We live in a world in which individuals of any background can generate beautiful web pages, online profiles, and large social media followings. They can author posts of any kind, those that support evidence and those that refute it. In this world, these individuals might become leaders and their posts might be perceived as authoritative. Large numbers of followers might begin to identify with their message and agree with their stance. Also, in this world there are deniers. Deniers of science and evidence. Those who create and support false information. In this world, where a lack of trust and a lack of profits has gutted the traditional news industry, those who want to publish false information become more powerful. Their messages are supported by malicious actors, both human and artificial, and are driven by politics, financial gain, and in some cases, the desire to promote suffering. In this world, people have been known to deny truly believing in the sentiments they themselves author. When finally confronted face-to-face, without their tablet or keyboard to act as a protective shield, about the false information posted on their own page, they might respond with “just because it’s a post – does that make it a fact?” This was a comment made by James Bauder, one of the leaders of the 2022 Canadian Freedom Trucker Convoy, in response to a journalist questioning him about a post which stated that vaccine mandates in Canada were the beginning stages of World War III. The post has since been removed (Guerriero & Anderson, 2022).
This is, of course, our world. A world shaped by humanity’s drive to create and share information. In the online environment, the issues we disagree about create tension and those who wish to cause harm, flourish. Our present state is a society made uncomfortable by the consequences of scientific consensus and government mandates. And our desire to engage with, create, and share information, in a way that makes us feel more comfortable, is leading to a dangerous reality.
In this world, who can we trust?