The ethical and moral questions regarding Fake News and personal reflections on the phenomenon was discussed during a Zoom seminar on 19 June 2020, organised by the Diocese of the Armenian Church. Dr Hratch Tchilingirian, a sociologist and a leading scholar of Armenian studies (Oxford), had curated the event and led the discussion, which was well attended, including participants from Ireland and the US.
Dr Tchilingirian started with a brief introduction. He said nowadays fake news has become part of our daily lives, as we are inundated with information and news. “We are constantly faced with fake news, disinformation, conspiracies and rumors,” he said, adding that “many at times, facts and truths get lost in the information “noise”.
He then presented the results of a massive study published in Science in March 2018, which analyzed every major contested news story across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years. The study found that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominated the truth on Twitter, according to the study.
This was followed by an open discussion by the participants. For nearly one hour, comments, thoughts, questions and reflections were presented by various voices on the affects of Fake News, on the ethical and moral questions related to disinformation, misinformation and fake news. In the final segment of the discussion, the focus was turned to the Good News of the Gospel. Dr Tchilingirian read a passage from the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-20), where Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The participants reflected their personal engagement with “news” and the effects of these issues in their spiritual life.