WeeklyTech #169

How a post-truth society is vulnerable to misinformation and conspiracy theories

We are frequently faced with the realities of misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories. Social media has opened up a new world of connectivity and access to information. But for all of the good that these tools can bring into our lives, these benefits also have also come at a cost to the very foundation of truth in our societies today. Often when breaking news happens and many details are yet to be known, battle lines are drawn and talking points are promoted as many in our society jockey for influence, power, or control over others.

Propaganda and disinformation are not new phenomena but are exacerbated in a technologically driven society. These derivations of truth are not simply relegated to one voting bloc or even a particular political ideology. According to [Jacques] Ellul—one of the most prescient figures and astute observers of the cultural and moral shifts taking place in the 20th century with the rise of modern technology—they are pervasive throughout all of society and often outside of public awareness. But these concepts have taken on a particular relevance given the rise of social media platforms and the ease of sharing unverified information to the masses.

In the age of social media, a single individual without any real authority or standing in society can falsely claim something is fake news or share a conspiracy theory widely without any real recourse or accountability. What once was the exclusive domain of government and various institutions in society with access to technological tools—like that of the radio, press, and motion pictures—is now available to anyone with a smartphone and rhetorical savviness. This marked shift in the democratization of communication techniques paired with the breakdown of traditional gatekeepers in society helped to usher in a new era of post-truth.

The Rundown

Explainer: Senate considers the Equal Rights Amendment by Hannah Daniel | ERLC

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on “The Equal Rights Amendment: How Congress Can Recognize Ratification and Enshrine Equality in Our Constitution.” This is the first time the Senate has held a hearing on the ERA since 1984. It is anticipated that during March the full Senate will hold a vote on a joint resolution that would remove the ratification deadline and recognize the ERA as a valid constitutional amendment.

Where Are the Churches in Canada’s Euthanasia Experiment? by Benjamin Crosby | Plough

“Church should not oppose MAID law, primate says.” So reads a recent headline of the Anglican Journal, the newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada. In the piece, Archbishop Linda Nicholls calls for the church she leads to avoid publicly opposing the expansion of euthanasia, or medical assistance in dying (MAID), in Canada. 

Attention Fox News: The truth will set you free by Andrew T. Walker | World News Group

FOX News owner Rupert Murdoch has now acknowledged under oath that the network’s hosts endorsed narratives that network executives believed were false as FOX faces a $1.6 billion lawsuit from Dominion, the company that oversees voting systems used in elections.

Prof Nita Farahany: ‘We need a new human right to cognitive liberty’ by Betsy Reed | The Guardian

Our brainwave activity can be monitored and modified by neurotechnology. Devices with electrodes placed on the head can record neural signals from the brain and apply low electric current to modulate them.

Chatbot therapy, despite cautions, finds enthusiasts by Peter Allen Clark | Axios

People are already using chatbots as therapists, as the emergence of generative AI has raised new questions around tech’s role in mental health. Virtually no one is suggesting you replace a compassionate human professional with a probability-driven neural network — but plenty of users seeking info or help say they appreciate the approachability (and low cost) of an onscreen text box.