Reflections on Media Reliability and Authenticity

Our exploration of ‘Digital Differences’ in the last topic alluded to cracks in the fabric of the internet (Futurelearn, 2018). This topic has shown exactly how those cracks can be exploited, opinions rigidified and even worsened over time. The reliability and authenticity of sources of information is paramount in fast-paced, ever-changing online discourse. The dangers of inauthentic sources have become clearer through this topic: agendas can be pushed; falsehoods can become truths.

I have fallen into the trap – citing an unverifiable slice of an otherwise invalid blog in my Digital Differences blog in order to “confirm” my own opinion. As such, this topic has been the perfect one to correct the course of my work and to underline the dangers of the internet.

The breadth of discourse on this topic was immense, and as I had focussed so much on broadcast media’s subtle reaffirmation of agendas through manipulation of the ‘Overton Window’ and through graphics, the range of blogs nurtured a wider understanding of the topic.

Adrian’s blog – especially his clear graphics – solidified my understanding of the key terms of the topic, notably that of the ‘Echo Chamber’ and the ‘Filter Bubble’. However, my challenging of his idea that echo chambers are ‘forming out of our hands’ has not yet been rebutted, and reinforces my own notion that web platforms must own some responsibility and show their users a range of views and information.

Stephanie’ blog – and her follow ups to my comment – revolved around the importance of media literacy. Our debate reaffirmed the importance of comedy in allowing people light relief on difficult issues. Indeed, comedy has become one of the most vital platforms of discourse and allows audiences to ingest and digest important information through entertainment.

‘Political satire only works when it’s able to describe the world as it actually is’ (Carlos Maza, 2017). Trapped inside filter bubbles and echo chambers, and with endless agendas and media spins, often the world simply needs to be accurately described.

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Maza, Carlos, ‘Comedians have figured out the trick to covering Trump’, Vox, April 2017,  <>.

Futurelearn, ‘Digital Differences – inequalities and online practices’, Futurelearn, 2018, <>.


My comment on Stephanie’s Blog.

My comment on Adrian’s Blog.


Assessing Reliability and Authenticity on the Web: Mainstream Media

Online news can take many forms, but I want to focus on the reliability of mainstream network media in their broadcasting and online platforms.

The ‘decreasing objectivity’ of online platforms have made the web a polarisation machine. (Simpson, 2012) Politically, for instance, the right tend more towards the right; and the left towards the left. As Digital Differences also showed, online divisions occur as a result of macro and microscopic schisms, including differential online exposure to political materials. The word agenda is thrown about considerably in modern news parlance, but understanding exactly where each author or news outlet sits on the political spectrum is a quick method of distinguishing the reliability and authenticity of news articles on polarising issues.

Fox’s Sean Hannity’s take on the release of the Nunes Memo last month.
NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle’s take on the release of the Nunes Memo last month.

Don’t Be Conned By Graphics

As the MOOC eluded to, visual data can be a quick and deceptive way to mislead. Size and brightness of graphs or objects definitively ‘outweigh their contextual information’  and graphs like Fox News’ below can trick viewers scrolling down a newsfeed. (Harris & Schwarzkopf, 2011)

Fox News POLL

Considering the raw data, and making graphs appropriate of the facts they represent, lessens the extent of misrepresentation of information. The graph below is how Fox News should have presented the data.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 17.03.14

Even if, therefore, the source of the data (here, the US Department of Health and Human Services) is reliable, internet users must take the time to assess the authenticity of the representation of such data.

Changing Norms of Information

Societal norms are far different today than when major media outlets were founded, and their principled coverage of events can sometimes be manipulated through rapid and radical changes in discourse. Listen below for more information:




Bad news spreads faster than good news, fake news spreads faster than the truth. Truly, the best way to ensure what you read is reliable is by understanding the agendas of the platforms on which it is released, and by considering wider debates – regardless of how fundamentally opposed they are to your own views.

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Collins, Keith, ‘The Most Misleading Charts of 2015, Fixed’, Quartz, December 2015, <>.

Harris, Julia, Chen, Song & Schwarzkopf, Samuel, ‘Contextual Illusions Reveal the Limit of Unconscious Visual Processing’, Association for Psychological Science, Vol. 22March 2011, <>, pp.399-405.

Maza, Carlos, ‘How Trump makes extreme things look normal’, Vox, December 2017, <>.

Simpson, Thomas W. (2012). “Evaluating Google As An Epistemic Tool”. Metaphilosophy. 43.4: 426–444.

Vosoughi, Soroush, Roy, Deb & Ara, Sinan, ‘The spread of true and false news online’, Science, Mar 2018: Vol. 359,<>, pp. 1146-1151.

Wyatt, Samatha, ‘Dishonest Fox Charts: Obamacare Enrolment Edition’, Media Matters for America, March 2014, <>.