• Ayesha Dhall

Facts versus Opinions

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

Traditionally, Television news has been the primary source of news in India - at around 500 million user base for the top Hindi channels the reach remains impressive. The reach of newspapers is relatively small at approximately 3 to 4 million. Over the last 5 years, with the cost of internet data dropping manifold due to the entry of Reliance Jio, the user base of WhatsApp and Facebook in India has ballooned to approximately 400 million and 300 million respectively. A large number of these users, many of them first time users of the internet and from smaller cities and rural areas, now use social media for news.

One of the issues I am beginning to realise is that it is not very easy or straightforward to discern facts from opinions or even pure fiction. The entities who generate news, the newspaper houses, the television channels, the people making WhatsApp memes, or even common people who are posting on Facebook or Instagram, are increasingly becoming sophisticated (disingenuous?) in presenting facts to support their opinions. I worry that the consumers of this information are not so discerning, if not downright naive, and are easily swayed by insidious opinions couched in beguiling ways. Opinions take the shape of facts and this leads to misinformation that thanks to social media also goes around very quickly.

I was reading this interesting research paper on hand-crafted and automatic models for subjectivity detection, using techniques such as neural networks. Considering the sheer volume of information we are exposed to, using technology we might actually be able to distinguish facts from opinions and biases. I do hope these get implemented on news platforms soon! Take a look at this, it is certainly an interesting read;

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