With trust in the media at an all-time low, people are looking more and more to alternative sources of information when fact-gathering and forming opinion. There’s nothing wrong with choosing non-mainstream forms of media, and a healthy dose of scepticism does far more good than harm. However when this goes badly wrong, as it often does, you end up with this pandemic of fake news which we are currently dealing with. Who would have thought a phrase President Trump coined when dismissing allegations against him would catch on to this degree? It’s completely flipped meaning and is now used against him by his enemies. Remember when fake news was reporting factual information about his finances and not salaried internet shills?
Of course, it seems often that fake news is just a buzzword used to explain something that doesn’t go in one’s favour – some would have us believe fake news is the biggest threat to democracy since communism. Unfortunately, it seems the government has fallen for the lie, and has proposed to tackle it with some form of legislation regulating something or other that we can’t do or say anymore. All this does is appease the killjoys who would have the internet be nothing but a social activist project where all that is to be discussed is the absolute boy’s latest trendy policy and compete in the Oppression Olympics. No regulation or law is ever going to work to stop this, if it even should be stopped, all it does it present a blatant disregard for freedom and a threat to our liberty. Already intent on banning as much porn as possible and reading all our WhatsApp messages, is there no end to this government overreach?
Ironically, the activism online which annoys me so is a perfect example of everything I believe in. Realising for example that the government isn’t going to (and shouldn’t) ban the Daily Mail, lefties have now resorted to Twitter to start the Stop Funding Hate campaign, pressuring advertisers directly to stop dealing with the Mail. Though of course futile in the long run, it is having some short-term success, Paperchase for example will no longer advertise in the Mail after backlash, and neither will many companies after a column on Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black’s surrogacy. Lefties rejoice, you can write about the evils of capitalism on your overpriced middle-class stationery once more.
It is wonderful though, to see so many dedicated socialists turn their back on interventionism and choose the free market instead. Why ban something like a left-winger when you can bankrupt it like a right-winger? It’s not all about the left though, right-wing twitter got into a rage when Virgin Trains announced it would end its deal with the Mail too (why is everyone so obsessed with this terrible excuse for a newspaper?), and then they quickly reversed this decision to appease the baying internet mob. Regular people can make far more of an impact then, than any form of regulation. Defunding something is a great way to destroy it, and completely compatible with freedom.
The fake news problem then will not and cannot be solved by the government, but instead by individual actors in the free market; whether that’s Sarah from Oxford not buying a Paperchase notebook, or a multinational corporation pulling its money from one of the world’s biggest websites. And that’s exactly what we are seeing. Unilever has has threatened to pull all of its advertising from social media and Google platforms. This is primarily in response to the worrying content seemingly rubbed-stamped by these companies, from fake news to extremist content. The corporation is acting as it believes these platforms aren’t doing enough to combat it, and it does not want its brand associated with the material. Much like Paperchase and the Mail, it sees the uniting of the brand’s image with ‘unpopular’ or extreme views as damaging to profit potential. Capitalism’s out here doing good work again – how shocking.
Funnily enough, Facebook hasn’t responded well, or at all, to the threat of government intervention, but has already met and discussed with its top advisors their concerns and Facebook’s strategy for combatting such material. It has pledged to do everything it can to improve for them. Governments should wake up and realise it is not their place to mess around with the internet. A company’s image is more important than ever in 2018, where a few Tweets can start a boycott and a few wrong decisions can bankrupt the entire operation, and Unilever is taking initiative to get ahead of this.
Money talks – whether boycotts, pressure on advertisers, or pulling funding – we should let it, and the government should too.