Jack Dorsey conducted an interview with Edward Snowden over Persicope, where he discussed mass surveillance, Twitter, privacy and security. Over the course of the interview, Dorsey asked Snowden about the importance of journalism in current times and Snowden quickly dove into the fake news issue.

Snowden showed a lot of respect for traditional print journalists who were writing the everyday stories that fill up newspapers today. He said that there were few journalists he knew who worked for money and that most journalists were working honestly to bring to light the information. He honestly believed in the usefulness of the work they did to the wider population. However, Snowden showed disappointment in the fact that some news sources did not care about the truth anymore.

Snowden was referring to what is known as a post-truth society, where the feelings and emotions associated with a story are more important to people than the factual content. Snowden took a potshot at the Twittersphere by saying that Twitter users were more likely to share sensational content, irrespective of their truth value, instead of news stories that lead to debate and discussion. Fake news was the reason Snowden got onto Twitter.

News publications around the world were printing all sorts of things about Snowden and Snowden found that Twitter was a powerful medium to set the record straight. News publications would not hunt down and interrogate Snowden on his version of events before publishing a story, and initially, it would be required to send a statement to the publication, who might choose to ignore it despite knowing that the story was fabricated. Dorsey probed if Snowden was only using Twitter as a microphone, as Snowden only followed the NSA on Twitter. Snowden responded that he was active, but did not want to expose the accounts of people he followed to government spies.

(Also Read: Yes, there is a fake news problem, but curbing it isn’t as easy as censorship)

Twitter, Facebook and Google can be made to create databases of content that are related to fake news and the platforms can remove these posts as and when they appear. Snowden said that this was, however, not the right approach, and that the solution to bad speech was not censorship, but more speech. Snowden stressed on the importance of critical thinking and presented more open discussions, and in greater volume, as a solution.

In tracking the fake news issue, we have noticed that the platforms that enable the dissemination of information or misinformation are blamed more than those who make up the fake news or choose to share it. The people participating in the spread of the fake news are not held accountable, but the platforms are. Curbing the problem requires critical thinking, as Snowden says, and awareness on how to consume news and verify sources.

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