The Post News Era - Going Beyond Censorship and Fake News
Originally made from apple fibers and a cheese by-product, Fanta is the colorful soda created by Coca-Cola in Nazi Germany. While Coca-Cola was legitimately in Germany before the rise of Hitler in 1933, Max Keith took over the German bottling plant afterward. A true fanboy of Coke, German-born Keith had no issues with selling under Nazi rule [Blitz 2018]. In America, the Coca-Cola Company quietly continued sales inside of Germany, with the Atlanta, Georgia headquarters supplying syrup and supplies.
After the U.S. officially entered the war, American companies were ordered to pull out of the country. General Motors closed operations but left Opel, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to continue running. IBM may or may not have continued willingly, as there is much debate over their involvement [Blitz 2018]. Coca-Cola could not ship supplies to their German bottling plant, so Keith designed and sold the new Fanta beverage until the war ended.
Knowing the Truth
Billionaire investor Ray Dalio writes, "Truth - more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality - is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes." In 1945, World War II ended. At the time, news was delivered by radio and newspaper. Instead of a 24-hour news cycle, people relied upon daily updates. The choices were limited, and the details were low.
In the 1950s, news came on television and, with it, the Cold War and Space Race. Since then, news has become part of national security, with stories censored based on the desired result of the government in control. For example 1957, the Soviet Union launched a dog into space. Named Layka, this animal's fate remains largely unknown. Some believe that she died when the oxygen ran out. Others have heard that a poison was administered to alleviate pain. Then there are the rumors that she burned up as her capsule fell to Earth [Siddiqi 2000].
The reason for the confusion on the fate of Layka comes from Soviet censorship. Even today, the truth is murky at best, with the most plausible explanation being that Laika survived in orbit for four days and then died when the cabin overheated. Just like the truth behind IBM's involvement with Nazi Germany, it is unclear what occurred.
News for Entertainment
As the 1980s began, cable television expanded from 3 or 4 channels to 50 or more. With the added bandwidth came new channels with specific themes. MTV for music, ESPN for sports, CNN for news, and many others to reach a more narrow audience.
The problem these new channels faced was filling the air with content. CNN began the 24-hour news cycle in 1980, ESPN reaired events long into the night, and MTV let the music videos roll. However, they each needed to attract attention. In 1985, this was live coverage of the Iran Contra trials. In 1994, the OJ Simpson trial was made famous by the white Bronco driving down the interstate with cop cars behind it. By 2000, it was news on every conceivable topic, from sports to entertainment.
The rise of social media gave everyone a platform and an increase in the competition for attention. This fight for attention led some to invent sensational headlines. Sometimes, these headlines are for satire and other times, they are an attempt to deceive. With headlines like "Woman Comes Out Of Manic Episode To Discover She's Been Elected U.S. Representative," The Onion is the most famous example of satire.
However, fake news is not always easy to determine. For example, the News Examiner is an online news site that mixes real news with made-up stories. Such stories revolve around a contradiction to something already reported. Having two or more accounts of one event creates doubt in readers' minds and leads many to decide which version is most accurate.
The detection of fake news and related deceptions is best managed with causal analysis. If a news story reports an event, it will have a verifiable cause and effect. For example, an article on a hurricane touching down in Miami is easily verified by other related events, such as power outages, a drop in consumer spending, or a drastic reduction in gasoline sales. By following the surrounding circumstances, the information can be verified or debunked.
As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes mainstream, the concern over bias becomes louder. The Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT may have a bias from the human-created content they ingest. Much of this bias comes from news articles where reporters slant, purposefully or not, a story to fit their worldview.
To combat such bias, viewing the news as a recording of events is best. Like the television detective from years past, "just the facts." At Estimand, we remove bias from stories by isolating the facts and validating them from other events in an ontology of cause and effect. The result is a new means to consume news as a stream of events void of opinion. While not as entertaining, such feeds can power other applications and reveal the impact of global events on an organization.
- Dalio, R. (2021) Principles for Dealing with The Changing World Order. Avid Reader Press
- Blitz, M. (2018) How Fanta Was Created for Nazi Germany. Atlas Obscura. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/fanta-soda-origins-nazi-germany
- Siddiqi. A (2000) Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and The Space Race, 1945-1974. NASA https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4408pt1.pdf