I don't think it would be controversial if I were to say that many politicians, regardless of party or policy, have developed a reputation of being less than truthful in their public statements. This is especially when campaigning for office. It strikes me as a bit of a game – they attempt to say what is in their short-term political interest to say, without being caught in an obvious, provable lie. There are various techniques for playing this game, tells mistruths which are difficult to confirm or refute, use terms of art (e.g. “taxable income”), make significant omissions, and use various tactics of misdirection.
However, these rules seemed to have changed. 2016 may have been the watershed year, but I think that things were changing for a while before then.
In the new game, it seems to be ok for a politician to be caught in a bald-faced lie, so long as challengers of the lie are dismissed, ignored or intimidated. When this behavior happens for long enough that it becomes a political norm, then the entire concepts of honesty and dishonesty could disappear. Once the concept of truth disappears or becomes irrelevant to public discourse and political discourse, our democracy and our society is in a bad way.
At the same, it is becoming easier to create “deep fake” video content. It is possible to fake a tweet or image. A clumsily faked tweet was caught out during the recent Australian election campaign. In this instance, that specific faked content probably backfired. However, according to a recent analysis of this election by the Guardian, misinformation was weaponised in social media networks in an effective shadow campaign. I think it's a safe bet that more of this will happen in democracies - until there is significant change of heart in the social media giants or there are different laws.
How is this relevant to librarians? We are the people, who are meant to be able to say with some expertise, that this information exists (or doesn't exist) here – in this physical or virtual location. To co-opt a term in used in the art world, we try to assess the provenance of information.
While I don't suggest that librarians become fact checkers, I think it is our job to provide an infrastructure where fact checking is possible. Our systems for organizing knowledge, while occasionally arcane or unintuitive, are based on transparency and consistency. This is different from advertising-driven proprietary, opaque and ever-changing algorithms which power Google and other major search engines.
A few links to librarian initiatives in this space
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Truth Integrity Knowledge
Barclay, D. A. (2017). The challenge facing libraries in an era of fake news. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-challenge-facing-libraries-in-an-era-of-fake-news-70828
Farkas, M. (2018). Beyond Fake News: Determining what sources to trust. American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/06/01/beyond-fake-news/
Rose-Wiles, L. (2018). Reflections on Fake News, Librarians, and Undergraduate Research. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3), 200-204. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.3.6606
Sullivan, M. C. (2018). Why librarians can’t fight fake news. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/0961000618764258
Kristen Arnett (Literary Hub), How Librarians Survive on the Frontlines of Fake News
Library Insights blog (Taylor & Francis), Librarians and Fake News: “Trust me, I’m a Librarian!”
Samira Lazarovic (Goethe Institut), Media competence versus manipulation: What can libraries do against fake news?
USC Marshall School of Library Science, Librarians Know the Truth About Fake News