The Oxford Dictionary word of the year 2016 was “post truth” in a shocking reflection on the way the internet has changed from an information platform into a war machine spouting disinformation and misdirection. It is indeed a sign of the times when a dictionary is validating the concept that truth is a thing of the past.
How does this affect the world? One might think that we are all capable of deciding the relevance of information in its’ context, be it in regards to facts as found on wikipedia.org or in relation to politics but it is in the latter area that the use of “fake news” to misdirect a voting public, that the word “post truth” has gained notoriety and an avid audience.
You might ask does post truth have to do with wikipedia? Surely this site is being used as an online encyclopaedia for the purposes of information gathering and could be relied upon for facts? But in truth, this is not the case, as further investigation into the mechanics of the website reveal that any user can add content into the online pages and alter the information on the topic thus being able to change the validity of the information searched for.
Human error can account for many things in information processing and well-meaning “fans” of certain topics zealously updating pages on their favourite topics can enter dates of events in error, but it is when these errors are the deliberate, a “hacking” of a site can occur. This hacking is more common than would be expected with determined individuals deliberately hacking the sites to blur the lines of what is truly to be regarded as fact and what requires further investigation to validate.
Truth and “post truth” are rapidly becoming blurred reflections of each other and as social media proliferates into our daily lives sites like facebook.com have created a space where our “friends” are reccommending content and articles (led by advertisers and focus groups for our attention) but from which the source of the truth behind them is increasingly blurred. The unreliable content is inserted into our social media streams through friends we value and have an established relationship of honesty and trust.
The dangers of social media and its’ subversive influence quickly becomes apparent to the informed person as they will ever increasingly look to shared content coming form social posts as unreliable one is now shifting from a position “trust” to “post trust” in relation to how social media informs us.