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Blog Spain

Has fake news come to stay?

Enrique Caballero, Head of API, Microservicios y Arquitectura

Social media and new technologies have contributed to the digitalisation of society, so a lot more people are accessing them, and a lot quicker than ever before.

Enrique Caballero

Enrique Caballero, Head of API, Microservicios y Arquitectura

We have always been exposed to manipulated information. The main difference between the rumours, fake emails and smears of the past, and the fake news of today, is that the medium being used to spread them has changed. “Thanks” to social networks, instant messaging apps (Whatsapp, etc.), the rate at which they are penetrating and spreading through society is growing exponentially.

So the next question to ask is… To what extent are social networks and their APIs responsible for the explosion of so-called “fake news”?

Social networks (and the APIs they offer) provide technologies to help people connect and communicate with each other, which has undoubtedly led to the democratisation of information, with both positive and negative consequences. I think it would be unfair to hold technology itself responsible for how people choose to misuse it.

The main problem with fake news is how quickly the world of information moves these days. If we add to this equation an overwhelming amount of deliberately false or ill-intentioned information, this will generally lead to said information being spread rapidly without being properly checked. And the situation is made even worse by the global reach of this false information.

If there is one thing social media can be blamed for, it is that it provides mechanisms for disseminating information, but it does not provide the same means for checking it. But is this really their responsibility? Does applying controls interfere with the democratisation of information? The answer is not remotely simple.

We all have our share of responsibility the moment we retell a story without checking it first.

Finally, this has an effect on public opinion…

I have no doubt that receiving the same information from various different media sources reinforces the conviction that this information is true, and if its reach is wide enough, it will inform the opinion of society.

The case of Spain…

There is no doubt that in Spain, as in any other country in the world, the level of penetration of fake news is very high. An significant part of society is used to trusting traditional media and applies the same level of credibility to other communication channels (online media, social networks, mobile applications, etc.) that are more vulnerable to the distribution of fake news.

In this sense I believe that young people are less permeable to fake news, perhaps because, as digital natives, they apply the same level of credibility to the information they receive, regardless of its origin.

On one occasion, at an event with a lot of people, I was asked a question that I could answer here too… APIs are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and public opinion seems to be exposed to an unprecedented level of manipulation and control, but this is also impossible to predict and therefore to prevent. It is like a big brother with multiple heads. How is society likely to develop? How can we combat this? Is there a positive side to these APIs?

As users, we must remember that nothing is free in the world of social media, mobile apps etc. If you are not charged for a product or service, chances are that the product is you, that is, the information you are sharing about yourself. It is very important to read in detail what you are agreeing to when you agree to use an app, product or service.

Information leaks, cyber attacks and hacking of information systems have been around since information technology was first developed, but it’s a matter of capabilities and evolution. When a system is built, security experts try to protect their systems against vulnerabilities.

From a technological point of view, APIs have managed to solve a number of recurrent problems in the world of intercompany integration, particularly those related to security and protection.

One of the main characteristics of API Management tools is to provide protection capabilities against external threats (access control, authorisation, code injection, DoS attacks, etc.). The design and implementation of API security and protection is fundamental in preventing this type of undesired situation.

The responsibility for keeping “Big Brother” in check shared among users, by choosing to share their information for a particular purpose (user consent), and companies, who must agree to use such information for that purpose only, to safeguard it, and to protect it from misuse.

APIs have helped to create an environment that facilitates a collaborative model between companies and can become a new revenue channel. It also helps to create an ecosystem that encourages innovation initiatives between companies and developer communities.

In short, APIs are the “digital glue” that is leading us towards a world that is more interconnected.

Tools for combatting fake news

All tools that can help filter, contrast, and reduce the level of fake news are welcome, but we need to check how effective they are in distinguishing between false and accurate information.

You can’t blame technology if we misuse it.

In my opinion, the main filtering tool that we should be training is our own brain. Teaching it to be more sceptical, in a positive sense, reviewing and verifying the information that reaches us, and seeking information from a variety of different sources, outside of our usual bubble.