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The unceasing growth of the online world puts everyone in front of a huge challenge: disinformation. But as different companies are trying to control and eradicate pieces of fake news on the web and their platforms, Microsoft announced that it will be taking a different path — letting people decide to distinguish what is true and not.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Microsoft President Brad Smith voiced the new approach as the idea of censorship becomes the center of debate while tackling fake news online. It can be recalled that Microsoft proudly announced during the early days of the war between Russia and Ukraine that it would limit the appearance of Russian propaganda on its platforms. However, the big tech is now having a change of mind.
“I don’t think that people want governments to tell them what’s true or false,” Smith told Bloomberg. “And I don’t think they’re really interested in having tech companies tell them either.”
This points to the company’s plan not to label social media posts as fake news, expressing its stance regarding censorship online. This favors freedom of speech, but it could be a bigger challenge for a society already experiencing widespread disinformation and misinformation online. For instance, in a recent study from Pew Research Center, 33% of TikTok users said they use the platform to catch up with the news. However, researchers at NewsGuard found that about one out of five videos automatically suggested by the platform included misinformation. And in a 2022 research published on Statista, 38.2 percent of Americans in a study conducted admitted that they accidentally shared fake news, while 67 percent of them believed that fake news just causes a great deal of confusion. And with Microsoft having a vast influence online through its number of platforms like Bing and MSN, this decision not to intervene in fake news identification might make such experiences more common.
Despite this, Microsoft believes that such type of content is a part of the information that they need to show to users in order for them to come up with their own stands about specific issues.
“We have to be very thoughtful and careful because—and this is also true of every democratic government—fundamentally, people quite rightly want to make up their own mind and they should,” Smith explained. “Our whole approach needs to be to provide people with more information, not less and we cannot trip over and use what others might consider censorship as a tactic.”