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The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

“We’ll also see news organizations and social media platforms clarify that deception and disinformation, like fraud, are unethical, and that these things violate their terms of service.”

Dan Gillmor has pointed out that some news outlets give considerable air time and print space to people who they know are lying, thereby amplifying disinformation. He characterizes this as being “loudspeakers for liars” because these outlets end up repeating blatant deceptions for their audiences — large and small, national and local — to absorb.

To be clear: we’re not talking half-truths or gray areas here. We’re talking the “pants on fire” stuff.

So why is it harmful to amplify a lie? Repetition creates the ‘illusion of truth.’ As Lisa K. Fazio of Vanderbilt University has shown, the more a lie is said, the more it seems true. So, repeating a lie, even while debunking it, can mean you’re helping to ensure that lie lives on.

I predict that, in 2019, news organizations will start to institute new reporting methods to avoid being complicit. Tactics may include adopting the “truth sandwich,” which means covering a lie by presenting the truth first and then following that lie with a fact-check, as well as increasing newsroom capacity to check claims for accuracy in real time, prior to publishing a story.

We’ll also see news organizations and social media platforms clarify that deception and disinformation, like fraud, are unethical, and that these things violate their terms of service. Repeat offenders will no longer be considered credible sources. They’ll be banned from coverage, and their accounts will be suspended.

Disinformation and fraud will continue to persist, but we’re going to see organizations fight back by injecting more trust in the news. This is mission-critical as we move into the 2020 election season.

Craig Newmark is the founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

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