Post No.: 0084
The professional press industry is generally a very good thing if it is free to investigate stories and issues of public interest and isn’t controlled by a single monopoly (be it a state or a massive private media conglomerate). But even small, individual media companies can have partisan or parochial interests and nearly no news outlet is truly impartial (all editors are ultimately human after all). What facts they present may need to be reasonably verified as true yet they don’t need to investigate or thus present the full facts – but we cannot form an accurate and fair view of issues without having the complete information about someone or something (e.g. all of an issue’s bad points as well as all of its good points).
This is why it is wise to look at multiple news sources that are independent from each other. But not many news consumers typically do this because not everyone is even aware of what political leanings which media outlets favour, or which press or news outlets are ultimately under the same international private media conglomerate or umbrella group. Or even if we do know, we tend to subconsciously prefer to actively get our news from sources that share the same political beliefs as us anyway.
The professional press aren’t always correct, they can mislead, over-exaggerate and/or be misled themselves, but they do tend to be much better than mere gossip, social media ‘news’ or ‘alt news’ sources – they certainly (well depending on whether they’re controlled by a single monopoly or not) overall provide a very critical service to society to expose people, corporations and governments whenever they do questionable things. Woof!
Traditional mainstream and mass media sources of information are important yet they have their flaws, such as often oversimplifying issues to try to make them more understandable and quick-to-grasp for their target markets (which might be a market that isn’t very patient and has lots of other competing sources of interest to potentially take their attentions away at any moment). Media firms also tend to have major investor interests to appease. However, the unregulated or under-regulated social media sphere, extremely-partisan websites and groups with strong narrow agendas, online comments sections or forums, ‘alt fact’ sources, echo chambers and other outlets or sources that aren’t subject to enforced or even voluntary journalistic standards are (in general) far worse! And people have been increasingly relying on these latter types of sources to get their news nowadays.
Independent/external press industry regulation, and internal self-regulation, both have their pros and cons. For example, we want freedom of speech so don’t want external control over what the media reports on – but false/fake news and media fraud is seriously rife and this isn’t good for society, including in democracies. We also do need to protect people’s privacy from e.g. phone tapping or hacking practices (these sorts of mistakes must be learnt from and not be allowed to be repeated). Therefore it requires a careful balancing act – an ideal press regulator must be completely independent, not merely voluntary to join and not toothless in the face of preventing and tackling scandals, fraud or injustices.
A small handful of global tech giants own the dominant search engines, advertisement platforms, online marketplaces, app stores and places where people source their news; and they are considered too big to fail. Although this is debated and although each company varies in its own attitudes towards freedom of speech – search engine and social media tech giants are arbiters of information even though they might not be content creators themselves or arbiters of the truth in a direct sense, hence they need to be mentioned here too.
Through their algorithms for ranking and recommending webpages, posts and videos, and their systems of payment for advert spaces – things that rank lowly are effectively censored and not to be discovered by almost anyone, while things that rank highly are tacitly endorsed and are to be seen by as many people as possible. (Well if a search engine isn’t even indexing particular webpages then that’s definitely effectively censorship.) They are arbiters of what will be discovered or not discovered, seen or not seen, promoted or not promoted, via their (opaque) algorithms and their business models. What’s deemed as ‘high’ or ‘low’ quality for page ranking or post or video viewership recommendation depends on one’s own definitions, and each search engine and social media platform chooses its own definitions; and of course paid-for positions are their own commercial choices too – whereby what maximises company shareholder value doesn’t necessarily align with what maximises the truth.
They ultimately want to serve their own profit-making potential, and this aim doesn’t always align with serving reliable information or what’s good for society. And they do not make objective decisions – after all, for one thing, different web search engines produce different search results. This isn’t to say that everything should be merely alphabetised because this wouldn’t be useful for users searching online for information – so it’s inevitable that such search engines and social media platforms will need to curate the masses of information that’s on the web or on their platforms – but the ways their algorithms work are each company’s own non-objective choices and designs, and through them they are powerful de facto arbiters of the access to information, and they shape beliefs, lives and political outcomes. They sometimes even directly moderate content on their platforms.
Many people understand that – amongst the good – there’s also a lot of rubbish that can be easily found through an online search or that’s being pushed onto their social media feeds. The tech giants are often accused of political biases as well. All these reasons are why, like the regular press industry, many are calling for them to be independently regulated too. And these external pressures have at least prompted Facebook so far to propose a semi-independent oversight board – whether a board that’s being directly funded by whom they are apparently overseeing can be considered independent enough at all! Only time will tell.
…Different countries have different compositions to their press or news industries, and different individual press or news outlets have different levels of bias, whether intentional or not. Furrywisepuppy doesn’t expect nor want readers of this blog to rely solely on the information presented in this blog to shape their furry views but to use it as just one independent source amongst many. Relying on multiple reputable sources that follow academic or journalistic standards is how I like to learn things myself.