[ExI] Top 10 Stories Under-Reported by the Mainstream Media
anders at aleph.se
Fri Oct 19 18:06:14 UTC 2012
On 19/10/2012 07:16, Ben Zaiboc wrote:
> BillK<pharos at gmail.com> reported:
The problem is not that these are censored: anybody who reads widely
will surely know about them (I think I recognized the majority straight
away). Yes, most people will likely miss them. But that is not the same
thing as censorship, the active and deliberate silencing of information.
The big problem is the passive and pervasive filtering going on.
Broadcast-type media (newspapers, radio, TV, major blogs) have limited
bandwidth, so they focus on what they think are important or what their
customers will want. That removes a lot of information. The same
filtering happens inside their organisation when deciding what to air,
what to investigate or what to pay attention to. And consumers do the
same: they filter out stuff that is uninteresting, depressing, against
their views or they don't think they need. Narrowcast media like blogs
may focus on very different things, but again their information will be
taken up only if there are enough interested readers.
This produces very powerful biasing effects. Consider the over-reporting
of certain kinds of scientific findings like "X is bad for you". Since
threats are salient they will get reported more, even if they are due to
p=0.05 errors. This happens in multiplicative stages: the researchers
will likely push the finding more to the university press department,
which will produce press releases more likely to be noticed by media,
who are more likely to run the story, and the readers are more likely to
read it. Result: every stage amplifies the bias, and the public can be
consistently misinformed even though nobody tried to do it deliberately.
Since the number of stages of media transmission is increasing and
filtering is becoming ever easier (and necessary, because of the vast
amount of media), this is deeply worrysome and quite likely a danger for
the the epistemic future of our civilisation. But it is not censorship.
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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