Dear Boys,

We are bombarded with information all the time and more often than not, these inputs comes with a dash of ‘white lies’ or in a sense twisted perspective of the truth. You see, in my opinion, Truth is Relative.

People see things in a different dimension from us, just as we from them, and as much as I try to share and teach you boys things, you both will grow up with your own perspective and learning experience, no two person in this world thinks exactly alike.

prince william middle finger
This?
prince william three finger
Or this?

Individualism

It is more prevalent in this era where individuals are glorified. Of course every single human life is precious and every single person’s opinion matters. This forms the basis of democracy where politicians tries to ‘talk’ to every single one of us and make us vote in favour of them. Every single vote counts in their favour (or not).

While being an individual these days empowers us to have our own voice, let’s not forget every single individual coming together makes a collective, societal movement, which can change the tides in a real world environment.

What is Fake news?

Fake news has existed long before the internet, in my times, they are known as tabloids. They always kind of juice up news like “My Husband was a UFO Alien in Disguise.

In fact, the first Men In Black, Tommy Lee Jones taught Will Smith to check the ‘hot sheets’ which Will Smith called them ‘newspaper tabloids’.

You don’t see tabloids nowadays as they have evolved into the virtual realm.

Fake news are not just mundane crap like. “Zoe Tay is a man!” (she isn’t!) Michael Jackson is white! (He isn’t either!) but more insidious things like, “Teen gang attacks Indian construction workers in broad daylight.” Or “Airline pilots used simulators to train for their new aircraft”

You see, those 2 ‘news’, sounds plausibly true, perhaps. But the way it was presented hints that public safety is at risk, ‘broad daylight‘, is the streets safe anymore? ‘used simulators‘- implied the pilots are not well trained to fly the actual planes.

It is not just about the headlines.

Well, it is more than that, these spin doctors can create an entirely fictitious story and sell it as the truth. There will be plots, characters and twists that mimics real life and people will lap it up as the stories are created to look like the real life. #wagthedog

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Wag the Dog

Trolls, what are they?

These are not the cuddly cute cartoon trolls. We are talking about internet trolls, these are very smart computer people, who came together to create news, propaganda and disseminate them through various information channels. Their aim is to sway the mass of people for or against their agenda, and sow discord. They are the new generation of spin doctors.

Information are spread through various decentralised platforms, a person can film a controversial incident and put in on their own personal blog, very much like mine, and it is somehow picked up by news agencies, and the it can spread. That is the somewhat old school way.

These days with Artificial Intelligence, controversial news can be twisted and sent out via bots, and within seconds, becomes viral, generating thousands of ‘likes’ topping internet traffic. And people who are not careful about reading deeper, will get caught up in this news, and start getting lead on. I’m not a tech geek but that’s the gist of it.

It is all about the emotions

The whole point is to stir the public emotions. While I mention that individualism is prized these days, Trolls are using viral news to move the masses, one by one, targeting individuals and their values. Before you know it, everyone will be caught in the movement which can bring about an uncontrolled consequences. You may be an individual, but when a collective societal emotional wave comes, you will be caught up in that movement and get swept away by it.

Singapore’s context

We are small, and fake news, if  not kept in check can have a devastating social consequences. I just read an article about how Fake News started a war in Ukraine, we can never be too complacent about what we read and disseminate.

At the rate people are reading news via social media these days, it is very easy to plant a sensational news and stir the public sentiments. Especially in Singapore, you can target what is said in out Singapore Pledge. Race, Language or Religion.

But Trolls are smarter than that, they target daily affairs, such as our love for Durians- indicating that Durians from Malaysia has high levels of insecticides, and if people buy into this, business can be hurt, both in Singapore and Malaysia.

Individual Opinions

You might say that well, you are educated and surely be smart enough to spot fake news and not fall prey to such scams. ( “4 in 5 Singaporeans confident in spotting fake news but 90 per cent wrong when put to the test-The Straits Times-SEP 27, 2018)

These are the kind of people the trolls target, educated, literate people who knows social media, and are affluent to help them spread and brag how smart (and right) they are. So they plant these seemingly real, but fake news in your head. As long as you think it is plausible, it will become possible, if you think hard enough. And sometimes, you really cannot tell apart fact from fiction.

S.U.R.E

No I’m not promoting National Library Board in anyway, but they have launched a campaign to combat fake news and they used a simple but catchy phrase. ‘S.U.R.E’

S.U.R.E. distills key Information Literacy (IL) concepts into 4 simple ways:

Source: Look as its origins. Is it trustworthy?

Understand: Know what you’re reading. Search for clarity.

Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source.

Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement.

So make SURE you are going through that thought process when you read about something, always cross reference your findings since google is always so readily available. Then again what you read in google might not always be the truth. Like what is said on the last part: ” Exercise fair judgement.”

Links:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/how-fake-news-sparked-war-ukraine-russia-crimea-select-committee-11055154?cid=fbcna&fbclid=IwAR3Kawxtg39s1DIP4gPYCbQv84_l20xyv30Ad7jHtvChGXQqBZx2HYXrJs4

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/4-in-5-singaporeans-confident-in-spotting-fake-news-but-90-per-cent-wrong-when-put-to-the

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/select-committee-fake-news-online-falsehoods-recommendations-10739834

http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/category/fake-news/

https://www.betterinternet.sg/

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