I was asked to speak at a conference around the importance of our cultural heritage, organised by Louise Broch from Dansk Kulturarv and taking place at the offices of DR in Copenhagen.
My title was
Using cultural archives to challenge ‘fake news’
And the outline was:
“Those who control the past, control the future; and those who control the present, control the past.”
Seventy years after the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s observation remains true and relevant – but it does not have to be read as a testament to the power of autocracies.
Instead we can treat our access to and use of cultural archives as an important tool in pushing against misinformation and ‘fake news’ in the modern world. We can use our ability to shape our access to the past for good, if we choose to.
This is the text I based my talk on.
First, let’s get rid of the term ‘fake news’. It has been appropriated by a number of politicians, most notably the President of the United States, to undermine good journalism and try to damage people’s belief in the news they read.
As Claire Wardle from First Draft has argued very strongly, the term ‘fake’ is cannot cover the many different types of misinformation(the inadvertent sharing of false information) and disinformation(the deliberate creation and sharing of information known to be false), and it also taps into a whole narrative about the ‘mainstream media’ that is designed to undermine and damage the credibility of journalism.
As a journalist myself I’d rather not be part of that process.
So let’s try to avoid ‘fake news’.
If I had the choice I’d probably revert to two old-fashioned words to describe the stuff we see shared online: liesand propaganda– but I’ll accept misinformation and disinformation as useful working categories.
So here’s our question, restated: what is to be done to limit the disruption, oppression and political impact caused by mis- and disinformation? And how we can use AV archives to counter deceitful content in all its rich variety?