Text by Erifili Gounari
In the past few years, the relationship between politics and the Internet has assumed dimensions that have brought about several problems, doubts and questions. As we rely on online sources to educate ourselves on current affairs and to keep up with local and international news, the need for reliable information is constantly increasing. Politics and the Internet are now two entities that are becoming codependent, but to what extent do they influence each other?
Since 2017, one of the greatest problems that we have been dealing with is that of fake news. We have witnessed several fake news scandals getting out of control and, even though rumors and inaccurate information has always been a problem on digital platforms, we are facing it now more than ever. Quality and accuracy of information have become the main topics of discussion for online journalism, and we have been struck by the direct effects of what it means to allow anyone, regardless of expertise, to share news stories.
We have always been sceptical about the inevitable problems that the openness of the Internet may bring about. Today, it is impossible to imagine elections, political campaigns, or news reporting, that does not have an online side. We have seen proof of elections being directly or indirectly affected by the Internet, through fake news or online political campaigns. What this means, for better or for worse, is that we need to find a balance between the Internet and Politics in order to avoid certain chaos.
We live in an age of information overflow, with millions of people today relying solely on online resources to stay up to date with politics. Fortunately, fact-checking is now easier than ever, with endless material on our fingertips that is free to access 24/7. As long as we dedicate the necessary time and effort to cultivate information literacy skills, we should become comfortable with the actions of researching and confirming what we hear; because of the vital relationship that has now been established between politics and the Internet, that is the only way to make sure that we are believing the right things. Various initiatives have been taken to promote that attitude, including WikiTribune. Started by Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, it is a website that focuses on publishing reliable, transparent journalism, as an effort to combat fake news. WikiTribune allows users to edit an article for accuracy, encouraging them to cite trustworthy sources, and to discuss articles with each other. Inevitably, this type of online journalism has its doubts and disadvantages, but it is an initiative completely focused on keeping the world correctly informed besides the risks that it entails.
Finally, as Evgeny Morozov writes in the book Change: 19 Key Essays on How the Internet Is Changing Our Lives, “The Internet is like money; you cannot identify its good or evil in general as it already forms part of society and it will depend on the individual conditions”. This quote perfectly illustrates the idea that the morality of the Internet as an agent, and the influence that it will continue to have on the politics of our world, is up to us to cultivate. It is our responsibility, as global citizens, to make sure that we are sharing and interacting with information in the right way, focusing on remaining educated and on striving to find that balance.