I have had several worried conversations this month about fake information. It seems that intentional fabrications posted on the internet are what people have been basing their decisions upon. Some are insisting that those who intentionally post fake stories intended to deceive people into dangerous behavior should be punished. I counter with my considerations for free speech being maximized, but I temper that with it’s only when that speech or post is intended to trick people into harming others that there should be some legal restraints placed on the purveyor of fake information.
Just saying or posting poor information isn’t bad enough for a person to be prosecuted in some way by the law, as some others say they should be, but when the information was intended to hurt someone or destroy others’ property, then it seems that it is a form of inciting to riot. That term usually means provoking a crowd to violence, but that won’t do anymore, because in this case the crowd is now made up of isolated individuals on the internet, and there is no coordinated mob action. There is no gathering of a mob.
Also, it is impossible to know the motives of people spreading information, good or bad, so how could they be fairly prosecuted? Any form of restraint would be a form of prosecution and persecution. I don’t like the legal options, and it seems unlikely that a United States law, or a law of any of the individual states, would have any standing in other countries.
I want to begin with giving everyone access to accurate information because without accurate information they can not make good decisions. Yesterday’s post, Our election was distorted by poor information, presented A scale for measuring the trustworthiness of information. That scale is a good starting point for estimating the likelihood that the information is valid, but it isn’t enough. Everyone will have their unique point of view with every bit of information, and it is impossible for their views to be identical. They can be very similar but not identical, and with any complex social event many honest observers who have no intentional bias may have very different responses to the event.
The modern internet has the solution to this because there are vast numbers of individuals commenting upon every possible subject of human interest. There is a problem, however, in that each viewer of information is seeking confirmation of their preexisting biases. That’s natural but it creates situations where each person filled with their own personally biased information becomes over-focused and distorts new facts to conform to their preexisting decisions.
What I propose is a website that takes all subjects, but especially contentious subjects, and runs opposing opinions side by side on the same screen. That is already available, but only in the form of the reader chasing down potentially opposing opinions, and that is difficult to do. However, a website dedicated to running parallel contradictory stories would soon learn the sources of stove-piped opinions and could place them side by side. Also, there could be a MORE CONTRADICTIONS link at the top and bottom of each column that would bring opposite points of view to the statements made in that column, that would be placed beside the first column. Also, there could be a MORE AGREEMENTS click to present similar statements to the ideas. To make this work even better the viewer could highlight the words, sentences, or paragraphs that were of particular interest to them and the search would present them with those types of stories.
A website with AGREE TO DISAGREE is needed with a premise of paralleled opposition.