Are We Living in the Misinformation Age?

by Bryan Bjerke
February 16, 2016

We have a lot of challenges as marketers when it comes to the information, ideas and concepts we create for clients. We have to answer key questions, make complex issues or concepts clear and simple, and, when needed, clarify misconceptions or correct misinformation. When it comes to misinformation, there’s growing concern over its spread.

In the increasingly crowded and hectic digital world, there are multitudes of authors, but few ways to judge the credibility and authenticity of much of their work. And as we’ve learned in the battles over ethanol and GMOs, misconceptions and misinformation can spread and multiply far too quickly.

A recent article from the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda asks the pertinent question, “How Does Misinformation Spread Online?” The author, Walter Quattrociocchi, is the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, and has been studying the phenomenon of misinformation online. He says, “traditional media had editors, producers and other filters before information went public, individual publishing has no filter. You simply say what you want and put it out there. The result is that everyone can produce or find information consistent with their own belief system.”

The World Economic Forum’s Top 10 Trends of 2014, asked its members to identify the main issues facing the world. Middle East tensions, income disparity, unemployment, cyber threats and climate change were the top five. But coming in at number 10 was the rapid spread of misinformation online. The article concluded that, “Finally, we should remember that every case of misinformation is unique and should be considered independently, paying attention to the complexities of the ecosystem it circulates within. In terms of interpreting misinformation, human evaluation will remain essential to put information into context, and context is ultimately what this is all about.”

Much of the misinformation comes in the form of conspiracy theories or alleged scientific theories that have little to do with actual science and much more to do with opinions and suppositions. That’s why it’s more important than ever that the information and ideas we publish are well researched and the creator does not assume the audience has the necessary background on the story or issue. The information and/or opinions should be able to properly reflect what the reader/listener/viewer can filter through the prism of what is going on in their world. In the creative world, our thoughts and ideas should never be asked to stand alone without proper perspective and understanding.