How disinformation distorts society and undermines our democratic processes
We live in a society plagued by lies and fake news. With the advent of technology, information can move quicker than ever before; nevertheless, disinformation may spread just as quickly. The rise of social media platforms, as well as the ability for anybody to create and share content, has contributed to a culture in which misinformation is commonly accepted as true without thorough fact-checking. This has major consequences for our society, as it impairs our ability to make informed decisions and destroys the trust fabric that binds us together.
When I was in completing my philosophy course in the University of the Philippines Diliman, we studied Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” This allegory depicts a group of people who have been imprisoned since birth inside a cave, facing the wall. They can only see the shadows of objects projected on the wall in front of them, and they mistake these shadows for reality. One prisoner is eventually freed and exposed to the outside world, which initially overwhelms him and challenges his beliefs. However, he eventually becomes enlightened and feels the need to go back into the cave and free his companions. My professor once compared leaving the university’s academic halls to the released man from the cave who saw the difference between truth and falsehood, and shared this insight with the rest of society.
The allegory is a suitable metaphor for comprehending the prevalence of fake news and disinformation in our society. As the prisoners in the cave are only aware of the illusions projected on the wall, many of us are unaware of the distorted society we live in as a result of constant bombardment with false information. This parable shows the strong role that those in control of news and information dissemination have in affecting public opinion and distorting our views of the truth.
The prisoners in the allegory, who are shackled and only able to see shadows projected upon the wall, think that shadows are the only things that exist. Similar to this, we, as news consumers, frequently encounter a deluge of inaccurate or misleading information, which causes us to take what we see or hear at face value. Because social media platforms are so widely used and internet news is so easily accessible, we are constantly exposed to a flood of information, some of which is deliberately misleading or created to provoke interaction and clicks. The allegory emphasizes the dangers of continuing to live in ignorance as well as the need of applying critical thinking techniques and fact-checking sources.
The allegory also emphasizes the enormous power possessed by people in charge of information flow. The same way that the puppeteers in the cave control the shadows to create the illusions they want, people who spread misinformation and fake news can sway public opinion by distorting the truth or fabricating stories. Malicious actors now find it simpler to produce believable fake news stories that can quickly go viral on social media platforms and reach millions of people, thanks to advancements in technology. If information manipulation persists, it has the potential to damage our society, undermine confidence in established news sources, and jeopardize the integrity of democratic processes.
Just like the prisoner who freed himself from the cave, we should treat news stories or information in a more critical, introspective, and enlightened way and seek truth and nothing but the truth for the well-being of our society as a whole.
REGINALD B. TAMAYO,