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12° Nicosia,
02 February, 2023
 
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Fake news vs reliable content

'Social media has given every citizen more power and access to information. The ability to broadcast a news story as it happens is what makes social media so exciting.'

Maria Eracleous

The media's fragmentation of journalism and deconstruction of information is nothing new. It's a trend that has gained traction among news consumers in recent years, owing largely to the onslaught of social media. At the same time, the internal schism in journalism cannot be ignored because, until recently, there was no effective control over the application of the Code of Journalistic Ethics in online reporting.

The majority of young people do not prefer to be informed about current events through traditional media. I imagine that a very small percentage of younger age groups (if any) wait for the 8 o'clock news to get updated or even read newspaper reports. It's something that becomes clear after speaking with a young 20-year-old. Dozens of surveys have been conducted on the subject, with the results simply confirming the feeling that the majority prefers to be informed through social media.  It is remarkable how posts by people one follows on social media can influence or shape an opinion on a topic far more than a structured report with verified information. News portals are undeniably present on social media. However, user comments accompanying a news story can often monopolize the user's and recipient's interest in the information rather than the information itself. All of this, of course, has implications for how information is perceived and how distorted it ultimately reaches the intended recipient.

Many people have forgotten the significance of a news story's credibility and validity. The journalist's role has been diminished, and press officers are frequently viewed with suspicion.

However, social media has given every citizen more power and access to information. The ability to broadcast a news story as it happens is what makes social media so exciting. Live content on Facebook, for example, the ability to post audio-visual material live, at the moment a breaking news story occurs, before the reporter can arrive on the scene, has enabled citizens to become information sources themselves. It also became a tool in the hands of journalists, who could use the paper of immediacy to gather footage from, say, a terrorist attack in real-time.

There is an undeniable fascination in watching trends shape and evolve, previously unavailable data changing and giving way to new ones. However, the fascination fades in the face of the dangers of change. When, for example, social media become arenas, when the environment becomes toxic when years of study and the daily toil of professionals are so easily and unquestionably weighed in the same balance as each user's assessments, which can certainly be expressed but are not 'accountable' to any code of ethics that proclaims the importance of accurate information and respect for the truth, then we can only admit that moderation has been lost. Fake news, on the other hand, is not a new phenomenon.  We have seen it instrumentalized even by presidents, as in the case of Donald Trump, and we have seen it grow to pandemic proportions and dangerous dimensions, because the traditional media were viewed with distrust during this time, perhaps more than ever, and in many cases were seen as messengers of sources with sinister motives. As a result, media outlets such as television, newspapers, radio, and news websites were blackballed on the altar of distorted perceptions that desired them to play a leading role in the current conspiracy theory.

Along with this, many people have forgotten the significance of a news story's credibility and validity. The journalist's role has been diminished, and press officers are frequently viewed with suspicion. The role of the journalist in the transmission of a news story is weakened and subordinated, as is the role of the media as an intermediary in the information transmission chain.

Quality content and information provided with effort and time, and always in accordance with journalistic ethics, can act as a dike in the face of all this leveling out. As a result, the content provided by social media has a significantly higher degree of validity.

[This op-ed was translated from its Greek original]

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