Mark Zuckerberg named 2017’s Misinformer of the Year

Media Matters for America has nailed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, holding him to account for totally ruining civilization by not even acknowledging his responsibilities as a media mogul.

According to Media Matters Angelo Carusone, “We selected Mark Zuckerberg as the Misinformer of the Year because Facebook’s actions in 2017 have been more of a public relations campaign than a deeper systemic approach to address the underlying causes of the proliferation of fake news and disinformation. I know that Facebook has the talent and knows how to implement some meaningful countermeasures. Instead of utilizing that talent, Zuckerberg has spent too much time downplaying the crisis and repeating his mistakes from 2016, like continually caving to right-wing pressure. There are some very basic things that Facebook can do to make meaningful dents in this problem — and my hope for 2018 is that Mark Zuckerberg lets his team take those steps and more.”

Media Matters provides the following bullet list of complaints:

  • Not only did Mark Zuckerberg allow Facebook to be used to mislead, misinform and suppress voters during the 2016 election, but he took active steps in an attempt to assuage right-wing critics that actually made the problem worse. He subsequently downplayed concerns about Facebook’s clear impact on the 2016 election. Instead of learning from those past mistakes, Zuckerberg has repeated them, continuing to act in a way designed to inoculate against or mollify right-wing critics, despite evidence that 126 million Facebook users saw election-related propaganda in 2016.
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s inaction and half-measures illustrate either his lack of recognition of the scope and scale of the crisis or his refusal to accept responsibility. After intense public pressure made Facebook’s misinformation problem impossible to ignore, Zuckerberg announced a series of toothless policy changes that are more public relations ploys than real meaningful solutions. Notably, little effort has been made to improve its news feed algorithm so that Facebook is not turbocharging disreputable or extreme content simply because it has high engagement, or to grapple with the scores of Facebook verified disinformation and fake news pages masquerading as news sites.
  • Facebook’s third-party fact-checking system doesn’t stop fake news from going viral. Fact-checkers who have partnered with Facebook have voiced their concerns about the company’s transparency and effectiveness of their efforts as Zuckerberg has largely refused to release Facebook’s data for independent review.
  • In yet another attempt to mollify right-wing critics, Zuckerberg’s Facebook partnered with disreputable right-wing media outlet The Weekly Standard, thus allowing an outlet that baselessly criticizes fact-checkers and undermines confidence in journalism into its fact-checking program.

Here’s the MM write up

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14 thoughts on “Mark Zuckerberg named 2017’s Misinformer of the Year

  1. Of Course Z “will not even acknowledge [ing ]his responsibilities as a media mogul. ”

    Ted Chiang asks: “Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? ” ….and the answer: “when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism.”

    its a decent and short essay: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tedchiang/the-real-danger-to-civilization-isnt-ai-its-runaway?utm_term=.qaJRKOXOp#.cnRVqb0bM

    I see nothing to dissuade me from Chiang’s analysis- by its very nature , FB is like any other corporate entity- it will not examine its behavior in light of what is “good” for society, Rather, their working imperative is to maximize shareholder value by doing whatever the market will bear….

  2. Expecting people who achieve money and power to feel social responsibility seems to be expecting too much of many of them. I think that such people generally overestimate the degree to which their own efforts have contributed to their success and underestimate all other factors, including having been born at a time when and in a place where whatever they did was possible and well-rewarded. This is certainly the case with Facebook.

    As for placating the current right wing, he might well be thinking that they are the currently rolling political bandwagon, able to use their power to dole out useful favors, and their current base recognizes no neutrality and is capable of great vindictiveness.

  3. allow Facebook to be used to mislead, misinform and suppress voters during the 2016 election,

    I don’t agree with the “allow” bit. Facebook’s tools did let the propaganda farms to buy ads and spread misinformation, but the scale of an operation like Facebook made it highly unlikely that the introduction of foreign currency (the infamous “rubles” stuff) alone would be an indicator of what was going on.

    The lack of transparency in Facebook’s polices and algorithms is a fault, but isn’t theirs alone. He could make a huge step forward by explaining exactly what their news algorithms look for (all of their algorithms, actually) and providing a place where information about advertising targeting and financing could be easily accessed (as traditional media companies do/did).

    His other actions (mentioned in the post above) are inexplicable. I don’t believe he wants (and I certainly don’t want) the government to put strong regulations on Facebook (and Google, and Twitter, …), because the clowns in government have demonstrated
    — they have no real clue how modern technologies work
    — they have no concern for the privacy of of citizens (discussions of whether big companies do either is for another time and place) — that started long ago
    but if he doesn’t begin steering Facebook in a better direction it will happen.

    I think the actions that need to be taken are roughly summed up as “don’t address remedies to the technology, address the remedies to detrimental uses of the technology”.

    1. I still do not see how any “remedies” can take place in the context of the corporate capitalist model. A ‘bottom line view’ can never include the interests of any non-share holding greater public.

      At least by involving government there are more interests represented at the table. “They have no real clue how modern technologies work” is a too easy pass- Crispr, autonomous vehicles, drone warfare, social media and climate change are all areas in which very few can claim proficient all encompassing knowledge- still – without some attempt at transparency , public advocacy and regulation, the old “let the market dictate the outcome” IS the AI doom scenario …

  4. ““They have no real clue how modern technologies work” is a too easy pass-”

    Look at the stupid questions elected officials asked when the big company’s reps were on Capitol Hill and explain how you could argue those officials have any clue about internet issues.

  5. I understand that frustration. That level of wilful ignorance likely has a lot to do with age and the insulative qualities of wealth and position.

    [It could also be argued that the abandonment of the Fairness Doctrine is in part responsible for the level of techno/science ignorance among lawmakers and their constituents today…. Market force driven “news” is particularly scary IMHO]

    Still: are you suggesting that we are better off leaving those issues [Crispr, autonomous vehicles, drone warfare, social media and climate change ] to market forces? Again, I think Chiang is right to point out that worrying over the nuts and bolts of , say, internet neutrality is to ignore the core systemic problem: namely , that no corporate entity , left to its own devices, is capable of enough introspection to recognize that there are consequences for their behavior.

  6. It’s interesting that Facebook is terminating the use of ‘Disputed flags’, apparently because they reinforce biases rather than reducing acceptance of fake news.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/facebook-is-getting-rid-of-its-fact-checking-label-and?utm_term=.ypb30Pgwy#.mnzQbvawl

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2017/12/21/facebook-fail-social-network-scraps-disputed-flags-fake-news/973153001/

    https://medium.com/facebook-design/designing-against-misinformation-e5846b3aa1e2

    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/21/facebook-found-a-better-way-to-fight-fake-news.html

    Some academic work on the subject:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12166/full

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3035384

    I’d be especially interested to see what the impact is of education level in disputed flag reinforcement of belief in fake news. It’s implied in the second study linked above, in the response of Trump supporters, but without the actual data being collected it’s only an inference and not an elucidated correlation.

    Finally, I saw this post and heard of the stories above as I was coincidentally listening to this:

    http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2017/12/bia_20171218.mp3

    The universe appears to want to tell me something today.

  7. are you suggesting that we are better off leaving those issues [Crispr, autonomous vehicles, drone warfare, social media and climate change ] to market forces?

    No. I was not even addressing Crispr, vehicles, or drone warfare.

    My comment was meant to be a warning against viewing the technology as the danger, which, IMO, it is not, instead of guarding against dangerous uses of the technology. Z (and his counterparts elsewhere) need to realize that if they don’t become more transparent in what sorts of data their algorithms look for, and what they do with it, they will be reigned in by people who are the poster children for technological ignorance. If that happens we’ll all be hurt. (Z hasn’t helped himself with the monumentally stupid idea he floated about how to handle the issue of revenge pornish pictures being posted on FB: the details of that process show (again, IMO) that it was clearly a rapidly hacked together bit of crap designed for PR and not anything worthwhile).

    Of course the other things mentioned need to be closely monitored. Implying otherwise was not my intent.

    1. Yes- I hear the difference between the tech and its uses- and I agree. The larger point – and ultimately the place that I feel must be addressed- is that technological development is “guided” by the “who is going to stop me” mantra [paraphrase- Chiang] in the naive [IMHO ] assumption that the corporate entities funding and profiting these technologies exist on an amoral playing field.

      It seems that we are leaping into a Moore’s Law acceleration of technological abilities while assuming that the corporate model of the early 1900’s is still the best economic/social/ecologic system of governance of these technologies.

      There is this tacit belief that Gates, Zuckerberg, Musk et al are really the best arbiters of our social construct vis-a-vis “their” technology. But I see it as that they have been exceptionally good at creating vertical and horizontal monopolies that are about as ruthless as any of the old oil/timber/rail robber barons of yesteryear.

      It will be at least interesting to see how this plays out as these “older” players [Z etc] begin to rub up against say , the quasi state run economy of China…. [to say nothing of the implications of Z’s own presidential ambitions ]

  8. Liberals back to complaining about Fake News, in between bouts of complaining about conservatives’ use of the term ‘fake news’.

  9. No. Actually, we have a Nazi conservative back here to indulge in his adolescent sadistic pastime of annoying people at a web site where he contributes little more than serving as an exemplar of things that are wrong with “conservatives”, i.e., avaricious, adolescent minded people who get away with having an outrageous undeserved sense of entitlement that they use to turn the world into a pile of shit.

    “The accusation of “fake news” or “lying press” has an ominous precedent, tracing back to the history of the German phrase “Lügenpresse.”
    read more: https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.772836

    And I am not complaining about the use of the term “fake news”. What I am doing is point out the fact that Donald J. Trump’s behavior is so steeped in Nazi tradition that our little handed president is little more than a stinking pile of rehashed Nazi crap, and he needs to be impeached and removed at the first possible opportunity. Have a nice day.

    1. Is MikeN actually implying that there is something wrong with complaining about “fake news”? That would mean that there something good to be said for “fake news” aka “lying” wouldn’t it?

      What a strange world modern “conservatives” inhabit.

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