In the digital era, where virtually all information is at our fingertips, trust is under threat. Free access often enables fakery, making it harder than ever to distinguish fact from fantasy and deception.

This Muse edition explores how technology and the current media landscape are contributing to a widespread climate of scepticism.

Erosion of trust in the mainstream media across SEA

A 2022 report by Reuters Institute revealed that public trust in conventional news outlets remained low in five Southeast Asian (SEA) countries, including Thailand.

According to the report, the interference of political and corporate elites in the media landscape contributes to reduced trust in some SEA countries. Freedom of speech crackdowns and censorship in others like Thailand have also created a chilling effect on journalists, forcing them to adopt self-censorship to avoid punishment.

Seeing is no longer believing

In earlier times, technology was perceived as a tool to increase the credibility of online content because images, videos, recordings or databases could support claims.

However, this perception has reversed itself; the emergence of deepfake commercialisation reportedly poses an increasing threat in Asia and disinformation and misinformation on social media continue to be significant issues. Seeing is no longer believing in today’s digital world.

The prevalence of AI’s misleading (and sometimes offensive) answers

After ChatGPT took the world by storm with its natural language processing capability and seemingly logical responses, many tech giants have followed suit and debuted their own chatbots.

Despite their language and logical abilities, these platforms have been seen to give false information and even spout offensive comments at users.

In one instance, Microsoft’s Bing chat was reported to provide users with incorrect responses and call users “unreasonable and stubborn” and “wrong, confused and rude”. The Centre for Countering Digital Hate also wrote that Google’s Bard produced false answers in 78% of cases.

Amidst the fog of fakery, audiences find it increasingly challenging to trust what they consume.

Continue reading our next blog to discover how effective PR strategies can mitigate the current trust crisis.