Living Blue In Texas

Are Alternate Realities Here to Stay?

Is there is still a chance the U.S. can return to a single view of reality?

When I recently entered “election news” on my phone, NTD News with 676k subscribers appeared. Intrigued, I took a chance and clicked on it. The video set and presenter that popped up on YouTube looked as legit as the major networks. However, integrated into the major accepted headlines were assertions that were new to me.

I fact checked the information and realized this site subscribed to a view of reality that differed from most other news outlets. Are most news shows now just the extension of reality TV shows pretending to be news but just as sculpted and fake as the 1960s’ sitcoms? Somewhere along the line we tired of sitcoms’ canned laughter and fake reality.

Can we now move on from this pervasive fake reality TV we have trapped ourselves in?

Once upon a time, the internet and related media held the promise of supplying information shared by all, thereby defining a common, trusted world view. How did our world view sink down into the reality TV category and become nothing more than a suspend-your-belief fairy tale?  

We have come to accept the many new forms of media, which have proven able to disseminate information quickly, evenly, and everywhere. These new forms of media provide everyone with the personal power to publish information to the largest possible audiences. And freedom of speech allows almost any information to be disseminated. This power and freedom are unprecedented in human history.

However, allowing everyone to publish any information has morphed the media into armed reality TV cyber camps, where outlets lob hyperbolic bombs across the 21st-century media battleground.

We choose to believe our side, as presented by our chosen new sources. For example, recent polls indicate over 60% of Republicans and 30% of Democrats believe the recent U.S. presidential election was fixed, a view based only on their trusted news sources that constantly seek to discredit the other side’s information.

While we have enabled our information publishers, we have done little to enable ourselves as information consumers. How can we help ourselves understand what we are consuming and trust its validity?  

We need appropriate cyber weapons to clarify and neutralize today’s hyperbolic cyber sources. We need to build upon existing rules, such as the Communications Decency Act.

However, redefining existing rules for the internet and other media outlets cannot be as harsh and censoring as those imposed by totalitarian governments or as bureaucratic as some government institutions. We must maintain freedom of speech and the capitalistic mechanism that allows money to be made in a fair way.

Can we enforce such rules given today’s complex multimedia sources?

We must consider movies, TV stations, cable stations, email, websites, radio, newspapers or influencers on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and new outlets like NTD News coming online every day.

Given the above requirements, how do we define publishing rules that can work in today’s world?  Here are four simple and straightforward guidelines that can be used to update our laws:

First: Your, my or their media outlet will still be allowed to say whatever it wants — with the following conditions and within existing laws.  

Second: We need to recognize no difference exists between a “public channel available to all” and a “private” media channel.

Third: If you want to use the word “news” or “validated” in your “story,” you must be licensed and follow the guidelines of accurate news reporting that have been in place for more than 50 years. All websites and media outlets that publish news or news-like content will be subject to monitoring bot/AI services that will compare their information assertions in content to a set of reports by other services and define a fact-check link. Fact checking will only be conducted with relevance thresholds when someone tries to publish their information, so there will be no violation of privacy. 

Examples are already in place on Google and in progress with the Duke Bass Connections real-time checker and many others. No new complex regulations would be required. This would shift the burden from private companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to a common good agreement with the government.

The result? Trust will be restored.

Fourth: If you as a publisher choose to not follow the above “news” rules, what you are delivering is now defined explicitly as entertainment, with an Entertainment moniker on the media outlet.

This simple four-step approach would in fact create jobs to develop and deliver this capability. By creating a better-informed world with common understandings, we can find a path to merge our alternate realities.   Wasn’t this the unifying vision we had for the internet?

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