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Ginger Paque March 08, 2017

Excellent article, Barbara, thanks. While I agree with you that fake news has always existed, I think it has become more noticeable now because echo chamber walls are becoming MORE permeable, not less -- the narrowly-held inaccurate information discussed in small spaces is spreading out, being aired, tweeted, repeated, and challenged. While challenges and clarifications perpetuate the discussion, it's an important process. We cannot afford to let 'alternative facts' stand without examination, no matter who makes the statements, or who perpetuates them. Flexible truth cannot become the norm.

Barbara March 09, 2017

Thank you for your insights, Ginger! It's good to hear that you feel that the echo chamber walls are becoming more permeable. I share your impression that the Internet allows us to disseminate our views, discuss, challenge information at a larger scale than ever before. However, I am afraid that these discussions are taking place in restricted circles; although these circles can permeate geographic and cultural boundaries, they still put us in touch with people who more or less have the same social views as we do. Or do you feel that filter bubbles are exaggerated phenomenon?

Ginger Paque March 09, 2017

You may be correct, Barbara, that the bubbles are not more permeable, but they are expanding then, as we tend to add keywords, not filter them out. So our bubble zones expand, overlapping more and more, exposing us to new ideas and concepts. The more that questionable foundations are reviewed and critiqued, the shorter their effective lives, and the less influence they have. To continue your analogy, I think that with effective airing and exposure, they will 'pop'.

Katharina Hone March 14, 2017

This is a great piece. There is so much here and I really appreciate the number of links for further reading. It's really a perfect overview of the debate. My comment takes a zoom-out perspective. What sometimes is forgotten in the debate is that truth and fact or not unmovable yardsticks against which we can compare 'the fake'. Many debates in the 80s and 90s tried to add sensitivity towards the danger that arises when something is declared as fact. When you declare 'a fact' it gives you power in a debate - who would want to question a fact after all? Yet, many things we once believed to be facts have turned out to be social constructions: extreme example include facts about the superiority of some races or facts about the superiority of one gender over the other. I think, once we take this into account, the debate gets even more complicated: to challenge fake news but to also question what appears as irrefutable facts.

Barbara March 14, 2017

Thank you for putting the issue in perspective, Katharina! Indeed, the fake news discussion is generally quite 'binary': there is true news and there is fake news. However, what is being increasingly addressed in relation to these 'post-truth'-discussions is also society's ability to critically assess information. According to some, this is in serious decay. Whether this is a historical development or generated by a feeling of pre-digital nostalgia - I'm not sure. Nevertheless, if the post-truth discussion will move away from the true/false dichotomy and lead to efforts towards building an awareness for the need to think critically and check assumptions, the trend might actually generate some fruitful results!

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