Pew: Techies Divided On Future of Fake News

Tech experts are divided over whether methods will emerge in the next decade to combat fake news and "allow the most accurate information to prevail in the overall information ecosystem," but a major weapon in the arsenal could be supporting, and even paying a premium for, trusted information from reliable sources.

That is according to a Pew Research survey of 1,100 'net and tech experts polled in summer 2017.

Of those, 51% said the info environment won't improve, while 49% said it would.

“Both camps of experts share the view that the current environment allows ‘fake news’ and weaponized narratives to flourish, but there is nothing resembling consensus about whether this problem can be successfully addressed in the coming decade,” said Lee Rainie, Pew Research Centers director of internet and technology research, of the findings. “They disagree about which side comes out on top in the escalating arms race: those who exploit human vulnerabilities with internet-speed manipulation tactics or those who create accurate information and reliable delivery systems for it.”

Those who argue the situation won't improve say it is either because of human nature or because technology that allows for fake news can't or won't be effectively countered. The other camp sees technology providing the solution or because people will make it better.

Among the key strategies to combat misinformation, both sides concluded, are funding and supporting objective, accurate information.

That was not surprising given one of the subthemes of the survey, which was that a segment of the population, though described as "small," will "find, use and perhaps pay a premium for" reliable information from trusted sources, while outside that circle "chaos will reign."

An editor and publisher polled for the analysis put it this way: “Sadly, many Americans will not pay attention to ANY content from existing or evolving sources. It’ll be the continuing dumbing down of the masses, although the ‘upper’ cadres (educated/thoughtful) will read/see/know, and continue to battle.”

The tech expert canvas was conducted by Pew and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.