The Ford Foundation has a webpage for submitting ideas to them. The form only allows 50 words for the first question, and 250 for the second. Not a lot of space to make a first impression. Worse, they state that less than 1% of unsolicited idea submissions receive funding. Not surprising of course. So I am not expecting this to get me anywhere, but what choice do I have but to keep trying?
Here is my idea submission to the Ford Foundation:
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR IDEA TO SOMEONE IN 30 SECONDS OR LESS?
We solve the problem of misinformation by making the web Socratic in nature.
We’re building a database which connects rebuttal webpages to the webpages they rebut, then ranking the best rebuttals for any given webpage. This data is integrated into all major platforms so that no content escapes being criticised.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEA
All efforts to autonomously fight misinformation online are making the same fundamental error of trying to identify and suppress the spread of ‘fake news’, while also amplifying ‘true’ news. This approach is guaranteed to fail for multiple reasons.
We alone are the only organisation working on the one philosophically sound solution to this problem: Universal critical reflection.
The Socratic method and the scientific method both align on this issue: We can’t be sure of the truth, but we can definitely challenge all claims rigorously.
So how do we codify this philosophical principle into the web? Luckily, it is relatively simple, technically speaking.
First of all, we notice that rebuttals, fact-checks, critiques, debunkings, and corrections are written every single day. This content already exists and will continue to be created as a natural part of the web. The problem is that these critical responses are never discoverable from the content being corrected, and so their ability to correct is severely impeded.
We solve this problem by connecting the critical response (URL1) to the webpage being critiqued (URL2) in an open-access database which other organisations, like Facebook and Google, are free to access and integrate into their user interfaces.
Whenever URL2 appears in the newsfeed, URL1 will be accessible right alongside it. Whenever someone visits URL2, they will be able to access URL1 directly from their browser. Fake News will never escape fact checkers, scams will always be revealed, and complex issues will lead people into nuanced discussions from multiple perspectives, necessarily destroying echo chambers.
This approach solves Facebook’s “Fake News” PR problem entirely and doesn’t have any of the complications of accusations of censorship. It also promotes critical thinking in all internet users while they browse, rather than promoting passive acceptance of “True” information.