(Originally posted on the EACD blog) There is only one, simple but powerful word that can begin to express our general bewilderment regarding news these days: surreal.
The amount of disinformation is reaching the highest levels, major social platforms are already trying to crack down on fake news and there is mounting distrust of traditionally respected media channels.
How this happened and how we arrived at this point are important questions that demand answers; unfortunately, there is an even more pressing matter at hand: finding a way to regain control of the narrative of facts. But if some (usually reliable) media sources are being heavily criticised right now, one other source has yet to lose its standing: the expert. And the reality is that there is no more direct route to the expert than trade and industry associations.
A fact is only as good as the trust people have in the person stating that fact. Sprinkle in some doubt and the system crumbles: we begin to lose our ability to discern fact from fiction. This is where I believe European associations have a much stronger role to play than we allow ourselves to think. With a strong, united and credible membership, an association can have a very powerful voice. However, depending on the structure of the association, most of the time it is far from easy to get an entire membership united behind a single message, especially in a timely manner. Therefore, it is also our role to remind media and the public that we have almost instant access to very specialised experts in key domains and that association members are an incredible source of knowledge in many areas. Need an expert? We have one. Actually, we have many, all over Europe.
Take our association, for example. CENTR sounds like a modest, highly specialised association that few outside our industry will have heard about. Instead of explaining what we do and who our members are, I will focus on the fact that CENTR has the largest body of experts in Europe on how the internet works, on how the domain name system (DNS) works, on data privacy, on cyber security and on many other key topics such as the Internet of Things, data encryption, e-ID, etc. You may not know us (yet), but we regularly train European Commission officials on how the internet and the DNS work. We have helped the Commission and MEPs understand the impact of legislation on geo-blocking, access to data from law enforcement agencies, blocking domains at the Internet service provider or registry levels, and so on.
We have access to such a large body of experts in our domain that it would be a real shame to disregard the impact we can have on transmitting factual knowledge in this post-truth era. I would even go as far as to say that as a European association, we have the responsibility to voice our concerns and to provide support in the form of well-respected sources of information. Our members would expect nothing less!
So my question is: what is your trade association doing to take a stand in this climate of post-truth? How will you present your own and your peers’ expertise as an antidote to fake news and misinformation? Now is the time to raise these questions with your trade associations… before fiction replaces fact.