Debunking: from the web to the code of conduct? We need careful reflection on accountability and controls Stefano GAZZELLA March 11, 2022

The natural response of the market to the propagation of fake news was the figure of the debunker, their natural predator or - to be ruthlessly logical - symbiont. Because after all, without false or falsely represented news, the clarifying intervention would have no reason for being nor would it intercept a question from users. If for a moment one goes to think about the costs between the production and dissemination of a false or falsely represented news and the answer of denial, the balances are totally asymmetrical. As remembered for the fake news on privacy, the theory of the mountain of shit is valid: from an economic point of view, competence involves an increasing cost of incompetence, especially when trolling uses its most elementary weapon, namely inversion. of a burden of proof. The evergreen: show me that this is not the case, on the sidelines of a statement placed there without excessive effort of argument. In the digital landscape, debunkers are now represented as new bearers of objective truths, with a wealth of fame and experience within their curriculum that proves their reliability. But be careful not to underestimate their role and risks and do not let these subjects operate in a "far web". If on the one hand there is no doubt that their work is carried out through a search for the sources, the verification of the same and the representation of the logical paths of research of the facts through the evidence, it is equally true that it could have many consequences for the user. medium. In short: when everything becomes a total reliance on an exercise in critical thinking that we too could carry out, our participation in digitality finds a filter. Filtering at first is a choice and then risks becoming a habit. And habit can have distorting effects on perception and behavior. Then think of a bad faith debunker who wants to sell his fame and his work so that it is instrumental and polarizing. If certainly virtuous is the activism to deny and dismantle plots, the shadow of the Ministry of Truth is just a turning point after the ability to win trust from users. The influence that can be exercised is a fact, by its nature neutral. But the consequences of this influence can have positive and negative effects, thus requiring careful reflection on accountability and controls. And here arises - or at least should be posed - the idea of introducing a shared Code of Conduct for those who carry out debunking activities in such a way as to create shared ethical and responsibility standards and guarantees of transparency and correctness that must be first of all insured towards the follower pool, therefore to protect the digital ecosystem in which we operate.

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