How to fix the fake-news problem.

Did you know that truck drivers in Puerto Rico did NOT actually go on strike during Hurricane Maria relief efforts? Or that a former Obama White House official did NOT actually confirm that they wiretapped Trump Tower? Or that the sexual misdeed accusations against former Senate candidate Roy Moore were NOT actually a setup? Or that the Nazi’s marching (and killing) in Chancellorsville was NOT actually a liberal false flag operation? Or, sadly, that it is NOT true that President Obama is running a “shadow government” in some hidden corner of Washington DC? NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT

Of course you knew that these things are NOT true. But a significant number of people think they are true. These things were spread as fake news, and that fake news was bought hook, line, and sinker by a significant number of people.

What are we going to do about this?

We are going to use SCIENCE to save us, of course.

Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich Ecker, and John Cook (0f Bristol, UWA, and George Mason) just came out with a paper called “Beyond Misinformation: Understanding and Coping with the “Post-Truth” Era.”

This is a part of a larger project these scholars and others have been working on for some time, that springs out of the Climate Change Consensus project, via research on conspiracy ideation, and ultimately landing on the problem of fake news. From the abstract:

Imagine a world that considers knowledge to be “elitist.” Imagine a world in which it is not medical knowledge but a free-for-all opinion market on Twitter that determines whether a newly emergent strain of avian flu is really contagious to humans. This dystopian future is still just that—a possible future. However, there are signs that public discourse is evolving in this direction: terms such as “post-truth” and “fake news,” largely unknown until 2016, have exploded into media and public discourse. This article explores the growing abundance of misinformation in the public sphere, how it influences people, and how to counter it. We show how misinformation can have an adverse impact on society, for example by predisposing parents to make disadvantageous medical decisions for their children. We argue that for countermeasures to be effective, they must be informed by the larger political, technological, and societal context. The post-truth world arguably emerged as a result of societal mega-trends, such as a decline in social capital, growing economic inequality, increased polarization, declining trust in science, and an increasingly fractionated media landscape. Considered against the background lure of individual cognition that can be corrected with appropriate communication tools. Rather, it should also consider the influence of alternative epistemologies that defy conventional standards of evidence. Responses to the post-truth era must therefore include technological solutions that incorporate psychological principles, an interdisciplinary approach that we describe as “technocognition.” Technocognition uses findings from cognitive science to inform the design of information architectures that encourage the dissemination of high-quality information and that discourage the spread of misinformation.

This is good an important work, and will hopefully lead to methodologies to actually filter and fight fake information. I think this work can benefit from further consideration of points made by Shawn Otto in his recent book, The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It, which provides a richer historical and sociological context than Lewandowsky et al do in this paper.

This paper hints that there is more to do in the area of stopping fake news, and suggests a “preferred approach … best described as ‘technocognition’ … the design of information architectures that incorporates principles … to “nudge” against the spread of misinformation, combined with a cognitively inspired program to educate the public and improve journalistic practices.”

I for one will welcome our new Technocogdroids as soon as they arrive!

Sadly, this paper is not available to the unwashed masses, but I promise to write up any and all further work from this team. Stay tuned!

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn

53 thoughts on “How to fix the fake-news problem.

  1. This will be a hard slog. Remember, you still have people who believe Trump’s inauguration crowd was enormous despite evidence (as in shit-tons of pictures) show otherwise, that he has been helping the coal miners despite cancellation of health and other programs devised directly for them, and so on.

    Evidence doesn’t matter to a good segment — possibility the majority — of President Trump’s supporters. As long as the man in the White House is the correct color (in their opinion), they’re happy.

  2. Let’s see…. we find ourselves today to be the defenders of truth… truth defined roughly here as the most accurate representation of reality that can be perceived or communicated…fighting against armies of skilled professional disinformation and FUD specialists working for people of questionable motive and moral fiber, often from nations whose interests are antithetical to our own…. the dis informers have had a head start of anywhere from decades to centuries…they are skillfully appealing to a fear driven populace that thinks with their gut or their arse or some other part of their anatomy….and we have to get the target audience to come to the dance and learn how to embrace truth despite all of that. OK

    Where do I sign up?

  3. A long long slog indeed- it may be that these authors would like to believe there is some societal “payoff” for “truth” so self fulfillingly worthwhile that we all will gravitate towards it. I’m not seeing seeing much evidence. I would suggest that as long as ‘truthiness’ is a function mostly of popularity, that it will be impossible for principles that ““nudge” against the spread of misinformation, combined with a cognitively inspired program to educate the public and improve journalistic practices.”” to make much headway,

    This popularity contest has taken on a social media cachet of “likes” or “retweets” but is deeply rooted in plain ‘ol salesmanship. And the underlying driver is still plain ‘ol psychological manipulation at the behest of plain ‘ol profitability. And amassing dollars is still the yardstick we esteem. And amassed dollars are still the most efficient definer of “truth”….

    Don’t get me wrong- It IS important that we make the effort- that kinda falls under the category of overcoming the existential dilemma IMHO … but we best understand how much inertia is left to overcome.

    1. Nope, they didn’t say that. They did not say people will gravitate towards truth. They say quite the opposite!

      More like, if done right, it is possible to nudge people in the right direction.

    2. They did not say people will gravitate towards truth. They say quite the opposite!

      Rather what Facebook found out with its fake news alert (or whatever it was called) — they found that having a story flagged as fake, or questionable, simply strengthened the belief of the people foolish enough to buy into it in the first place.

      The Republican party has spent decades lying about government, media, science, evidence, etc., so a noticeable fraction of members who would otherwise have been on the edge are now swayed into the crank camp. The most vocal, further to the right (all the racists, etc., or people who think that whites are more discriminated against than anyone else, tea-baggers, libertarians) won’t pay attention to facts. They like their imaginary world.

    1. We have argued that a notable segment of the American
      public now subscribes to a non-standard epistemology that
      does not meet conventional criteria of evidentiary support. This
      non-standard epistemology is buttressed by statements from
      politicians and parts of the news media. We propose that the
      fallout from this post-truth demagoguery is not insignificant,
      in particular because this non-standard epistemology contains
      within it psychological mechanisms to self-perpetuate.
      How can we move on from this state of affairs? Given how
      widespread the problem has become, further laboratory experi-
      mentation to derive better communication and debunking tools
      will, by itself, be insufficient. Techniques for correcting mis-
      information are bound to remain helpful and necessary, and
      effectively pointing out logical flaws in argumentation will con-
      tinue to be valuable in inoculating people against potential
      disinformation campaigns (Cook et al., 2017; Ecker, Hogan, &
      Lewandowsky, 2017; Schwarz et al., 2016).
      But we must look beyond those basic tools. The solution to
      the post-truth malaise ultimately must be informed by political
      constraints and must fit within those constraints. For the sake of
      the argument, we assume that those constraints are favorable,and that there is a sufficiently strong political recognition that
      the current information landscape is unsatisfactory. What might
      the solution involve?
      Our preferred approach is perhaps best described as “tech-
      nocognition”: that is, an inter-disciplinary approach to the
      design of information architectures that incorporates principles
      borrowed from behavioral economics to “nudge” (Thaler & Sun-
      stein, 2008) against the spread of misinformation, combined
      with a cognitively inspired program to educate the public and
      improve journalistic practices. In a nutshell, the idea of tech-
      nocognition is to design better information architectures that
      can build bridges between the socially-defined epistemic islands
      that define the post-truth era. If technology can facilitate such
      epistemic fractionation in the first place (Persily, 2017), then it
      stands to reason that it might also contribute to the solution.

      Cognition of Inoculation and Discernment
      There is a sizeable literature in the global security arena that
      has confronted the problem of disinformation in various guises,
      most recently in the context of Russia’s presumed disinforma-
      tion campaigns against Western interests (e.g., Abrams, 2016;
      Bjola & Pamment, 2016; Kragh & Åsberg, 2017; Pomerant-
      sev & Weiss, 2014). 7 That research has come to conclusions
      not dissimilar to ours. For example, Bjola and Pamment (2016)
      concluded that Russian propaganda can be “digitally con-
      tained” by “supporting media literacy and source criticism,encouraging institutional resilience, and promoting a clear and
      coherent strategic narrative capable of containing the threat from
      inconsistent counter-messaging. Ultimately, the citizens of the
      EU and Eastern neighbourhood must be supported so that they
      can cease to be targets of propaganda, and instead act as nodes
      in its containment” (p. 9).
      Pomerantsev and Weiss (2014) provided a set of recommen-
      dations that were crafted to counter Kremlin propaganda but that
      can be generalized to the general post-truth problem. The follow-
      ing list extends and augments Pomerantsev and Weiss (2014)’s
      recommendations:

    2. 1. An international NGO is required that could create a rec-
      ognized rating system for disinformation and would provide
      tools with which it can be recognized. Pioneering develop-
      ments along those lines exist already, for example in the form
      of the ClimateFeedback (http://www.climatefeedback.org/)
      organization which provides fact-checking of media articles
      in the climate arena.
      2. A “Disinformation Charter” should be developed for media
      and bloggers that defines what is acceptable and unacceptable
      behavior and commits signing organizations to standards of
      accuracy.
      3. Many newspapers already employ ombudsmen or editors who
      oversee the paper’s operation and respond to public critique.
      The new position of a counter fake news editor would high-
      light disinformation that is circulating in the public sphere
      and would use the paper to debunk it.
      4. At present, many representatives of think tanks and corpo-
      rate front groups appear in the media without revealing their
      affiliations and conflicts of interest. This practice must be
      tightened and rigorous disclosure of all affiliations and inter-
      ests must take center-stage in media reporting.
      5. The public must be made aware of how “fake news” cam-
      paigns work and how they can be spotted. Inoculation
      strategies (e.g., Cook et al., 2017) can limit the damaging
      effects of disinformation, but this requires further research
      and broader application.
      6. General training in information literacy is required so students
      learn which information to trust, particularly online. Recent
      efforts along those lines have yielded promising results (e.g.,
      Walton & Hepworth, 2011).
      7. People must be educated about (a) the realities of cyber-
      bullying techniques, such as trolling and sock puppets, and
      how they can be countered, and (b) the mechanisms of auto-
      mated filter bubbles as well as targeted disinformation and
      nudging campaigns based on their online profiles (Persily,
      2017).
      8. People should be encouraged to make their voices heard, not
      just to directly persuade, but also to influence people’s per-
      ceptions of norms and the prevalence of opinions, so that
      false-consensus effects do not arise. Even a few dissenting
      voices can shift the perceived social norm (i.e., the perceived
      range of acceptable views), thus legitimizing opposition and
      encouraging evidence-based discourse. In this context, it is
      important for scientists to know that engagement in advocacy does not necessarily hurt their credibility

    3. The Technology of Overcoming the Post-Truth Malaise
      On the technological side, there has been much promising
      recent work. At the time of this writing, the response of internet
      giants such as Facebook and Google to the post-truth crisis was
      ongoing and has been unfolding rapidly. We list a sample of
      developments that appear promising:
      1. Algorithmic fact checkers, that is computer programs that
      automatically detect misinformation, are presently in their
      infancy. However, initial research has established their fea-
      sibility. For example, Ciampaglia et al. (2015) showed that
      using a knowledge representation that was extracted from
      Wikipedia, an algorithm consistently assigned greater truth
      value to statements that were independently known to be true
      than to false statements. Fact checkers of this type could be
      added to the information returned by search engines. Indeed,
      at the time of this writing, Google has been experimenting
      with fact-checking and disinformation alerts as parts of their
      routine search results (with, arguably, limited success thus
      far).
      2. Provided that fact checking is available, this information can
      be used to alert users of social media that something they
      are about to share is likely false. At the time of this writing,
      Facebook appears to have commenced this practice. Like-
      wise, Google provides additional information pointing to fact
      checks and debunking websites in response to certain search
      terms (e.g., “Obama birth certificate”).
      3. Google is also sponsoring development of a web-based app
      that combines machine learning and artificial-intelligence
      technologies to help journalists fact-check. The app will
      include the capability to search “big data” such as police and
      government records (Donnelly, 2017).
      4. Reader comments on news articles and blog posts are known
      to affect other readers’ impressions and behavioral intentions
      (e.g., Lee, 2012; Stavrositu & Kim, 2015; Winter & Krämer,
      2016). The mere tone of blog comments—that is, whether
      they are civil or uncivil—has been shown to affect people’s
      attitudes towards scientific issues they do not understand well.
      Anderson et al. (2013) have shown that when people read a
      neutral blog post about an issue such as nanotechnology, about
      which people typically know very little, exposure to uncivil
      comments, such as name calling and other expressions of
      incivility, polarized reader’s views of the technology.
      The fact that a few commenters can sway readers’ opinion
      and can set the tone of discourse is of growing concern to
      internet news services and media providers. In response, some
      sites have introduced strict moderation of comments, as for
      example TheConversation.com which employs a “community
      manager” and has entertained options such as a “community
      council” to provide moderation (https://theconversation.
      com/involving-a-community-council-in-moderation-25547).
      Another alternative that is being explored by at least one Nor-
      wegian site is the requirement that readers must pass a brief comprehension quiz before being permitted to post comments
      (http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/03/this-site-is-taking-the-
      edge-off-rant-mode-by-making-readers-pass-a-quiz-before-
      commenting/). If it turns out to be successful, the latter idea
      appears particularly attractive because it can be automated
      and it is difficult to see how it could be construed as
      censorship.
      5. At present, most online users are, knowingly or not, put into
      a filter bubble (Pariser, 2011) based on their known pre-
      ferences. For example, Facebook is presenting personalized
      posts to users that are consistent with their likes and other
      algorithmically inferred preferences. While convenient, those
      recommendations and other customization tools facilitate fur-
      ther fractionation of the public. One solution is to increase the
      social distance of suggested content from the person’s prefer-
      ences, to escape or at least to broaden the filter bubble. The
      challenge is to find material that is sufficiently different to
      burst the filter bubble without being so different that it will
      be disregarded for being too offensive to the user.

  4. Thanks Greg-
    A few random thoughts as I’m home battling a lingering viral infection …

    this almost sounds as if the authors want to see an internet reestablished along its initial educational/research premise – ‘International NGO’ as a “universal peer reviewed” board. ‘Disinformation charter’ as academic standards certification etc. Man would I love to see that!

    I’m sure they were aware of the tenuousness of “The solution to
    the post-truth malaise ultimately must be informed by political
    constraints and must fit within those constraints. For the sake of
    the argument, we assume that those constraints are favorable, and that there is a sufficiently strong political recognition that the current information landscape is unsatisfactory.” -I’m wondering if the situation is not the polar opposite…

    And the suggestion of a “fake news ombudsmen” is worthwhile but , in light of, say, the MSM’s pre election attention to Trump as a way to get viewership and its parallel dismissal of Sanders as “just a fringe candidate “seems to me to require a much finer dissection of news “validity” [and who makes THAT call?]

    Dean makes a valid point re the attraction of “counter news” , The authors observation that “Even a few dissenting voices can shift the perceived social norm (i.e., the perceived range of acceptable views), thus legitimizing opposition ” unfortunately seems as applicable to the false news narrative.

    Finally- its important to note that the entities lauded for their attempts to filter : Google and FB, are still profit driven. Will they maintain enough neutrality to nurture , for instance, a discussion about their own carbon footprint or the influence of consumer ads on kids?

    Still- as I said before- It is of utmost importance that we see folk beginning multidisciplinary research into this- As a society we are incredibly behind the curve in recognizing that new tech has ramifications far beyond an amoral “do it cause we can” future – from autonomous car liabilities to drone warfare decisions to data privacy to child imaged sex robots – we have a lot to talk about….

  5. I think the best way to get out of the bubble, whether self-imposed or unknowingly created, is to read stuff from outside the bubble.

    I listen to progressive radio (AM950 in the twin cities), I read WP and the New York Times and other progressive news, and I go to progressive blogs to engage. This blog and ATTP’s are my favorites. Ditto for TV.

    I also read stuff which agrees with my world view (conservative/libertarian).

    For progressives, I recommend getting outside your bubble – just to see what is being said by those people.

    It can be very interesting.

    And entertaining also.

  6. There are Christian groups and political groups who are purposefully waging propaganda campaigns with fake news stories. They want their beliefs to be taught as facts in schools, they want critical thinking skills removed from curricula, they want political power and they want to change the makeup of the courts. Since they have largely succeeded, how are we going to educate people about how to apply reasonableness criteria to these stories, how are we going to convince people they need to question what they read or hear? The education systems around the country have been corrupted, and the political systems around the country have been largely taken over by people who will protect the corrupted educational systems.

    What do you propose as a way to get back the social and political power which will be needed to implement all of your rational solutions? Because until you can get back control of schools and media, you have no hope of being reasonable and still winning the propaganda war.

  7. Deception.

    A Viceroy butterfly deceives predators into thinking that it is an unpalatable Monarch butterfly. The mechanism of the Viceroy’s deception requires there to be two actors with divergent or conflicting goals, and rigid inaccurate “knowledge” on the part of the predator.

    In a polarized society, it seems to me that a lot of deception will take place due to jockeying for advantage, inspired by the struggle for finite resources thought to be needed for physical or political survival. Knee jerk reptilian defensive responses thrive.

    We have increasingly lost the idea that all living breathing humans have value, and instead have descended to primitive tribalism, often masquerading as righteousness or morality. As humans of various groups are targeted for group dehumanization by different ideologies, the sadistic impulse of the troll, the mercenary, becomes acceptable and even rewarded. Curiousity and the quest for knowledge and understanding are superceded by Lord of the Flies survival instincts.

    We have a lot of work to do.

    1. That nbc link has a great bit of “fake information” of its own — the writer, near the end, refers to Richard Charnin as an “expert”, using Moore’s reference. The article does indicate (to rational people) that Charnin is nothing more than a loon by mentioning he is a Kennedy conspiracy monger, that the 2004 election was “stolen”, that HRC “stole” the 2016 nomination, and that President Trump actually won the popular vote, but there is nothing pointing out that his views on those issues are pure bullshit.

    2. Dean’s point re the nbc “fake news ” dovetails with my concerns about MSM enabling various contextual narratives that are at least dubious. The rarely questioned ideas that drive MSM have IMHO swung their overall assumptions well to the Right.

      The idea , as RickA suggests ,that WaPo and NYT represent “progressive” media is laughable- sure , they might embrace the realities of climate change or evolution but politically and economically they scarcely gain even the middle of the spectrum…

      To those who believe we are better off leaving the arena to the techno gurus who created these wondersites, I offer Peter Thiel as evidence that these folk are the LAST ones we can trust – do a quick search on his big data startup Palantir , his takedown of Gawker, and then get Doctorow et al ‘s views here: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/27/moral-flexiblity.html

  8. How would these mechanisms deal with the media’s reporting of ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ or that George Zimmerman said ‘He looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.’?
    Lots of people ended up dead over this fake news.

    1. Someone in need of a proper algorithm, though I suspect the proposed Ministry of Truth will not highlight things that fit the liberal narrative as fake news.

    2. and therein is the depth of the disconnect- I , and my fellow leftists, find current media to be laughably right wing- from the Iraq invasion , to the quiet acceptance that corporations be accorded more and more ‘rights’ , to the paucity of coverage re the dearth of mental health resources nationwide, to the Wall St recession rescue , to the unquestioned morality of drone warfare, its been naught but an outspoken defense of the Right. – we still would echo Jameson :” it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism”

    3. Curtis goodnight says ” …media to be laughably right wing-… ”
      Just an idea, but if one activly desires slant, slant is what they percieve, whether its to their liking or not.
      If one desires news, its easy to get it from news outlets and its rarely incorrect. News outlets are very accurate in just about everything.
      If they report a motorcar or boating accident, or cholera outbreak, or bridge collapse, or a country or region engaging in conflict, i absolutly trust they aint lying . Whats the point in saying a bridge collapsed and showing images of such, if it hasnt in reality collapsed? Way to get pilloried by all and go out of business quick!
      If one likes news, peruse news.
      If one likes slant, peruse slant.

      Li D
      Australia.

    4. In a non nuanced society you would be right- but consider this: If I choose to print just one facet of the news- say only the economic upside [increased crop yield, full employment, higher tax incomes ] associated with phosphate based intensive agriculture in the US Mississippi drainage, then how is the citizenry to become aware of the fact that the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is , as of this year, 8,776 square miles, an area about the size of New Jersey. [It is the largest measured since dead zone mapping began there in 1985]?

      You and I might delve into the NOAA paper on that subject but to expect that level of self education to trickle down to the average citizen is certainly not what I have encountered out there….

    5. Hoy Greg. I get yanks are exceptionalist as fuck, but if you are concerned with fakery and untruth , could you please get the time of comments correct. I just posted on the morning of the first of Jan, not yesterday afternoon, as claimed.
      Use GMT maybe for everything, so all contributers are on the same timeline.
      Just an idea anyhow.

    6. But not reporting an event ( and an appalling dead zone is a great example btw ) isnt fake . Its just selective editing.
      Christ, theres virtually infinite events not relayed. Thats where a news peruserer that has niche interests selects outlets that focus on said niche.
      The control is totally with the consumer, not the news editors.
      If an editor dosnt satisfy , go to another.
      The diversity is huge in all fields.
      From ballet to chess to civil construction to environmental damage to the latest happenings in textiles to criminal trials to policing ( sometimes live! ) to deaths of notable people to agricultural product prices.
      People can have what interests them and dont need an external editor to decide.
      Thats how i see it anyhow.

    7. I see the point- but I don’t see that reflected in this culture- part of the assumption that underlies capitalism is that it is somehow ok to manipulate the consumer into decisions that benefit solely the producer. Appeals to sensationalism , for instance, seem to be the easiest way to garner reader/viewership. Multiply that effect and the citizenry quickly say, supports an invasion of a newly anointed “enemy”. It seems to me that a fundamental tenet of democracy is an informed citizenry. And that presumes there is an “informer”. How to best achieve a fair , balanced and educated agency within that is of course what begat this discussion.

      You may be right – a net based free for all may end up being what has to happen because any regulation is beyond our techno or cultural capacities. But in that case, we will have , by default, turned that ‘editing’ over to ultimately Zuckenberg, Thiel, et al… much like the recent American election, our political [and ultimately our ecological] futures will be decided by those answerable to maximizing shareholder value. A grim prospect IMHO…

    8. ” …somehow ok to manipulate … ”
      Mmmm . A good point to raise.
      As if manipulation is part and parcel of , perhaps not just capialism, but society and civilization itself. Embedded. Ingrained.
      Mmmmm
      I personally value transparency and integrity because it seems to achieve the best results in every aspect of life.
      An argument could well be made , if things are going down the shitter, transparency and integrity have been compromised somewhere along the line, big meteorite hit excluded!

    9. yeah I hear ya…. but then again twas likely this way all along. Two of my field biologist buddies give James C Scot’s “Against the Grain” high marks. In it he suggests that the move from hunter gatherer to agrarianism wrought a lot of the accumulation and control patterns that we are paying for today. [I’ve not read it, but a long while back I read a Jared Diamond essay making the same point]

      Like you- I’ll act on that “transparency and integrity”. As i said elsewhere- Bene Brown makes a well researched argument for living that way…. or maybe I’ll just channel my inner Hobbit and plod forward…. Happy New Year!

  9. Much as I support the intent of Lewandowsky et al- their failure to address the REAL elephant in the room, namely manipulation for economic gain, leaves out what ultimately has been driving “Fake news” …Here is yet another example of an end run around our algorithmic [and i would submit, profit based] overlords: getting climate change denial ads onto search results:

    “In retrospect, it’s easy to see how this could happen. The people promoting the scientific consensus on climate are devoted to making web-pages and other information resources on the looming crisis. The people denying the consensus are devoted to figuring out how Google works and defeating its countermeasures. Because one group is devoted to climate and the other is devoted to tricking Google, even small insights gained by the latter team will translate into huge gains in the search results.”

    https://boingboing.net/2017/12/30/liar-liar-world-on-fire.html ….original in NYT

  10. There’s also the other fake-news problem:

    Here is CNN International’s Twitter feed over 18 hours:(trimmed by me)

    10 great places where you can travel for a New Year’s Eve
    Apple has apologized to customers
    2018’s first supermoon
    Trump’s 2017, in 17 tweets
    India’s richest man buys brother’s mobile business after pricing him out
    No, President Trump’s approval rating hasn’t caught up to Obama’s
    Lake-effect snow has been in the news lately
    The relationship between the US and Russia is one of the major disappointments of the year, the Kremlin says
    The most popular GIF of 2017 actually perfectly sums up 2017
    What will the news and events of 2018 bring?
    Will your diet start Monday? Try the “non-diet diet”
    No, President Trump’s approval rating hasn’t caught up to Obama’s
    Former President Obama: “Go keep changing the world in 2018”
    It takes 300 people, 12,000 parts and a year to make a single Steinway & Sons piano.
    More than a dozen animals rescued from a zoo outside Aleppo, Syria,
    Former British PM Margaret Thatcher once refused to share a flight to Washington with a giant panda
    This incredible time-lapse of the Northern Lights
    An LA-to-Tokyo flight turned around after 8 hours because of a passenger who wasn’t supposed to be on board.
    How exactly does a passenger get on the wrong flight and go unnoticed for hours?
    The World Health Organization will recognize gaming disorder as a mental health condition
    Meet Swoosh, a cancer therapy dog, and watch him surprise two young boys battling cancer
    Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and BeeGees co-founder Barry Gibb have been knighted
    Trump’s 2017, in 17 tweets
    A charity is launching a vending machine for the homeless
    Obama and Hillary Clinton remain the most admired man and woman in the United States
    Six mind-body tips for less holiday stress
    Avocados are a common ingredient on restaurant menus around the world
    Regional or widespread flu activity has been reported across most of the US.
    President Trump lays out his immigration deal demands
    Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and BeeGees co-founder Barry Gibb have been knighted
    In a race against looming changes to the tax code, Goldman Sachs handed out nearly $100 million
    Puerto Rico: Power restored to 55% of customers, governor’s office says
    President Trump, Amazon and the US Postal Service: The story behind the tweet
    A charity is launching a vending machine for the homeless
    Trump has terminated appointments of remaining members of Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
    No, President Trump’s approval rating hasn’t caught up to Obama’s
    Former British PM Margaret Thatcher once refused to share a flight to Washington with a giant panda
    President Trump’s first formal medical exam since taking office will be on Jan 12
    Sue Grafton, the best-selling mystery writer who penned 25 novels with alphabet-based titles, has died
    Donald Trump doesn’t know the difference between climate and weather
    2017: A year of monumental change in the media
    Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and BeeGees co-founder Barry Gibb have been knighted
    President Trump lays out his immigration deal demands
    The US State Department posted a number of emails belonging to Huma Abedin
    Review: “Black Mirror” returns solid
    How cold is it? It’s water-freezes-in-mid-air, crack-in-your-window, close-the-ice-hockey-rinks cold

    It’s improved slightly in the last few hours.

    1. None of the items you list are “fake news” in the sense being discussed in Greg’s post.
      A good number of the items you list would qualify as (in my terms) completely worthless factoids.
      The fake news being discussed consists of statements presented as fact but which are demonstrably false:
      > Trump’s win was historically large
      > The economy was in terrible shape when Trump took office
      > Obama was a “fake president” because he was not an American citizen
      > The recently passed tax cut was the largest in
      > A whistleblower revealed that a portion of a government study that found direct evidence of a link between vaccines and autism was removed from the report about the study
      > Global warming is a conspiracy — as evidenced by the fact that Arctic ice is at the greatest extent now it has ever been

      And so on. Those items and surrounding stories qualify as fake news.

      Shitty coverage refers to things like I referenced above: the referral to people like Moore’s supporter as an “election fraud expert” when he is anything but.

    2. You missed the point. This was from CNN International over a particular time period that had some important events. This timeline does not have those.

  11. There are people who value truth, who want to find the truth, and they seek it out. And there are other people who do not care a bit about the truth, and still others who actively fight it. This later class will purposely prevent access to knowledge and information through distortion, misrepresentation, false witness, inflammatory pronouncements intended to provoke counter attacks, denial of access attacks, etc., all for the purpose of advancing their goals, be they monetary or psychopathic and sadistic.

    1. Good point Steve – I am guessing that although we do hear of the “psychopathic and sadistic” [in part because THAT news ‘sells’], the vast majority of fakery is driven by pecuniary or political interests. Russian efforts during the 016 elections may reflect Putins own checkbook – although I have seen nicely reasoned articles that suggest his strategies are more reactionary habits rather than the pocket linings of possibly the richest man on the planet….

  12. “It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.”

    http://deadline.com/2016/11/shocked-by-trump-new-york-times-finds-time-for-soul-searching-1201852490/

  13. Curtis, I agree that money and its associated politics does drive much or most of the news cycle. I should have specified that my comment about psychopathy and sadism is aimed squarely at the superabundance of vicious uncivil trolls that now infest internet forums and comments sections. And I concede that much of their behavior is explicable by the existance of paid farm trolls working for political interest groups. But in addition to this, there is a certain overall loss of civility in forums that puts an edge on things and often looks like the empathy free, gleefully hurtful assault of the street variety everyday sadist. And again, it might be done for money. This relates to one of the points conveyed by Greg above…. “4. Reader comments on news articles and blog posts are known to affect other readers’ impressions and behavioral intentions (e.g., Lee, 2012; Stavrositu & Kim, 2015; Winter & Krämer, 2016). The mere tone of blog comments—that is, whether they are civil or uncivil—has been shown to affect people’s attitudes towards scientific issues they do not understand well.”

    So we may very well have paid farm trolls and their unpaid sympathetic cohorts working to contaminate every major news site , comments section, and blog with vicious memes and tones, quite possibly meant to help push cultural norms in a particular direction and to fragment and destroy societal cohesiveness.

    1. Steve- it is an unfortunate truth that the anonymity of the Net has amped up the viciousness. And the current political/news environment has undoubtably nurtured even more of that non civility…. I think Bene Brown’s research into vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame shines some important light on what steps we likely all need to take in this regard.

  14. Happy New Year all. Best wishes as we wend our way through distractions, diversions, and distortions in our search of Truth.

  15. People on this site were ridiculing me for saying that the Left invented the term ‘Fake News’, to refer to pro-Trump propaganda, only to have it flipped around on them. Now it’s being used here with the original meaning, and not Trump’s bashing of media he doesn’t like.

    1. This article can be dismissed. Anyone with a half-functioning brain who supports Trump, as this writer-hack apparently does, is in serious need of medical attention IMHO. Forget the supposedly ‘fake news’ that Trump endlessly rails on about; the very real news of him and his kleptocracy is enough to confirm anyone’s worst fears. He has loaded his deck with unqualified corporate lobbyists and anti-environmental morons. That is a fact that even this imbicilic POTUS can’t hide. Indeed, under Trump the US is a global laughingstock, as his puerile tweets are endlessly reported around the world. In the past the US has been alternatively admired, reviled, scorned, sympathized and pitied; now it is a running joke.

  16. “In the final weeks of the US presidential election, Veles [Macedonia] attained a weird infamy in the most powerful nation on earth; stories in The Guardian and on BuzzFeed revealed that the Macedonian town of 55,000 was the registered home of at least 100 pro-Trump websites, many of them filled with sensationalist, utterly fake news.”
    Samanth Subramanian in Wired, Feb.15, 2017

  17. Professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University predicted that the rapidly warming Arctic (and it is rapidly warming due to Global Warming) would cause the jet stream to get wavier and produce anomalous weather of the sort we are seeing this winter. Such a concept with more than two moving parts, however, seems to be easy prey for those with a school yard bully mentality to attack. The purveyors of false information seem to take advantage of this sort of thing. A lot. A big part of the false information cycle is the gullibility of the recipients of it and their lack of sophistication in vetting news sources, and in their being unaware or unmindful of their emotional bias when evaluating information.

    1. In teaching college students for many years, I can attest to the difficulty that many seemingly normal young adults have with solving two-step problems. I was shocked and amazed.

  18. Indeed, SteveP, and this gullibility (or lack of sophistication, if you will) is an advantage to those who might wish to push a misleading narrative — such as that the “Russiagate” investigation is an attempt to poison better relations between east and west.

    The idea that America should have a two-tiered education system, with trade schools for the many and a well-rounded, academic education for the few, has a long history. A good source on this is Left Back by Diane Ravitch. I’ve quoted elsewhere the words of 19th-century education reformer Louis W. Rapeer that the purpose of academic studies is to “accentuate class distinctions and fit an aristocracy for awing and ruling the masses.”

    A similar attitude seems to drive the modern movement to base public-school curricula on the Bible and eliminate classes on critical thinking.

    1. Re: “… base public-school curricula on the Bible and eliminate classes on critical thinking.”

      Be aware that although some of these sorts of people have come out against critical thinking courses, others 1984ishly use the phrase “critical thinking” to support and work for the incorporation of denial of the truth/reality of global warming (especially anthropomorphic G W) and biological evolution in public school curricula. To bolster such alt truth, Several GOP-dominated states now have laws on the books allowing teachers to use alternative books etc. to point out the defects in the scientific conclusions about such subjects. In 2017, the conservative GE-denying Heartland Institute sent unsolicited packets of climate change disinformation to 25,000 teachers. See the National Center for Science Education website for specifics about the disinformation campaign.

    2. …others 1984ishly use the phrase “critical thinking” to support and work for the incorporation of denial of the truth…

      You don’t need to move on to specifying climate change in that context. Refer to Betsy DeVos’ testimony in which she gave fake statistics* on charter school graduation rates in order to bolster her claim that charter schools were succeeding**.
      * Fake in this sense: investigations showed that the schools she discussed had never met the graduation requirements state schools were held to, and to which their charter holders agreed to meet, and so made up their own metrics for public disclosure in order to make themselves appear good. Those metrics are recognized by none of the governing boards.
      ** She has discussed charter schools she supported in Detroit for their role in improving the lives of, and expanding educational opportunities for, children there. But: those schools performed below the levels achieved by public schools on the state mandated assessments (which are, to be honest, almost completely worthless, but they are mandated by our Republican leaders) and fell behind in other ways as well.
      In fact, those Detroit schools closed (bankruptcy) this past spring and stiffed teachers and staff (not administrators though) out of over 3 months worth of pay.

      Even though her comments on these schools were completely false, contradicted by facts easily available to anyone to find, the right here in Michigan continues to hold those schools up as great examples of what an “independent thinker” like Mrs. DeVos can do.

  19. Tyvor makes the point that if we continue to grant the private sector an out sized voice in information/education we will continue to see our public policies reflect a decidedly non science pro-profit POV.

    I would also add that there are historical narratives that helped shape this “greatest greed equals greatest good ” story that IMHO underlies a big part of where we are today. I have often wondered why , until the Sanders campaign , America had such a hard time even using a word like “socialism”. Seemed there are plenty of examples of [mostly] Nordic states that had some element of “social democracy” that still nurtured entrepreneur wealth accumulation. A part of the reason? -the early Red Scare days set an agenda in higher education – California universities saw out right purges of profs who dared drift too far left. Communist Party members were forbidden to hold state jobs

    Lest you believe, as I did , that this is just some ancient morality play that has no bearing on todays world, it is noteworthy that the attempt to rescind that law was only made [ and barely passed!] in May 2017…. such a ‘level playing field’…..

Leave a Reply to RickA Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.