts individuals pictures or videos on organising a rally on Twitter and Facebook purpose is to recruit like minded zealots for their cause. The propaganda is designed to encourage like minded communities to support the alternative facts movement.Am aware that Twitter and Facebook are both open and public by nature. This means that the alternative facts movement in US and around the world has the ability to not only capture images, but also to spread them to the people who are likely to react to them and create a bigger impact. It also means the images will be in people’s consciousness forever.Groups like Ku Klax Klan have long used the internet to promote medieval ideologies. The white supremacy groups were a fantasy three years ago, now look at it. Ku Klax Klan social media is capable of attracting people, including professionals such as doctors and not necessarily unemployed or illiterate people as widely believed across US.Innovations in cyberspace in the connected world have to be understood so that its impact on society may be anticipated. The fight against violent or extremist messaging on social media has become more important than ever but its not manageable.The rehearsal for the white supremacy audience has been accomplished with the success of big demonstrations in US. I do not know what the alternative facts movement is fully capable of, but I have seen them take down US and World order in three weeks. If Donald Trump era that started on 20th January has taught me anything, it is to never underestimate how far alternative facts can go and personally I don’t have an issue with alternative facts.

Contador Harrison