By Elinando B. Cinco
Just as it comes to the 21st century stage as a reliable repository of vast information, the Internet today appears to be helpless in being both an innocent victim and participant in fraud and trickery.
All this craft and sham despite the Internet being a mammoth storehouse of truth and facts, according to social scientists.
But the universal mocking persists, as explained in an essay published in The New York Times International Weekly, dated November 14, 2016, written by Farhad Manjoo.
The periodical is a compilation of selected and significant news events around the world. It comes out as a Monday 16-page supplement of the Manila Bulletin.
“Truth is a Victim in Internet Age” is the title of the Manjoo essay.
A blog in the feature article notes that “Online hoaxes and fringe theories thrive (in the Internet) despite facts.”
As a corollary occurrence of the above report, the Internet service in the Philippines is no exception. We were witness barely five months ago when the country held a presidential election.
Disinformation campaign charges were hurled against candidates, their political parties and leaders in great abundance. The vilification onslaught came streaming like an uncontrolled avalanche threatening to wreak havoc on everything on its path.
And yet, political analysts said, more than 50 percent of those charges were made-up issues.
Significantly, those mud-slinging drives were carried by the social media in the Internet.
They were brimming with loads of campaign materials that independent observers thought were of doubtful credibility.
And as the essayist Majoo paraphrased, the seemingly unstoppable disinformation arsenal in the Internet is prevalent and freely available to users. All this notwithstanding the easy accessibility also of substantial facts offered in cyberspace.
In his essay, Farhad Manjoo begins by saying, “Now that Donald J. Trump has won the (US) presidential election, will we be able to clean up the lies, hoaxes and other dung hurled in this campaign season?”
The author said it is unclear. Because the Internet is distorting our collective grasp on the truth, he added.
Notably, he also shows desperation of sort. Says he: “If you study the dynamics of how information moves online today, pretty much everything conspires against truth.”
The writer continues: “Psychologists and other social scientists have shown that when confronted with diverse information choices, we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.”
In a recent survey by the US Pew Research Center, showed 81 percent of respondents said partisans disagreed on policies but more on “basic facts.”
“For years, technologists and other utopians have argued that online news would be a boon to democracy. That has not been the case. More than a decade ago, I noticed the opposite,” Majoo noted.
Further, the author cited some examples: There are those who believed through the Internet that the September 11 terror attacks were a government conspiracy. That George W. Bush stole the 2004 election. Or that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim.
It is sad to note that based on the foregoing dissertation, essayist Majoo is explicitly suggesting that the Internet is being used to cheat, and worse it is hiding the truth.