Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

It will be an exaggeration to say that Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp are spreading knowledge at a rate faster than the speed of light.

I observed three kinds of knowledge on these platforms.

  1. Fake knowledge: Often, these are facts and opinions which get circulated by people whose identity is difficult to trace, and so is it’s validity. Hence, it is fake knowledge. Readers need to be cautious while using this kind of knowledge to make decisions.
  2. Folk knowledge: This kind of knowledge is embedded in articles written on platforms like Medium or in the answers written on platforms like Quora. Opinions and facts included in these articles are often owned by authors. These are well-intentioned articles. Authors want to share their understanding of a particular topic with others having the same interest with an intention to help them. Last year, I found many useful articles and videos about Machine Learning on platforms like Medium, Quora and YouTube, when I decided to study the topic of Machine Learning. The only problem with this kind of knowledge is that it is difficult to ascertain the level of expertise and authority of the author on that topic. But this kind of knowledge is easy to understand. With little effort and experience, a reader can ascertain the validity of this kind of knowledge. A beginner can get much-needed traction to start developing expertise on a particular topic.
  3. Faculty knowledge: The most appropriate name for this kind of knowledge can be an authority or expert knowledge. But for convenience, I am referring it as a Faculty knowledge. Like folk knowledge, this kind of knowledge is owned by its creator. Unlike folk knowledge, the authority or the level of expertise of the author on the topic is well established. For example, the lectures available on YouTube given by Andrew Ng on Machine Learning belongs to this kind of knowledge.

The principle of ‘Everything that glitters is not gold’ applies to social knowledge. The validity of social knowledge needs to be checked to use it for decision making.

Footnote: Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that deals with the kinds of knowledge and distinctions among them.

Arvind is a Professor of Computer Engineering in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University Lonere India.