We thank all participants for the inspiring discussion about „The Truth Filter“ in the Rainmaking Loft in Berlin on Wednesday, 14 December. Around 30 young leaders and former GFYL Conference participants explored the problem of fact finding and the formation of opinion in the digital age.
Today we are enjoying nearly limitless freedom of speech, everybody can access knowledge at any moment. But it becomes increasingly difficult to find in the masses the information you are looking for. Facebook’s algorithms pretend to know what you are interested in: through a kind of Gleichschaltung, you only receive information supporting the opinion you have already. That filter creates a general tension between groups of people receiving different kinds of information. These groups remain separate, there is no direct dialogue between them – even in our very own discussion we dealt with a homogeneous group of young European/Western academics.
It’s nothing new that people tend to follow their own emotions more than their rationality, and that political groups are building their success on fake news and myths. What we call "fake news" today is actually propaganda. The new challenge ist the huge number of people sharing propaganda in social networks, thus spreading fear and misinformation.
Our participants discussed several approaches to find a solution:
First, journalism must continue to provide proven facts (based on new business models) and people must be taught the importance of discussion. One original suggestion was to create an algorithm that suggests one article of the other spectrum of public opinion for every article you read. This would foster discussion and break Gleichschaltung.
Politically, the far-right movement has to be confronted by a central-left movement that counters calls of a lost Europe. We have to go local, bring people together who disagree, and listen to each other rather than entering a discussion immediately.
Political parties should pay attention to the concerns of people and find solutions – while at the same time teach people that they are not the center of the universe and that politics has to balance conflicting needs. People in power, political parties and politicians should address their solutions to the people concerned, possibly in simple messages, pictures and in social media.
And maybe, last but not least, we actually have to challenge the education and choice of political staff: Might the political discontent is justified?