Flat Earth – Freedom of Speech vs. Truth

It would be impossible to deny the impact freedom of speech and democracy had on shaping the internet as a medium for the message. The internet’s most powerful tools, Google and Facebook, were designed as an outlet for freedom of speech. Google was born as a mediator of knowledge. The game-changing algorithm that instantly took over all other search engine algorithms, was not based on looking into the actual content of a website but rather, on ranking the web pages according to how many other web pages referred to them. Whether the page has true knowledge or false was irrelevant and Google never tried to judge the physical content.

Facebook, which is arguably the biggest and most influential social network, explicitly stated that they do not see any need to screen the content of their users (other than extreme violence, porn or incitement). For a long time, Mark Zuckerberg took pride in Facebook’s decision to not intervene in its content. Such claims had brought to the fore major problems with dictatorships such as China, who at several occasions demanded Google and Facebook to implement censorship on the content it presents to the Chinese users.

The Arab Spring back in 2011 was more momentary proof that Facebook’s insistence on freedom of speech will allow Democracy to flourish in countries that never before had the chance to experience the benefits of freedom.

However, as time went by the downside of freedom of speech on the Internet became clearer. The Arab Spring in Egypt became gloomy and wintery. The Muslim Brotherhood took over and executed a very concise and well directed counter attack with fake avatars against the proponents of Democracy. Russia had successfully carried out fake campaigns against democratic forces in Ukraine. And above all – Russian interference in the 2016 US elections had shocked tech optimists.

More recently, in the 2019 Israel Elections, a similar debate is ensuing with regards to the use of Bots in the political parties’ campaigns. Suddenly, more and more voices want measures to be taken to block fake news, to fight “post-Truth” and to promote just causes and reliable views.

The highlight of this sudden anti-technology anti-internet uproar was undoubtedly Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony. Freedom of speech is unarguably a major value that needs to be protected, but we technologists have to augment it with some measures for preserving Truth on the Internet.

Netflix, a media powerhouse and not one to fall behind on a trend, recently released a documentary studying the growing influence of the Flat Earth belief. The documentary studies a group of individuals who are part of the Flat Earth believers’ community. It follows how these individuals shaped their opinions, what they consider to be valid evidence and their anti scientific approach to this belief. Interestingly enough, the Flat Earth community is not just solely preaching their view that the Earth is not round but are making a lot of effort to prove their theory with attempts at experiments. Although these attempts are clearly unprofessional, their insistence on conducting these experiments is interesting.

This community of ‘Flat Earthers’, which is most definitely a minority of the general population, has been able to spread their opinions and unproven ‘scientific evidence’ like wildfire on the internet. Now, when a 14 year old boy or girl searches “Is the Earth flat?” on Google, they may well be convinced after a while that the Earth actually is flat. Nowhere in their searches will they find a red banner clearly stating “The Earth is Round, and has been accepted as round by scientists for the past hundreds of years. As evidence, here is a picture of the globe from space taken by a satellite”. Google does not show any interest in stating Truth as such. The same goes for YouTube. One will find endless amount of videos supporting the Flat Earth theory, with none of them giving any warning or indication that this theory is FLATLY wrong. And Facebook with its endless amount of Flat Earth groups and not one glimpse of a Round Earth group

Earth is a disk? No, it is NOT!

So how can we resolve these phenomena? While the Flat Earth community may serve as an extreme case, it demonstrates the need for change on the Internet. Not all cases are as clear, but it seems we need to find some measure of reliability. To assign a level of believability to differing views expressed on the public net and in more business oriented problems. Without this resolution it seems that humanity may recede back into its pre scientific era. It is most probably humanity’s most pressing current political issue. To promote Truth, whether it be scientific or other.

Enterprise collaboration tools are not very different in this regard. They are also non judgemental. At most they allow participants to vote democratically without any mention of their expertise and without any knowledge of their cognitive abilities or biases. Collaboration tools similarly to Data Analytics, BI and Project management tools do not seem to have an interest in the reliability of differing views, or in using algorithms to help assign probability to alternative views and decisions. In another post on this blog we already described how Machine Learning can reinstate Truth. We believe that this truth has to emerge from a combination of data as evidence and the human discussion of alternatives based on reasoning, arguments and counter arguments.

Ment.io was designed for Truth. Unlike most of the Internet communication and collaboration tools, we believe in meritocracy, and we believe some decisions are better, more reliable and more rational than others. We base Ment.io’s unique epistemic scoring mechanism on philosophical and mathematical principles that have to do with smart patterns of agreements and disagreements amongst experts and communities. These experts also contribute and interpret data sets and articles to be used as evidence to promote their views. Further, for the first time Ment.io allows automatic alerts and compensation for several psychological biases such as group think, cultural and gender differences.

With Ment.io, Humans at the workplace can once again speak Truth without any need to apologise. While it is a probabilistic Truth, since most real world decisions cannot be built on certainty, it still represents a business-related and sociological reality which can help produce rational, reliable and faster decisions.


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