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The "Truthiness" Factor: What is Fake News?

By Daniel Savickas | November 28, 2016

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in shapes of your own choosing.” – George Orwell, 1984

Major media outlets, and even the government, deciding what is and is not the truth sounds like a plot ripped straight from the pages of an Orwellian dystopia. However, this is dangerously close to becoming a reality.

In light of an election that produced results very few in the upper echelons of the mainstream media saw coming, there is a concerted effort to censor what is now being labeled as “fake news” on social media. 

Social media is an open forum, similar to a town commons, that by design does not go through an editor.  Friends share thoughts and information and their audiences decide on their own what to give weight to.

Traditional media outlets that run everything through an editor with his or her own singular bias are still grappling with the general population's ability to inform each other through open forums, and its waining monopoly on the truth.

This “fake news” is being blamed for the election result to try and rationalize the lack of foresight by large media outlets. Rather than do any self-reflection, reporters are blaming click-bait articles that existed for years before this election, and Internet freedom is caught in the cross hairs.

Remarkably, it is the free press that is calling for censorship of free speech. 

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is trying to resist the calls to implement censorship on the open forum of Facebook. Zuckerberg says of free speech, “I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.”

In the inaugural episode of the Colbert Report, comedian Stephen Colbert coined the term, “truthiness”. It means an argument about what is considered truth that is based in the gut, but has no basis in fact or logic. 

Opening the door to censor political opinions as “fake news” would bring this once-absurd concept to life in a frighteningly real sense.

Despite Zuckerberg’s dedication to free speech protections and against censorship, calls have come to label certain news stories as “unverified” or even ban them altogether.

Repudiations of Zuckerberg’s call for caution mean that censorship is on the way. Big media outlets with editors that decide what the public does and does not read, like CNN, the New York Times, and others want to control open forums of communication. 

Encouraging social media users to vote on the "truthiness" of content and possibly ban it from the timelines of others, is merely a bitter establishment looking for anyone to blame but themselves for their inept election editorials.

If freedom of speech is to be defended in this country, the calls to censor the Internet in any way, shape, or form, must be outright rejected.