Had Jean Baudrillard lived in 2016, he would have most likely written a sequel to his Simulacra and Simulation. Life in the XXI century is a creation, co-existence, and often a fight between symbols and signs on the Web. Almost all aspects of life of a person and of a country have moved to the online environment. Such an approach provides greater insight into the media space, numerous online debates, and government (and other kinds of) propaganda.
Since the American presidential elections results were announced, social media networks, namely Facebook, have been blamed for newsfeeds being subjective, thereby promoting the positive image of Donald Trump by making a great deal of fun of Hillary Clinton. Facebook has also been criticized for posting false stories, stating that Donald Trump would never have become a president. It is not the first time that Facebook has been charged in this way, and even after Mark Zuckerberg’s post putting forth denial of the the rumors, some doubt in the credibility and objectivity of the largest current source of news had already been planted. Just recently on November 19, after the U.S. president denounced the spate of misinformation across social media platforms, Facebook dannounces a new push against fake news, having “reached out” to “respected fact-checking organizations” for third-party verification (but not providing any specifics).
The issue is pending as many residents get their news on social media (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc.) and not from news TV shows or news agencies websites that are not always objective fact-wise. The majority of young, active, and socially integrated representatives of our society aged 18-40 live this way. Indeed, Facebook is exceptionally proficient at news aggregation, prioritizing news posts based on their rating and popularity (which usually has nothing to do with their authenticity), spreading memes and comic strips insulting one candidate and praising the other in users’ newsfeeds. Facebook has already tried to fight the unfair news choice. It eliminated jobs in its trending module, leaving an algorithm to do its job, which has worsened the issue, bringing memes and meaningless videos to the top of the newsfeed due to the number of views.
We create a symbol and with its help we persuade people in virtual reality, and they will give their votes for the future president of the county in real life. One cannot claim that Facebook guaranteed Donald Trump’s victory, but regular American social network users were definitely affected by it. As Facebook’s influence and expansion grows, one cannot exclude similar phenomena in the election campaigns in a different country. The root of the problem is that very few people can tell the difference between true and fake news. To obtain this skill, one needs to either be close to the authentic information source or to have extraordinary analytical skills.
One can also use a variety of guidelines posted on the Web that can help to outsmart fake news. Basically, it all comes down to the same thing: don’t trust the news from a strange URL, check the hyperlinks, especially ones linked to statistics, and make sure that the news is published in more than one information source with a similar description and interpretation. A symbol has to be backed up by a real story and figures.
Turning back to Jean Baudrillard, who said, «the perfecting of the form will have relegated man to a pure contemplation of his power», one shouldn’t forget that it is us who create virtual reality, so it cannot surpass society. The society just needs to rid itself of superstitions and the unconscious collective.