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Manipulation in Progress: Predictions for the Information Age

07 September 2016
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Olivia Pirtac, lawyer

Unfortunately, developments in technology, which led to an „information revolution” and a large number of information sources, did not bring to us less manipulation. However, it brought somehow, a  manipulation less offensive and easier to detect by simple access to many information sources. The representative statistical research carried out by IMAS at CIJ request showed that about 70% of respondents believe that media manipulates. Other surveys, as the Barometers of Public Opinion showed a dramatic reduction in media credibility. This phenomenon is actual and in progress.

How people understood they are manipulated? – By access to information, by the fact that they are told and proved this thing.

We can conclude that the development in information technologies is a real lifebuoy. We can expect that as much we will develop them, as much the effects of manipulation will be countered and more benefits will have.

Besides the fact that we can expect technological surprises that will boost the development of this domain, just like an important news at present the drones are, the collateral phenomena will also intervene:

  • In the context of a total reduction in media credibility, there are sources that increase their audiences/impact and credibility due to their professionalism and capacity of respecting ethical principles;
  • Due to loss of credibility in manipulating sources, the owners will no longer see the point of investing in these sources, and, as a result, they will disappear. We will overcome the oligarchic phase.

 
For now, all people throw too much information: either  heard in the press, public institution, NGO or private company, each of them try to make themselves visible. In such an ocean of information, the ordinary people become not necessarily more self-confident, but, on the contrary, more confuse. In addition, he became resilient and selective. Short, accessible and attractive texts are gaining importance, even if not written professionally: the man has not too much time, but the volume of information makes him choose what is more...”intriguing”.

A new stage of humanity development began with the Information Age and it should change significantly the traditional systems, but not those in the press. Fundamental changes in education and all economic activities are required. But the systems do not manage to reform themselves so fast as the technology favored them, so that for many years now we will be surprised about how ”stupid” is the school, university, employers and so on.

Neither reported to the press, the actual phase, the confusion one, will not last forever. A ”natural selection” will follow and the best will survive.

Now, fighting against manipulation, we must insist particularly on two moments:

  • To exploit all new technologies that occur. (However, Moldova has to start digital terrestrial television, the one that must compensate territorial coverage limits imposed by analogue terrestrial network age);
  • To support and promote reliable information sources, respect professional ethics and media self-regulation system.

I would like to note that professional organizations made and make efforts to expose those who manipulate: by monitoring reports, case studies, statements etc. However, this practice was not accompanied by similar effort to promote the best and correct ones (beyond some awards granted on an annual basis). Maybe we are in this situation because professionalism and correctness must be deemed as a normality, but not a virtue, maybe to avoid the possibility of skipping someone and favor an unfair competition, unjustified advantages and disadvantages.

But, maybe is the time to introduce a new and specific promoting practice? The times we live in require to limit the access in journalism by ”licensing” (http://mediaforum.md/ro/management/merita-sa-facem-jurnalismul-o-activitate-licentiata), despite the fact that those who manipulate are usually perfect professionals who passed their necessary exams, but we did not raise the problem to broadly  promote and support the good ones. Promoting phenomenon is highly used for products and companies, including to attract audience to watch movies and broadcasts. It was also used to generally tell the public that it is manipulated and must filter the information. A solution that deserves to be tested is to develop and implement a vision and a concept of an independent and objective promoting tool, that would actually reach the general public and help it identify the most correct people in the press, those who do not manipulate. Today, we actually distrust all of them, and support that each information mean seek its own interest, but the situation we want is different.

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The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values  and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.