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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

May 29, 2020


How much should responsible news organizations report on stupid things?

If they don’t report at all, the stupid things go unchallenged. But if they report too much, then they signal-boost the stupid thing and give it free publicity (eg Donald Trump). Also, people who mistrust the media might reflexively support the stupid thing just because the media hates it (eg Donald Trump). Also, the more time you waste covering stupid things, the less time you have for real news (eg Donald Trump).

I recently read Causes And Consequences Of Mainstream Media Dissemination Of Fake News: Literature Review And Synthesis, which argues that the news might be covering too many stupid things right now. The authors note that “only 2.6% of visits to current affairs articles were to fake news websites” (though other sources suggest more) and that the mainstream press bears some responsibility for spreading inaccuracies beyond this small demographic. But they also understandably worry that maybe if the mainstream press wasn’t so aggressive in covering and debunking fake news, then fake news would go uncorrected.