The Jeffrey MacKie-Mason interview appears in the Summer 2017 issue of California from the Cal/UC Berkeley Alumni Association.
Here’s one of the five questions and answers.
Q. In January, you were part of a panel discussion on fake news. How does digital information consumption contribute to the rise of misinformation, and what can we do about it?
A. The problem is not new: Fake news has been used as a political tool at least since the 1400s, when published false stories led to at least 15 Jews being burned at the stake in Trent, Italy. But the digital revolution has vastly magnified the problem. The reason is simple. The cost of reproducing and distributing information on the Internet now is approximately zero. When publishing platforms are essentially free, they will attract all sorts of pollution—low-quality or even harmful information that people are spreading to promote political agendas, sell products, or for a strange sort of fun (known as “lulz” on the net). Zero-cost, open communications are an amazing, pro-social and pro-democratic advance: We shouldn’t—and almost surely can’t—turn back free publishing. The primary answer is to raise our information literacy. We all need to become better consumers of information, knowing how to evaluate and discern information quality.
Read the Complete Interview