Media and Information Integrity
Changing Consumers and Media Trends
As our time spent in the digital world continues to grow, let’s take a look at the changes happening in the media landscape. Deloitte has summarized the 2022 digital media trends, and one major trend is the surge in Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD) services. Leading the pack is Netflix, which has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade, surpassing 200 million users. However, in their Q1 financial report released in April 2022, they revealed a decrease of 200,000 users. This decline can be attributed to various factors, including cost issues and another media trend, the growth of Social Networking Services (SNS).
Many consumers subscribe to streaming services to access content, but high costs can lead to cancellations. Over the past year, approximately 25% of users experienced subscription cancellations and re-subscriptions. Users opt to re-subscribe during the launch of new seasons of their favorite shows or to take advantage of discounts to reduce costs. In response, companies are starting to offer more diverse pricing options. Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, has even expressed serious consideration of introducing lower-priced plans with an advertising model.
On the other hand, SNS platforms offer a wide range of content genres for free, attracting approximately 80% of users who utilize them daily. This convenience and variety contribute to SNS’s popularity among consumers.
Amidst these evolving media trends, ensuring media integrity is becoming increasingly important. This week, we want to explore healthy media practices from both the creators’ and consumers’ perspectives.
AI Embedded Biases
Algorithms generating content for media, copywriting, AI assistants like Siri and Alexa, are derived from data encompassing people’s search histories, web trends, and all movements on the internet. This data-driven approach leads to algorithms generating content that is deemed “common sense” for the majority.
However, investigations into the databases creating these algorithms revealed biases in the associations of words. For instance, women were negatively associated more than men, and there were biased linkages between terms such as Islam and terrorism, or Mexicans and poverty. The study found that more than one-third of the algorithms exhibited biases.
This unintentional bias is embedded in algorithms that provide autocomplete suggestions or automatically generate catchphrases. The reason for AI’s existence lies in pattern recognition and prediction based on data, so any bias present in the data pool will inevitably result in biased AI.
As AI-generated content increases, the importance of unbiased data becomes more evident. The biased information aggregated by algorithms is unknowingly disseminated, highlighting the need to add filtering steps to the process from data transmission to digestion, as suggested by Professor Zhou’s research team at the University of Southern California.
However, determining “absolute fairness” poses a different challenge. Defining “complete fairness” is highly complex and constantly evolving with societal changes. Therefore, discussions should involve human intervention, not just AI, to address this issue. Constantly updating without compromising on “complete fairness” is the path we need to follow.
Striving for the Truth
In 2017, The New York Times launched an advertising campaign, championing the value of journalism during the time when the phrase “fake news” was introduced by former President Trump to criticize media critical of his administration. Since then, the momentum of “fake news” shows no sign of stopping, flooding the internet with information lacking credibility. A prominent example is the generation and dissemination of propaganda surrounding the Ukraine situation.
However, if the misinformation were absurd and easy to recognize as false, would we still be able to distinguish lies from truth when they are accompanied by sophisticated manipulations like synthetically produced images or videos? Considering our predisposition to being easily deceived, I have little confidence in my ability to discern falsehood. The need for media literacy is often emphasized, but how can we protect ourselves from being misled by “fake news”?
Professor Susala from Michigan State University points out current challenges, including the inadequate regulatory systems established by platforms to address misinformation and the negative impact of algorithmic biases on information accessibility. While Twitter and Facebook have strengthened their fact-checking efforts, it is also valuable to use sites like FactCheck.org to confirm the credibility of news and media biases.
In any case, passively consuming media and mindlessly scrolling through timelines make it nearly impossible to distinguish truth from falsehood. Instead, we should approach media with a purpose, carefully selecting and using it. As media platforms continue to improve to help users access meaningful information efficiently, there may still be moments of discovery and surprise while using media. The inspiration gained from a tweet or the emotion evoked by a TV commercial might broaden our perspectives. Ignoring these encounters would also be a loss.
To manage the abundance of information around us and engage with it in a healthy way, it is essential to take the time to reexamine our media usage in daily life. Through a deliberate exploration of the significance of media one by one, we can arrive at a satisfying approach to our personal engagement with it.
🏄♂️ The Purpose of Media Surfing
Have you ever experienced the surprise of finding that an hour had passed while mindlessly scrolling through social media after waking up in the morning? (It happens to me so frequently that I’d like to believe it’s an ordinary daily routine.)
According to research from the University of Washington, people using social media can enter a “dissociative state” similar to daydreaming. While intending to check a single notification, they end up switching between multiple apps without realizing it.
Wasting time by unconsciously consuming media content is a shame. Moving forward, having a sense of purpose and discernment in selecting and utilizing media will become increasingly crucial. Media platforms are also evolving to help users efficiently access meaningful information. For example, “Lemon8,” launched by ByteDance, is a platform that condenses only “useful information” shared as content on platforms like Instagram, attracting attention.
However, there are moments when passive media use can lead to unexpected discoveries and surprises. Watching a TV commercial’s music can be moving, or a casual tweet on Twitter might inspire. Ignoring these encounters would also be a loss.
In the process of organizing the overflow of information around us and engaging with it in a healthy way, it is essential to take the time to reevaluate our media habits in daily life. By carefully questioning the significance of media, we can find a way to engage with it that feels personally meaningful.