Pope Francis Warns Journalists of ‘Groupthink,’ ‘Cognitive Pollution’

Pope Francis speaks to reporters during a news conference onboard the papal plane on his f

ROME — Pope Francis warned of the dangers of “Big Data” Wednesday, noting “algorithms are not neutral” and can be used to spread fake news and create groupthink.

Artificial intelligence systems can “be a source of ‘cognitive pollution,’ a distortion of reality by partially or completely false narratives, believed and broadcast as if they were true,” the pontiff argues in his 2024 Message for the World Day of Social Communications.

The digital revolution can imprison people “in models that nowadays are called ‘echo chambers,’” the pope states, and rather than increasing a “pluralism of information,” they create confusion.

“It is unacceptable that the use of artificial intelligence should lead to groupthink, to a gathering of unverified data, to a collective editorial dereliction of duty,” he adds.

In his Message, the pope cautions of the dangers of date processing algorithms that “in the wrong hands could lead to disturbing scenarios,” since “algorithms are not neutral.”

Pope Francis speaks to journalists traveling with him on the return flight to Rome from his Apostolic Journey to Hungary on April 30, 2023 in Budapest, Hungary. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

Attempting to control the narrative through algorithms and systems of artificial intelligence leads to “reducing pluralism,” “polarizing public opinion,” and “creating forms of groupthink.”

Such groupthink can propagate “catastrophic predictions and their numbing effects,” which must be avoided at all costs, the pope suggests.

Although the pope offers no concrete examples of this, one can immediately think of the groupthink surrounding climate change alarmism, which admits no alternative narratives, or the groupthink created during the coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to make “the science” serve political ideology.

“We need but think of the long-standing problem of disinformation in the form of fake news,” Francis writes, “which today can employ ‘deepfakes,’ namely the creation and diffusion of images that appear perfectly plausible but false.”


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