Poetry and Prose.
Mrs Corkery, Head of R.E. reports on two examples of how the Lower VI demonstrates their learning in Core R.E. The first example is poetry written by students reflecting on the latest unit they have studied, Christian Peace-making:
Should Christians fight in wars? By Simran and Yuuri
Should people fight in wars,
With Christianity at their cores?
Perhaps if the battle is ‘just’ (Aquinas),
In Scripture we must trust.
Aquinas believed in wars for good,
For justice and peace he always stood.
War should be the last resort,
Our faith and beliefs we must support.
Bert Brocklesby adhered to morality,
His conscience rejected brutality.
With Absolutism at his heart,
For this war he would not depart.
Despite being sentenced to a grievous death,
He stuck with his values until his last breath.
The Beatitudes teach us of mercy and peace,
The kingdom of God will forever increase.
We must continue to ‘love our neighbour’,
And love and respect our almighty Creator.
Should Christians fight in wars? By Lucy and Chloe
Do your part, serve your country, time to enlist
But as a Christian, can you abide by this?
To take up a weapon and shoot someone down
Can this ever be seen as morally sound?
“God had not put me on earth to go destroying his own children”, declared Bert Brocklesby
But what if mass genocide is all that you can see?
Surely, it is your moral duty to help those who are in pain
To help those whose lives have been taken for some dictator’s gain
“Blessed are the peacemakers” Jesus Christ taught
Peace, love and justice was all that he sought
But what if someone’s actions threaten world unity?
Shouldn’t we fight for the reestablishment of our world’s community?
To fight for King and Country, but also for your God
For how better can you honour him, than to fight like Lancelot?
To defend the harmony of his creation
And to ensure that his people do not suffer through desperation
But who can choose, who gets to decide?
Which path is honourable, which path is dignified?
Which path will show you as righteous in God’s eyes?
Which path will you take, only you can surmise.
Should Christians fight in wars? By Celeste
Just as the wise Bert Brocklesby
Understood, “God had not put me on earth to go destroying his own children.”
So we too should respect the dignity of God’s creation
Therefore “no follower of Christ can legitimately unleash the horror of war on God’s people”
I, as a child of God
Could never commit such an abhorrent crime.An
End to this issue must come to pass
As we are all soldiers of Christ,
No human being should think of taking away the life of their
Dear brothers and sisters
Pope after Pope has told us of the importance of bringing peace to all nations, and putting a final
End to the butchery which has been disgracing our world.
A just and lasting peace being insinuated in Pope Benedict XV’s Peace Note
Created more peace throughout all the world,
Even our world of today.
The second example of Lower VI’s work is an essay written by Simran in Lower VI as her entry to the Year 12 New College of Humanities (NCH) Essay Competition 2022.
Mrs Corkery writes, ‘This essay showed great independence, research skills and critical thinking on a very important and topical philosophical question concerning the consequences and, perhaps, limits of free expression. The range of scholarly works consulted is impressive, and Simran’s essay displays the ability to analyse and evaluate key aspects of the topic, especially around the coronavirus pandemic.’
Philosophy: How should we (including social media companies and governments) respond to the fact that misinformation (e.g. about coronavirus) can be harmful (and even cost lives) while recognising the value of free expression (including online)?
Imagine a world without the worries of falling into the traps of fake news and misinformation. I am sure that none of us can. As of May 2021, Facebook released a statement informing that they had removed more than 18 million posts for “violating its COVID 19 misinformation policy since the beginning of the pandemic”. Nevertheless, despite these measures being crucial for the prevention and restriction of fake news, is this disregarding and devaluing the basic and fundamental human right to free expression?
There are multiple factors in which social media companies and governments have played an integral role, such as: COVID-19, politics and climate change, which are all fundamental topics of discussion when considering the extensive impact that misinformation could have on societal beliefs.
Firstly, what exactly is misinformation? Frequently referred to as “fake news” in the 21st century, the term misinformation is defined as, ‘false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.’ This represents a range of serious issues that can be part of misinterpretations of political processes, provocation to violence, and can exacerbate dangerous conspiracy theories. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how misinformation can also represent a dangerous risk to personal and public health, potentially causing harm to wider society.
In February 2020, the World Health Organisation described the rapid spread and increase of misinformation regarding COVID-19 as an “infodemic”. Some may argue that early action should be taken against accounts or social media posts spreading false information, as this would prevent any possibility of it going viral and being shared on the platform to the point where society is brainwashed into believing it. Dr Bnar Talabani is one of the many doctors who felt the need to take to social media platforms such as TikTok, to disprove myths regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, because fake news such as the vaccine causing infertility and changing your DNA was possibly increasing resistance towards the vaccine, thereby increasing hospitalisations. Why should doctors feel the need to take to social media to tackle these issues, when they should be focusing on the pandemic as their main priority? Shouldn’t social media companies and governments be doing more to prevent the spread of misinformation and lessen the burden on doctors? Furthermore, Duncan Maru, an epidemiologist and physician in New York City, said, “It seems as though doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are currently fighting two pandemics—the spread of the virus causing COVID-19 and the spread of misinformation online.”
In relation to the ultimate topic of discussion, many may feel that these posts must be taken seriously and banned from all platforms, as in relation to COVID-19, misinformation may even cost lives. In such circumstances, there should be a limit to recognising free expression online, especially in terms of healthcare, where it could have a detrimental effect on the entire population and even the entire world.
According to the MIT Media Lab, “False rumours spread faster and wider than true information.” They also concluded that this is more likely to happen in the case of political news compared to other categories. I will be referring to these false rumours as ‘disinformation’, which is defined as, “false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organisation to a rival power or the media.” Elected officials often tend to use disinformation as a political weapon. This was clearly demonstrated by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, where disinformation rose to unimaginable and extreme heights. Governments should be doing more about the spread of misinformation rather than spreading it themselves.
Indeed, a CNBC analysis of former President Trump’s tweets during his presidency deduced that his most popular tweets “largely spread disinformation and distrust.” Social media has been a political weapon, in the sense that politicians are able to use and exploit the platforms to influence society for their personal benefit. It is estimated that a certain set of news stories that were proven to be false were shared on Facebook at least 38 million times in the final three months leading up to the 2016 US Presidential election, 30 million of which were news favouring Donald Trump. Through this shocking statistic, it is clearly evident that a majority of disinformation is being spread by politicians, governments and political advocates themselves. As Donald Trump frequently mentioned the term “fake news” during his presidency, it is no surprise that the Oxford English Dictionary recognised it as an official word in 2019.
This judgement cannot solely be based on the 2016 US Presidential election. In the UK, during the final few weeks leading up to Britain’s general election held on 12th December 2019, the country experienced the impact of disinformation. A shocking majority of this behaviour came from the political parties and candidates. The New York Times reported as of 10th December 2019, “Last month, the Conservative Party apologised after spreading a video edited to make it look as though the opposition Labour lawmaker in charge of the party’s Brexit policy could not answer a question about exiting the European Union. It then dressed up one of its Twitter accounts to look like a nonpartisan fact-check group, drawing a warning from Twitter. The Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, cited documents that suggested the Conservative Party would weaken the National Health Service in a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States. The documents turned out to be linked to a Russian disinformation campaign.”
Social media platform, Twitter, announced a ban on political ads, saying it was “committed to facilitating healthy debate” during the British election campaign. This should be followed by all social media companies to make elections a more democratic and fairer process. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has been steadfast in his refusal to put fact-checking measures in place, arguing that they could interfere with free speech.
In the context of climate change, misinformation can be considered to be the type of information that casts a doubt on well-supported facts and theories, or those attempting to discredit and refute scientific evidence regarding the topic of climate change. Sean Buchan, the research and partnerships manager for Stop Funding Heat said, “This ‘rampant’ spread of climate misinformation is getting substantially worse. If it continues to increase at this rate, this can cause significant harm in the real world”. Stop Funding Heat has called on Facebook to adopt a definition of climate misinformation that follows the science, reveals its research on how misinformation is spreading on its platform, enforce a ban on climate information on its advertising platform, and produce a plan to reduce the spread of false information on climate change, which would include de-platforming repeat offenders.
Furthermore, Rewan Al-Haddad, a campaigns adviser for the NGO SumOfUs highlighted the role of Facebook whilst handling disinformation about climate change and the persistent plea for governments to step in: “Demanding better of Facebook only leads to more greenwashing and lies. We call for the US, UK, and the EU to stop Facebook’s unchecked power, for the sake of our climate and our collective future.” As seen not only whilst considering climate change, but even COVID-19, companies such as Stop Funding Heat and individuals such as Dr Bnar Talabani feel as though they are having to tackle this issue of misinformation themselves, with little to no support from social media platforms or governments.
In conclusion, I believe that misinformation will never be completely eradicated. How can we blindly trust social media companies to do anything to remove articles promoting misinformation, if ultimately they profit from these? Similarly, how can we trust governments to respond to misinformation, when they are using social media platforms to even go as far as to spread it themselves and use it to their advantage? However, the final question remains unanswered: How can we respond to misinformation while protecting free speech?
Companies have broadened their policies to various degrees as disinformation problems have also continued to develop. Whilst many of these advancements are welcome, these expansions also come with the increased risk of restricting legitimate free speech.
Whether it is about COVID-19, politics or climate change, misinformation continues to spread like wildfire across social media. While we may expect, or even demand that the social platforms act on misinformation, there is little likelihood that it will ever be completely stamped out. One reason is that it would take full-time policing and monitoring of virtually all content on every platform, but then there is also the fact that these platforms depend on continued use.
Overall, my personal perspective largely coheres with Damian Collins, chair of the U.K. House of Commons Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sports who said, “I’m not asking [social media platforms] to be arbiters of the truth. People are entitled to their opinion but when people are knowingly and maliciously spreading false information that could really lead to people losing their lives, we should expect the companies to act on that.”
Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher introduced free speech as a personal liberty in his introduction to the Doctrine of Right. A person is entitled to “communicating (his or her) thoughts to (others), telling or promising them something, whether what he says is true and sincere or untrue and insincere.”
Despite Kant expressing that we have the right to say something that could be “untrue and insincere”, are we taking the liberty of free expression too far?
 Bloomberg (May 2021) “Facebook Removed 18 Million Misleading Posts on Covid-19”
 Oxford Languages and Google
 World Health Organisation (April 2021) “Fighting misinformation in the time of COVID-19, one click at a time”
 The George Washington University (June 2020) “Social Media Companies Profiting from Misinformation”
 MIT Sloan (October 2020) “MIT Sloan research about social media, misinformation, and elections”
 Oxford Languages and Google
 CNBC (January 2021) “Trump’s election lies were among his most popular tweets”
 Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand (2021) “The Psychology of Fake News”
Volume 25, Issue 5, pages 338-402
 The New York Times (December 2019) “Who’s Spreading Disinformation in U.K. Election? You Might Be Surprised”
 The New York Times (November 2019) “U.K. Conservative Party Scolded for Rebranding Twitter Account”
 Meta (October 2019) “Mark Zuckerberg Stands for Voice and Free Expression”
 The Guardian (November 2021) “Climate misinformation on Facebook ‘increasing substantially’, study says”
 The George Washington University (June 2020) “Social Media Companies Profiting from Misinformation”
 Immanuel Kant (1797) “The Doctrine of Right” (DR, 6:238)Categories: Faith Life Priory Post Sixth Form Whole School