By AF Sesay
The internet’s primary role is to connect the world through an interconnection of devices. After many years of building, testing, deploying and repeating the process, we have reached an epoch wherein we have billions of humans living one click away from one another. What a fantastic feat!
Yet, the journey to a better world is far from what we envisioned. With the rise of Fake News and the acerbic toxicity of views and counter views on the internet, we are yet again at this crucial juncture: What do we do next to better the lot of humanity, and how can the internet help?
While I don’t boast of an answer to any of the two, I dare say the crux of the job is shifting the paradigm from the internet of believers to the internet of thinkers! Something like a ‘thinkernet’, you know!
The internet, while very transformational, paid little attention to re-education, which could have been a core mission. And with the realisation that it could be a veritable tool for making money, things took a worse turn. So we are here now: a world where ad sense determines what truth gets told and what gets suppressed, a world where influencers can share the most foolish things and get a million humans taking actions in the next second, a world where the most erudite are kept at the margins of conversations because the nature of their jobs leaves them with little time to establish and maintain massive followership on social media.
We all know something has to be done, but we are unsure what needs to be done.
One way I have always thought of is to leverage and massively scale technologies that make it easy to reward truth and suppress falsehood on the net. This is difficult, considering the thousand or more-year-old dialectics on what is true and what is false, who is right and who is wrong and blah blah blah.
I wouldn’t really want to go that path because it is likely the deepest rabbit hole humanity has ever dug. So what I will rather ask us to do is to venture on the path of classifying contents consumed on the internet from the least harmful to the most harmful. Harm, in this case, is anything that has the propensity to cause loss of human life, not as compensation for another loss or greater evil.
And this could first be applied to the news that gets shared and the ones that get suppressed. Just the way we decentralised news breaking and sharing through social media, it’s high time we decentralised news verification and suppression of harmful content through a combination of simple technologies like the effective use of spreadsheets and emerging technologies like Blockchain. We have to create means to identify and reward truth whilst suppressing fake news.
Closely related to this is seeing this as a behavioural issue and not completely a tech problem. Therefore, massive design of new materials and Curriculum aimed at rewarding truth and fighting fake news are necessary.
We have got to do this work together—all of us and right now.
AF Sesay is a writer based in Lagos. He can be contacted via email@example.com.