Friday, July 27, 2012

Anonymity and Information Reliability

This is an era where people can spread information anonymously and are able to gain trust from a lot of other people. The million dollar question is: Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I know that some people do not like the fact that these anonymous informants can get many viewers in such an easy way and fear that these viewers will be fooled by distribution of false information. This, however, is an exaggeration. 

Like it or not, having anonymous informants is a normal thing in the modern market of information, especially with our telecommunication technological advances.  

And in such market, there will be high quality information and low quality information. Trying to have a paternalistic central body to analyze and differentiate each type of information would be very costly. So it would be better to let the people themselves decide whether the information is worth to know or not.

Furthermore, it would also be too late to say that anonymous informants are unreliable and should be censored at this stage. Similar to anything that falls under the category of free speech, censorship would always be costly and difficult to do (unless you are the government of China).

Rather than spending our times thinking how to prevent these anonymous informants from getting more and more viewers, we should do what every rational man would do: ignore them.

Why? It’s simple. If the unreliable information hurts the interest of certain people or entity, they would be the ones who naturally have the biggest incentive to fight back and spend their resources for such fight. We’ve seen these cases happen in the real world. 

There would be no need for bystanders like us to join the fight and spend our precious time and resources to deal with informants that we think are unreliable in the first place.

Or might it be that you are enraged by the fact that there are so many foolish people who blatantly believe or follow what these anonymous informants say? And as a result, you want to declare a war on the informants?

Better think about it again. First of all, you don’t really know whether these so called “foolish” people really think that they are getting the truth. They might just see it as a form of entertainment. Everyone loves gossips and conspiracy theories after all.

Second, unless the informants are trying to persuade their readers to conduct a bloody revolution, why we should care about the mumbo jumbo that other people believe? As I said, those who are being harmed by the false information will move by their own, quicker than we can ever thought.

Another thing that makes me believe that these anonymous “informants” (especially those from social media) do not give us reliable information is because no one is truly anonymous in this modern age.

Anonymity is usually used when you want to talk about some sensitive issues and you are concerned about your safety, although in certain case it is used simply because you want to talk anything without any responsibility. Thus, such anonymity would be used carefully.

But I don’t see this carefulness coming from the informants that we often see and hear in the social media. They just share information as they wish through a media that can be easily accessed by other people to know their whereabouts.

If the information that they distribute is very sensitive and true, and all of such information is related to powerful people, these informants must already hit the coffin long time ago. But apparently, that’s not the case. Not even any serious report to the police for defamation. In other words, the information should be unreliable and they exist just for fun.

Word of advice: don’t think too much about these informants. As for the people who think that these informants bring the truth, well, there is still a good side of it.

If you are an employer, you would now have a good arsenal to test new employee. Ask them whether they believe what these informants say and let their answer help you to decide whether they are qualified for the job or not.  

Look, you just get a cheap IQ test out of it. So, who says that having these informants are bad for the society?


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