Have faith in facts.

I SUSPECT many will agree about the benefits of a digital detox, ie a break from the constant stream of information on mobile devices. I enjoyed my break last week disconnected from devices, uncompelled to reply to every message, relishing the quiet that winter up north brings. But it was just that, a break, and my return to reality coincided with news of journalist Shahid Aslam's detention by FIA.

Aslam is being accused of involvement in an article by Fact Focus that reported on former army chief Gen Bajwa's assets. Ahmad Noorani, who wrote the article, denied Aslam's involvement. But that did not matter to the FIA.

I was able to ascertain these details thanks to the reporting on legacy news outlets because social media was its usual cesspool of unreliability - lots of opinion parading as information. Facts don't sell - or get shared - the way opinions do. An MIT study in 2018 showed that lies spread six times faster than fact.

Aslam was granted bail on Wednesday but his case is a reminder of how those actually in power have no respect for the law - eg the 2021 Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill which accords journalists the right to protect sources. The same powers don't support journalism unless it sides with their interests. How can journalism ever support any institute that so flagrantly disregards people's right to information?

Facts don't sell the way opinions do.

Unfortunately, folks posing as journalists have done more to destroy the institute they pretend to serve. That's why I'm recommending they, their handlers, and anyone interested in journalism read Maria Ressa's How to Stand Up to a Dictator. The Nobel laureate's book is part memoir and, as the Guardian noted, 'part manifesto' on journalism's role in exposing misuse of power. For Ressa, this means shining a light on the abuse of power by former president Rodrigo Duterte and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It's disconcerting to learn how Facebook undermined democracy in the Philippines and how Duterte used social media's engagement algorithms to his advantage and society's detriment.

This is what makes social media so dangerous, especially if you rely on it as your primary source of news. Social media platforms want you to keep scrolling on their sites because that's what earns them the big bucks. They favour moneymaking over public safety, she writes. Facebook revenues were $120.18 billion, up by 40 per cent from the year before.

What social media is doing...

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