Bank of England official lashes out at online "echo chambers" and "fake news" in defence of experts

 
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Shafik is quitting the BoE to become director of the London School of Economics. (Source: Getty)

A top Bank of England official has hit out at the rise of “fake news” in a strident defence of the role of experts in society.

Speaking at the Oxford Union, BoE deputy governor for markets and banking Minouche Shafik laid out the need for “an agenda for rebuilding trustworthiness”.

Shafik said that the rise of online tools like Twitter and Wikipedia had been empowering, but had also created debilitating “echo chambers”.

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“People can be overwhelmed with information that is difficult to verify, algorithms create echo chambers of the like-minded who are never challenged; fake news distorts reality; “post-truth” fosters cynicism; anonymity bestows irresponsible power onto individuals who can abuse it; a world in which more clicks means more revenue rewards the most shrill voices and promotes extreme views,” she said.

Shafik’s colleague, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane, has suggested that, post-referendum, economists need to demonstrate more humility. Last night Shafik, who is quitting the BoE to become director of the London School of Economics, said that experts should respond to these challenges by embracing uncertainty and picking up good practice from academia.

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Shafik cited examples such as declaring conflict of interest and subjecting work to peer review.

And she added that there should also be a willingness to engage with those of opposing opinions, rather than falling into online channels in which we only subscribe to the views of those with whom we agree.

“We can all make an effort to engage with views that are different from our own and resist algorithmic channeling into an echo chamber,” Shafik said.

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“The application of knowledge and the cumulation of that through education and dissemination through various media and institutions are integral to human progress,” she said.

“So the challenge is not how to manage without experts, but how to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to ensure they are trustworthy.”

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