Fake news a 'public health emergency' - author

Fake news is a "public health emergency" with potentially apocalyptic consequences, says former NZ Herald editor and author Stephen Davis.

"It's just like the Ebola virus but it's more likely to kill you. Disinformation will destroy society."

Davis' new book, Truthteller, addresses what he sees as a critical lack of media literacy among both journalists and the general public.  

"I wrote Truthteller, because every year I would give my journalism students a test to do research online and distinguish truth from fiction. Every year the numbers of students failing went up. Last time 70 percent failed."

Speaking to Newshub Nation, Davis says while misinformation is nothing new, the sheer volume the internet facilitates has changed everything.  

"There was always fake news and there are always politicians and dictators trying to manipulate the truth, but now they have social media. And now the issue is, the amount of information is so great that you can hide lies in that ocean."

When it comes to who is most responsible for allowing misinformation to circulate, Davis is emphatic.

"I think Facebook is now the world's most irresponsible company. Facebook is a publisher… Facebook needs to be responsible for what appears on that platform. And there is no point in telling me it can't be done."

Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of product management, released a lengthy statement this week, saying the artificial intelligence in charge of identifying violent content needs more training.

The explanation doesn't convince Davis.

"Here is an organisation that has algorithms so sophisticated that if you type three words into a search then Facebook will be able to send us an ad about it just instantly. They just haven't devoted enough time and resources to this."

The author calls for more education on media literacy in schools but says training the next generation to tell truth from lies online will take time.

"To be honest I started writing Truthteller as an optimist and then steadily became a pessimist as I did more research because it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Watch the video. 

Newshub Nation.

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