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The Danger of Digital News: News is faster, richer and more collaborative but can we handle it?

During our research for the Athena Doctrine book, we met Måns Adler and Jonas Vig who have been at the forefront of this digital news transformation. As co-founders of Bambuser, they created a service which has allowed cell phones to be used as live streaming video cameras. During the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Bambuser was the first internet service to be blocked in the country, not Facebook, not Twitter. By allowing young people to broadcast live from the streets of the Tunisian capital, Bambuser was circumventing the government controlled media feed.

Occurrences of the public taking an active role not just in the commenting and distribution but in the shaping of news are becoming ever more frequent—but with varying outcomes.

Last Tuesday afternoon, the AP Twitter feed broadcast a message claiming there had been two explosions at the White House and that the President was injured. Moments later, the stock market, trading off of this information, dropped 150 points. 10 minutes later it was revealed that the AP Twitter account had been hacked and the markets regained their losses.

The Reinhart/Rogoff debt theory, which became a cornerstone of the argument in favor of deficit reduction was weeks later debunked by a University of Massachusetts student.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, the Reddit community identified multiple "suspects" two of which the New York Post chose to print a photo of its cover.

An engaged citizen now has the ability and, in ways, the responsibility to be an active participant on the front row of world events. Yet, in this current media landscape, we cannot rely on ideological markers to filter our trust in the news.

Indeed we heard in our global survey that 72% of people believe practical thinking should trump ideology to tackle today's problems. Balancing emotional and analytical thinking, decisiveness and thoughtfulness is critical to ensure that technological advancements benefit our societies. These are the skills of Athena leaders.