Excited to see my latest article come out: ‘Do we care about what we share? A proposal for dealing with the proliferation of false information by creating a public platform’ (publicly available here: https://griffithlawjournal.org/…/gjlhd/article/view/1214)
This is a huge topic for me that returns both to the subject of my PhD (how can democracy survive and flourish in the digital age?) and what I think is the most pressing and fundamental issue of our times: How can we generate more transparency and accountability around decision making, and how can we start to celebrate positive contributions to the public good as a marker of identity and public esteem?
Answer: We could develop a ‘public platform’ under the auspices of public broadcasting legislation, to provide a place for ‘truth-telling’ and the establishment of (and dispute over) shared truths.
This article contains my basic description of how we might use digital technology to do this based on insights from democratic theory. The proposal ends up looking like a wikileaks mixed with reddit, mixed with facebook, with contributions and identities judged by their ability to make a positive public contribution over time.
As a piece of scholarship it is imperfect but boy is it important, as unless we develop something like this ‘public platform’ for debating public issues and establishing public truths, the powers that govern us will continue to use evasion and misinformation to set people against each other, while they make decisions that suit their own interests, largely free of scrutiny.
The article was inspired by Facebook’s banning of Australian news services during a pandemic and bushfire season and my own work on misinformation around the COVID vaccines. It became clear to me that we can’t fight misinformation without first determining how we arrive at ‘truth’ in a way that is acceptable to everyone. The role that existing social networks (and governments, and media networks) currently play in determining truth is clearly problematic. Our public broadcasting system is already mandated to (independently) inform and educate and it does a valiant job (and is the most trustworthy source of public information in Australia); but the broadcasting system needs to move into the era of many-to-many communication – and this is how it could do that.
The article doesn’t acknowledge a lot of work already done around these areas by people such as Tim Van Gelder https://timvangelder.com/, who has long been interested in these issues alongside me, and side steps a host of other academic objections to make this basic point:
Corporate governance structures abuse public naivete and reward themselves with inequity. The public needs to fight back with demands of transparency and accountability. And for the first time in history we do have the technological capacity to facilitate this in a way that can re-engage us with caring about the things we share.