We are seeing a dramatic shift in the life of a typical consumer of online news. She’s so connected now that she practically sleeps with her phone. Her preferred way to interact—professionally and socially— as well as get news is through always-on social network platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And when she wants to go deep, she Googles it.
But we do not see Google et al as the enemy. The ultimate enemy is our lack of imagination and as a result, our dependence on advertising as the Internet's primary monetization strategy. Unfortunately, the same monetization scheme used in mass-media - a uni-directional communication medium - has been applied to the Internet, rather than new operating models more aligned with the bi-directional communications enabled by the Internet.
Over the past decade, advertising has shaped the Internet into a place where social media tries to show people just enough information so they rarely click through to news sites that themselves almost completely avoid external links. This two-stage coup de résistance has created an Internet of knowledge silos connected by search. At best, Google et al may simply be the symptoms and beneficiaries of the Internet's ill-suited dependence on advertising.
The bottom line is the way we've been taught to research and consume news is perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.
What we realize now is people just need to see context for what they find on the Internet - they need to see trustworthy information about the issues, about the various perspectives, and what the facts say. We believe given sufficient information and dialogue, a sufficiently diverse group will usually make the better choice.
But at this moment, we are flying blind. Most commercial web sites have few if any external links and therefore provide little contextual information that can help one discern what is real or not.
You may say, but that's what the International Fact Checking Network is for right? When, however, we pull back the curtain, we see that today's fact checking has three major stumbling blocks.
Fact checking does not stop fake news
Despite the presence of multiple fact checking organizations in all developed countries, disinformation is still a huge problem. Fact checking is early stage and emergent.
Fact checking is seen as flawed or biased
Fact checkers can be unreliable sources for what’s true or not. Fact checkers make mistakes or make determinations based on arbitrary standards that can change from one review to the next. They are often accused of having a partisan bias.
Fact checking is often inaccessible if not unavailable
Not everything that should be fact checked actually gets fact checked. And even if it is, very few of the people who read the news online actively follow up by seeking out any corresponding fact checking articles.
But there is an emerging opportunity enabled by overlay technology that is available to us right now.
Imagine a POWERFUL overlay technology that can stop fake news in its tracks.
Imagine a SMART overlay technology that provides insight into the records of all contributors so you can know who’s checking the facts.
Imagine a FAIR overlay technology that gives you access to curated crowd knowledge as well as available fact checking, that pays you to contribute, and doesn’t pimp out your data.
This possibility is why Bridgit won the Disruptive Technology Culture Driver award from the EU's flagship Next Generation Internet program!