Fighting for Truth

In this section of our seminar, we consider diverse ways in which one can fight for the truth.  However, we also encounter an age-old paradox.  To defend the truth, someone must play the role of the defender.  But who is to say that this individual or political regime is equipped to act as the arbiter of truth.  Indeed, what is to prevent them from putting their own interests above the principles they claim to defend?

20. Wednesday, October 14 Tools and techniques for distinguishing fact from fiction, lies, disinformation, and bizarro conspiracies

Here are a number of recommendations about ways to distinguish facts from fictions. Which ones are likely to have the greatest chance of success?

Valerie Strauss, “Fighting the Misinformation Pandemic” READ

Checkology: READ

West, Darrell M. “How to Combat Fake News and Disinformation.” Brookings, 18 Dec. 2017  READ

NPR, “News is scary, here’s how to spot misinformation” READ

Subhashish Bhadra and Varad Pande,”Fighting the Misinformation Pandemic in the age of Covid-19″ READ

Now that you have considered these recommendations, read this scholarly study and ask yourself whether any of the preceding techniques will have a realistic chance of success:


21. Monday, October 19  Assuming others will do the work for us

What role should the leaders of global communications networks play in defending the Truth? In this section, we will reflect on both the policies of digital giants and their potential political and social implications

I. The heads of Google, Twitter, and Facebook have responded to the challenge of controlling digital content in provocatively different ways. Which approach would you choose?

Compare and contrast:

 Daisuke Wakabayashi and Shane Goldmacher , “Google Policy Change Upends Online Plans for 2020 Campaigns” PRINT AND READ

Cecilia Kang and Mike Isaac, “Defiant Zuckerberg says Facebook won’t police free speech”  PRINT AND READ

Kate Conger, “Twitter will ban all political ads, CEO Jack Dorsey says” PRINT AND READ

II. How comfortable should we feel about putting Truth-telling in the hands of global communications corporations?  This is a good occasion to meditate on Fahrenheit 451:

Amnesty International Report, Surveillance Giants READ pp. 5-11 and skim the rest

Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, August 19, 2016, “98 personal data points that Facebook uses to target ads to you”  READ  If politics is about power, this is a lot of power!

Could these data points be 98 good reasons for shutting down your Facebook account?

See this journal abstract confirming that computers can know you better than anyone else READ SUMMARY HERE

22. Wednesday, October 21  The Second Great Debate!

Topic: “Twitter definitely should have flagged Donald Trump’s tweet for glorifying violence

Please prepare for this debate by reading about Twitter’s actions HERE  and reflecting on the issues we have covered in our preceding class.  Also, look through the linked articles on the preceding sites for lots of evidence supporting both sides

Debate structure TBA

Your second essay assignment is HERE

23.  Monday, October 26 John Dewey Revisited:  Public Engagement as a solution

Could participatory democracy provide the solution to safeguarding the Truth? Is Truth-seeking from the ground up possible?

In this session, consider the unique croudsourced experiment in Truth-telling called Wikipedia.  Also, please remind me to tell you what it’s like to be banned by Wikipedia.

What standards does the participatory encyclopedia, Wikipedia, employ to determine “what’s fit to print”? How are these standards upheld?  Please choose the most controversial political issue you can think of (e.g., the Arab-Israel conflict) and attempt to determine whether Wikipedia’s respective site lives up to its pretensions “to  provide a neutrally written summary of existing mainstream knowledge in a fair and accurate manner with a straightforward, “‘just-the-facts style.’”  If your site meets these standards, see if you can find one that doesn’t.

Wikipedia’s Mission Statement READ AND PRINT

Alex Pasternack, “How Wikipedia’s volunteers became the web’s best weapon against misinformationPRINT AND READ

Richard Cooke, “Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet” PRINT AND READ

To pique your curiosity, see if you can figure out why certain Wikipedia sites ranked among the 5000 most accessed pages over the past week.  The page is regularly updated. I was fascinated by both the topics and their rankings HERE