Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg

Latest Fake News: Facebook battling fake news

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Facebook leader Mark Zuckerberg has made moves to look like he battling fake news, but his project is doomed to fail. First, Facebook is explicitly not banning fake news, nor is it banning individuals known to be 100% fake news purveyors. Second, Facebook has brought in “experts” to examine news to see if it is fake that are, in turn, Koch funded right wing/libertarian tools.

There is a writeup on this at Think Progress by Joe Romm.

I’ve seen, and in some cases, been part of various efforts by various on line entities to clean up fake news or, more often, anti-science news or activism. What I’ve found in every case is that there is an enormous perceived shift in the bottom line for on line entities that keep out fake news vs. those that ignore it, or even encourage it.

In fact, I suspect that people who are more likely to believe, purvey, or defend fake news are also more likely to be ripped off by unscrupulous retailers. The scruples of the business are one thing, the profit levels are another. Facebook makes its money off of retailers making profits. Facebook is going to be dragged out of the fake news business kicking and screaming, if ever.

If you are like me, you live in a Facebook bubble. I do not maintain “friend” status with purveyors of fake news. The people on my Facebook feed are generally much more interested in the truth. So, it is hard to see the fake news problem as very important.

But there are all these other people who also live in a Facebook bubble. Their bubble is full of fake news. Their friends include voters, influencers, parents, maybe even teachers, who are living in that fake news bubble as well. This is a real problem. Facebook fakeness is the proximate reason that Donald Trump is president. I don’t think Mark Zuckerberg is taking that seriously, and I assume this is because he is biased by the prospect of a huge shift in profits with vs. without the heavy spice of alt-reality in the feed.


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9 thoughts on “Latest Fake News: Facebook battling fake news

  1. Yeah, their attpts so FSR have sucked. They essentially boil down to removing things that are direct threats or that “cause direct harm”, but it’s difficult to buy the second one completely when Info wars and for news are still around spouting lies.

    It’s also the case that this will require adjusting their core algorithms: they are trained to promote posts and comments that get a large number of likes quickly, which is exactly what hot topics of any flavor do, so they need some measurable way of distinguishing between crap from (info wars, fox, “Patriot” groups, …) and fact based material.

    First though, there needs to be a commitment to do this, and I haven’t seen one.

  2. Politifact awarded Mitt Romney “Lie of the Year” for a statement that was true.
    I don’t want a bunch of liberal groups deciding what speech is acceptable and what should be censored.

    1. I don’t want a bunch of liberal groups deciding what speech is acceptable and what should be censored.

      It’s a very good thing your asinine comment isn’t what is being considered.

    2. Just out of curiosity, how about having a bunch of tea partyish conservative groups deciding what speech is acceptable and what should be censored? Or groups like the CIA and whatever the KGB is now? What about censorship based on lack of popularity? Any personal likes or dislikes in these cases?

  3. No one ever lost money by underestimating the taste of the American public — a statement (or a paraphrase of a statement) attributed to P. T. Barnum. Replace taste with gullibility and you have the appeal of Facebook, Twitter, etc. with propagandists.

    I doubt that much can be done about it in the U.S. because many people like it, there is a lot of money being made because of it, and just about anyone with a political or social agenda needs it. Oh yeah, and the GOP is in power now.

    1. Not Barnum, but a distorted bit of something written by H. L. Mencken. His words were

      “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

      It is relevant thought, as he was writing on the “tabloid journalism” of the day. He viewed the tabloid papers as

      geared toward uneducated readers, including those (Mencken described as) “near-illiterates.”

      I doubt that much can be done about it in the U.S. because many people like it, there is a lot of money being made because of it, and just about anyone with a political or social agenda needs it.

      I think you are condensing the use of FB a bit too much. Most people do not have feeds that are swarming with the likes of nazis, alex jones, “patriots”, white supremacists, etc. There is a bit of walling off — you need to seek them out. The question FB is “wrestling” with is whether those sources should be there at all. As I mentioned above, the “get rid of anyone who threatens or harms others” clearly doesn’t go far enough, but coming up with a method that will scale is going to be hard (I may be giving FB and is engineers too much credit here, but I do think they are working on it). They had a huge issue with sorting out how do deal with news vs “fake news”, and at one point tried a hammer that included opinion pieces as political advertising.

      Two final points: They’ll get hit hard from morons who think they are “censoring free speech” — the usual people who think companies saying “you can’t use our platform” means a subject will never be able to get a message out elsewhere, and (second) even though I believe they are working on this, I’m not optimistic they’ll get it right on the first try: the “solution” they proposed for dealing with people posting compromising pictures of people without consent was mind-bogging in its stupidity, so they don’t have a good track record of fixing things.

  4. The first year or so I was on Facebook, I regularly saw ads mourning the loss of celebrities I knew had not died — Burt Reynolds and Sally Field among them. I’ll give FB this much: they did (apparently) deal with that problem.

    But put me among the skeptics who doubt they will solve the larger problem of fake news. Just last week Zuckerburg questioned the need to remove a holocaust denier from the system.

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