The Dunning-Kruger effect – a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area – is well documented, as are our common misperceptions of reality.3 Are we really able to tell real news from fake news, or do we merely seek out and ‘verify’ the news that accords with what we already ‘know’? It’s only human to confirm our biases and reject ideas that contradict them, but as a result we render ourselves progressively more vulnerable to accepting fake news and rejecting real news.
There is plenty that responsible media outlets and platforms can do to engender trust, but in an age of boundless media production, we cannot rely on them to verify every viral tweet, doctored image and propaganda post we encounter. While 78% of people globally want more regulation of social media,4 the efforts of Twitter and Facebook, even if too little too late for some people, have undoubtedly made a difference; the percentage of British people seeing fake news about COVID-19 fell from 46% to 27% over a six-month period this year. At the same time, our own media literacy will be key to establishing a media ecosystem we can rely on, building a public sphere we can inhabit together, and defining the truths we can share. The tools are there, it’s on us to start using them. It’s time to admit that fake news isn’t somebody else’s problem.