Just a few days ago, Elon Musk started his battle against media and introduced yet another bold idea to the world: Pravda, a site that would rate credibility of media and journalists. Although the twitterbase reaction was overall positive, certain media now seem afraid of Elon Musk’s Pravda.
Here’s the context: after a recent storm of negative headlines targeting Elon Musk’s company Tesla, Elon Musk grew tired of the constant negativity and pointed out several mistakes in the coverage he saw. Shortly after, he tweeted that he will create a site that would monitor media and journalists giving the public the power to rank them according to their credibility. Elon Musk chose an apt name to call his site: Pravda. And now, Elon Musk’s Pravda is making a few media at least a bit nervous.
There are many points of view on this issue, and some of them could even be called subjective (imagine the irony). Many media choose to dismiss the idea of such a platform for numerous reasons. Business Insider UK even decided (without any clear connection) to compare Musk’s concept to the Pravda broadsheet from Russia, an ex-communist newspaper that was used to spread propaganda.
Here’s a couple of reasons why journalists and media could fear such a platform:
Researching to Write vs. Writing to Write
The code of conduct that was released by the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) is a guideline as to the ethics that every journalist should take in account. Amongst others, the code of conduct states that ‚a journalist should ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, acccurate and fair‘.
As pointed out by Elon Musk, journalists sometimes seem to have the need to generate clicks on their articles, thus violating the code of conduct mentioned before. It’s simple, really – if an article has a lot of views, the media outlet is successful, and what better way to generate views than by being controversial and negative?
So that way, when a journalist has a deadline hanging above his head and knows that if his articles won’t have enough clicks, he/she will look for a way of boosting the attractiveness of an article, right? Ask yourselves – which headline below would attract you more?
That’s the thing – sensational seems to be more attractive than truthful nowadays, and which newspapers will sell more, one that reports on truth, however dull it may be, or one that releases one controversial article after another?
If Elon Musk’s Pravda would work, media could be called out on this sensational writing by thousands of watchdogs in the form of their very readers.
Power in the Hands of Society
Unfortunately, this seems to be one of the major flaws of the Pravda concept: society. Sometimes, democracy isn’t as perfect as we might think. After all, it’s a system where the majority decides the fate of the whole, and if that majority is being directly manipulated by fear, anger, or hatred, it can end up badly.
We’ve seen it happen multiple times: Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, the forming of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump’s election as the president of USA. Sometimes, the masses can be swayed by charismatic leaders or visions of grandeur, and the end result is horrendous. Don’t mistake these examples as arguments stating that society cannot decide for themselves – there are good examples of democracy’s success. It’s just that the bad seems to be much more impactful than the good.
Now, if Elon Musk’s Pravda were to start working, the power to condemn a media outlet would be in the hands of society. This is where the moral conundrum comes in play: how can you judge objectivity by being subjective? If a person doesn’t agree with the truth, he/she will find a way of ‚painting it red‘ right?
(Speaking of people finding a way of justifying their own opinions, we’ve written a piece on that very topic – check it out here! )
Here’s an idea: @Elon Musk, if you’re really going to launch Pravda, build a system that will be built on evidence and hard facts. When a person wants to give an opinion on why a media is/isn’t credible, tell them that they need to provide hard facts and evidence that support their claim. Try to avoid becoming the Rotten Tomatoes of media, where every person is a critic.
The Ultimate Reason: Internet
The third reason as to why media is afraid of the concept of Pravda is humanity’s greatest and worst invention yet: Internet. We’ve seen it all – internet trolls grouping up to manipulate polls or opinions, bots downvoting or upvoting videos, an internet can sometimes be a dark place. Let’s also not forget the anonymity of internet – you can comment on things and be overly aggressive with your opinion because of the anonymity and therefore no real consequences to your actions.
Media seem to have a very sharp opinion on this, with The Verge stating that Pravda is an insidious idea because of the fact that it can be targeted by ‚mobs and places like 4chan‘ that would be able to redefine truth.
While this comes as a logical argument against such a concept, there is no constructive thinking incorporated into the articles that downgrade Pravda. Shouldn’t you offer solutions or ideas for improvement rather than just painting something as wrong and stupid? Instead of stating that it is an insidious idea, how about try to devise a framework? How about a framework that would require a user rating a media to provide proof for their claims? That very framework could also analyse group activities such as those of 4chan users ‚grouping up to bring something down‘.
Isn’t this just the perfect time to do such a thing? I mean, we got all the ingredients – a visionary philantropist, technological advancements, Google’s analytics tools. Why don’t we try to battle Internet’s darker corners by being smarter than them instead of simply acknowledging their existence?
To conclude, here’s a few bullet points based on this article that could further form Elon Musk’s Pravda concept:
- Pravda would be a site that would monitor media and journalists, based on facts and proof
- The user that would decide to ‚rate‘ a media would need to provide proof and evidence of a media wrongdoing/credibility
- In order to preserve the objectivity of Pravda, the content delivered by rating users would need to be scrutinized, along with devising an algorithm/framework that would monitor the digital world and identify examples of ‚4chan group ups‘ and such
- Additionally, Pravda should clearly distance itself from its already existing counterpart, a Russian newspaper that was used as a propaganda channel during the time of Soviet