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Ideas for fighting Fake News
device
jducoeur
[I'm mostly just posting links over in Facebook, but my more technical friends tend to be over here.]

Here is a really excellent collection of ideas about how to fight the Fake News problem -- the way that services like Facebook and Google have been used as propaganda tools by the people (on all sides) who are muddying truth by propagating bullshit. The article suggests a bunch of relatively plausible approaches, both technical and organizational, that these companies could use to ameliorate the problem without undermining their core missions.

It's explicitly not trying to present a comprehensive solution, just some possibilities. But it's a fine rebuttal to the usual line that these services are nothing but pipes, and can't do anything about it. I commend it to everyone, but especially my friends *at* the various big tech companies, who should consider passing this link around as useful food for thought...

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How about we start by not letting an algorithm decide what counts as news when their goal is not to inform but to monopolize attention? Even if fake news doesn't creep in, you still have the issues that have gotten into televised news which has the same problematic goals (especially if you want to start talking filter bubbles). Select your own news sources, and choose your own controlled delivery channels. There are enough choices out there to fit people of any perspective. Yes, it requires a little bit of active work on the part of the individual, but that has always been the cost of being a well informed citizen.

I do think there are useful suggestions in this article, but the article itself starts with the idea that these companies should not be deciding for us what is and isn't news. And yet, as long as Facebook is going to call their stream of information a 'News feed' and are going to manipulate it to show us the items it thinks will keep us on the page longer, then they are effectively deciding what is News.

Edited at 2016-11-19 08:02 pm (UTC)

On the one hand, I agree. OTOH (as I plan on bringing up in one of my Wartime Thoughts articles), that doesn't help much. Consider that most articles I'm seeing are claiming that *most* people get *most* of their news based on links from social media (mostly Facebook) at this point.

I mean, yeah -- I get my news from the Economist. I'm right there with you. But calling out for everyone else to do so is basically Canute yelling at the waves. I think we need to honestly admit the facts on the ground, and that exhortations like this aren't likely to change more than a small number of minds, at least in the near term. And that being the case, I have to agree with the premise of the article, that demanding a bit of corporate responsibility from the social networks is likely one of the most *effective* ways to improve the situation...

A team of college students made a first crack at a credibility indicator for Facebook posts -- at a hackathon, in 36 hours. They've open-sourced it so others can run with it, recognizing that they're busy being college students.

I don't know more than what's in that article, but if Facebook (et al) won't do something about it, here's an existence proof that third-party tools can work. Getting Facebook et al to fix their algorithms is better because that fixes it for everybody, but in the meantime...

(I don't use Facebook so I can't test it out. If somebody gets this solid enough that we techies could help our less-technical relatives install something like this and have it just work, that'd be grand.)

Fascinating -- I may have to dig into this, and see what their algorithm looks like. I'd be pleasantly surprised if there aren't some biases hidden in there (and if it's not gameable), but it's good to see a proof of concept so quickly...

Ah -- it's a Chrome plugin, not a FB one. Unsurprising, but definitely limits the utility: what's needed more than anything is a solution that works with the FB *mobile* app, and that's technically challenging for any outside group...

Oh, yeah, a browser plugin is more limited. For a hackathon I totally understand taking the easiest path to deployment. If the FB app doesn't support user extensions that makes this a much harder problem.

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