mardi 30 mai 2017

Journalists and democracy

Journalists have the freedom of expression, thanks to democracy. Democracy protects them and gives them the keys to produce quality information for their audience. In some countries, whistle blowers are protected by the law and journalists have access to official and financial documents… It helps them a lot to do well their job.
I think that journalists can be considered as a tool for democracy. Indeed, if you study briefly the derivation of the word “democracy”, you find that - Demos à people – Kratosàpower. Democracy gives power to the people and gives them the freedom of expression. Journalists should use this freedom of expression to protect people’s power.

Journalists have rules

Today, they have access to the mass media, to inform people. More than the newspapers, the TV, there are Internet, Facebook, Twitter, the web sites. It gives the opportunity to communicate on a global scale.
But because their audience is so huge, they have so many ways to communicate, and that the democracy protects them, they have to be careful. That is why they have a code of ethic to follow. Every country has its code of ethics, but basically, we can find the same principles in all of them.
A journalist must be accountable and transparent, act independently, minimise harm and seek truth and report it. The code of ethics shows that in a certain way, journalists are also supposed to protect the democracy, as it supports them.
Citizens have the same right to the freedom of expression as the journalists. They have the same access to the mass media, but they do not have to follow a code of ethics. Because of that, it is easier for them, for the citizen-journalists, to publish fake news, for example. As it is written in another article, what is published on the media takes part in the education of people. It means that they can bias the education of people, if they publish fake news.
It is a big issue for the future, and it points the fact that there is a lack in the law, for this new category of citizen-journalists.

What future for the citizen-journalists?

It is not reasonable to imagine that people could continue to publish fake news. As the journalists, they are protected by the democracy, they enjoy the freedom of expression, but some of them abuse it. To fight against that, it could be possible to create a code of ethics for the citizens. But it would have to be different from the code of ethics of the journalists, because citizens do not have the same rights and responsibilities.

This difference is not the only barrier. Indeed, journalists have to follow their code of ethics because they are professional. But add a code of ethics for the citizens? I could be considered as an attack against their rights, and by extension against democracy. 
Below, a video done by a journalism school.


Fake news, a new war

For the last few months, we have heard a lot about fake news. Fake news is, basically, false information, rumours, published in the media. Most of them are found on the digital media. It would be wrong to think that fake news is something new. It has existed since the beginning of the media, but today, because of social media, digital media, its impact is much more important. 
According to Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow, their “database contains 115 pro-Trump fake stories that were shared on Facebook a total of 30 million times, and 41 pro-Clinton fake stories shared a total of 7.6 million times.” It means that pro-Trump wrote more fake news than pro-Clinton. And that they have been more shared.
And what if Donald Trump has been elected thanks to fake news?
And is fake news a new war? An economic and an ideological war?

Fake news, an economic war

I think that it is time to ask ourselves these questions. Fake news is an amazing way to earn money by lying to people. It works in the same a classic web site does. The more clicks you have, the more people share, and the more you earn money thanks to the ads on your web site, blog etc. To write good fake news, to have lots of clicks, the best is to involve rumours, politician, lies, religion and beliefs.
Increasingly, social media as Google, Facebook and even some newspapers try to control fake news. For example, Google started to taking off its ads from websites which published fake news.
It is a good thing, but it fights more the effects of fake news than the causes, according to me. Because of their code of ethics, journalists are not supposed to write fake news. But citizen-journalists do. Does it point a lack in the law? (We will come back to this question in a future article) Can citizen-journalists can, thanks to that, manipulate the public opinion?
It brings me to the second part of fake news: the ideological war. Fake news is not only a way to earn money. It is also a way to convince people, even if it is with false information. Some studies even showed that falser the information seems, the more people believe it.

62% of US adults get news on social media

Today, there is so much information that it is difficult to know what is true or not. What to believe between an article shared on Facebook, an article on a newspaper web site, a Tweet? The question needs to be asked, because according to Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow, 62% of US adults get news on social media. It is an amazing audience.
People who write fake news enjoy this situation, and try to give false information to defend their own interests. It can be done with and by and for politicians, as it has been the case in the US and in France elections recently, or for a product, or a society, or about an actual fact.

It is an ideological war, according to me, because media can be considered as an educational tool for the people. If the information on the media are false, people will receive a biased education. That is why an issue to fight against fake news, could be to media educate people. With some rules, it is easier to recognise fake news. Education is the key.
Below, you can find a video with some tips to avoid fake news.