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Google and Facebook Failed Us (theatlantic.com) 320

The world's most powerful information gatekeepers neglected their duties in Las Vegas. Again. From a report: In the crucial early hours after the Las Vegas mass shooting, it happened again: Hoaxes, completely unverified rumors, failed witch hunts, and blatant falsehoods spread across the internet. But they did not do so by themselves: They used the infrastructure that Google and Facebook and YouTube have built to achieve wide distribution. These companies are the most powerful information gatekeepers that the world has ever known, and yet they refuse to take responsibility for their active role in damaging the quality of information reaching the public. BuzzFeed's Ryan Broderick found that Google's "top stories" results surfaced 4chan forum posts about a man that right-wing amateur sleuths had incorrectly identified as the Las Vegas shooter. 4chan is a known source not just of racism, but hoaxes and deliberate misinformation. In any list a human might make of sites to exclude from being labeled as "news," 4chan would be near the very top. [...] Of course, it is not just Google. On Facebook, a simple search for "Las Vegas" yields a Group called "Las Vegas Shooting /Massacre," which sprung up after the shooting and already has more than 5,000 members. The group is run by Jonathan Lee Riches, who gained notoriety by filing 3,000 frivolous lawsuits while serving a 10 year prison sentence after being convicted for stealing money by impersonating people whose bank credentials had been phished. Now, he calls himself an "investigative journalist" with Infowars, though there is no indication he's been published on the site, and given that he also lists himself as a former male underwear model at Victoria's Secret, a former nuclear scientist at Chernobyl, and a former bodyguard at Buckingham Palace, his work history may not be reliable. The problems with surfacing this man's group to Facebook users is obvious to literally any human. But to Facebook's algorithms, it's just a fast-growing group with an engaged community.
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Google and Facebook Failed Us

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  • Wait a minute... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:03AM (#55300767)
    You blame Google and facebook for bringing up results from 4chan? Google isn't the problem here, it's 4chan.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually Google shouldn't be sourcing news from 4chan. Sounds like a bug.

      • by sittingnut ( 88521 ) <sittingnut@NosPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:27AM (#55300937) Homepage

        Actually Google shouldn't be sourcing news from 4chan. Sounds like a bug.

        actually google should be sourcing from 4chan and any other alleged "fake news" site. it should source from everything

        no source is ever guaranteed to be 100% (or even 75%)correct. also, whatever the track record ( and track record of all the sources, starting from legacy news sources like nyt,wapo,cnn etc, are pretty bad) , there is always the chance any source can be the exclusive accurate source for some new item.

        google should reflect and prioritize what the people in internet are looking at , linking to, and searching for. even if what they are looking at may be "wrong" , "foolish", "destructive", etc
        google should not censor and regulate what others wish to do to suit what it think is "right", "intelligent", "beneficial", etc..

        if it does the latter, google will be replaced, eventually, because it will be projecting a false image of what "news" and what people in internet are doing. in other words google will be "fake".

        also, in the long run, chance of few people at google being "wrong", is far higher than millions of people being wrong.

        • by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:37AM (#55301009)
          Exactly! Google and Facebook are doing exactly what they are suppose to do. What Google and Facebook are not responsible for, nor should be doing, is CRITICAL THINKING!

          People are suppose to think for themselves. Just because it's printed on-line DOES NOT mean it's true. Jesus tap dancing christ people understood that 20 years ago when the world wide web started! Just because you read it on a web site does not make it true. That also applies to newspapers and media outlets. You need to have a critical view when reading news. Ever hear of something called yellow journalism??

          So no Google and Facebook did not fail people. Ass-holes at the Atlantic and Buzzfeed, that think Google and Facebook need to think for us, failed us.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tflf ( 4410717 )
            Agreed, neither is in the Critical Thinking business While a core survival skill for societies, critical thinking has never been a wide-spread skill-set in the general population of societies. Most people are willing to rely on the leadership to perform the analysis, and critical thinking, their social group requires. While Google and Facebook could be rating sources for reliability, and truth. Doing so might help a bit with some users, but, if people insist on being brain-dead, not a lot they can do. Furt
            • Re: Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by ctilsie242 ( 4841247 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @10:24AM (#55301391)

              Setting reliability is its own can of worms. Someone on one side of the fence can consider Alex Jones a reliable source. Someone with other beliefs can say that RT is a shining light of truth. Still others may only green-light the Onion as a trustworthy source.

              What might be a reliable source is allowing individuals themselves to set the trustworthy sliders themselves, with the ability for them to use other people's settings as weight for their own news moderation. For example, if I know someone who I respect, it would be useful to allow them to select results.

        • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <me@bran d y w i n e h u ndred.org> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @11:15AM (#55301809) Journal

          I don't think it's that people think google shouldn't source from 4chan, but that it shouldn't be a source for Google News.

          I don't think it's particularly obtuse to think that sources for Google News have journalists on staff.

        • Re: Wait a minute... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @11:52AM (#55302075)

          You should read the book "All the President's Men" - it goes into some detail on what the Washington Post considers a source. It has to be confirmed by at least 3 people who were actually witness to the thing they are trying to source.

          Is this perfect? Of course not, but it speaks volumes on why some neckbeard on 4chan should never be a source - ever - for identifying who the shooter was.

          But yes - Google is just a news aggregator - ranking news sources who would source 4chan should have never happened really.

    • by BradleyUffner ( 103496 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:11AM (#55300829) Homepage

      Exactly. Google is a search engine. All it does, and all it SHOULD do, is return indexed results based on the query the user gave it. I don't want a search engine to try and apply some kind of arbitrary "truthyness" filter, I want it to give me everything it can find that has the words I requested contained within it.

      • by rholtzjr ( 928771 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:34AM (#55300991) Journal

        Agreed. As we have seen in the past time and again, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do I want to see a couple of large (and OBVIOUSLY biased) companies determine what I can and can not see? That I believe is the question that should be asked.

        Another is WHY did 4chan show up so high in the results list? Did they game the current algorithm that companies are currently using? I would say yes.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @10:41AM (#55301531) Homepage Journal

        Google's stated goal is to be like the computer on Star Trek, i.e. to provide answers to questions naturally, like a person would. So when a user searches for current events or names, Google's goal is to provide reliable and current information, not just an Altavista style database query dump or the results of a popularity contest.

        When people are searching for information on a mass shooting, they are probably not looking for 4chan conspiracy theories and fake news.

      • by Guybrush_T ( 980074 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @11:18AM (#55301827)

        Except Google is not just returning indexed results. It is trying to rank them in order of relevance, and how does it achieve this ? By counting the number of clicks.

        And this is a huge problem for Google as well as Youtube and Facebook as well. Because the number of clicks is only related to how well the title seems to answer what the person is looking for, not the actual content, a.k.a. the clickbait effect. There is no way to go back at Google and say "meh, that was crap, forget that I clicked on it".

        Youtube introduced likes and dislikes to try to counter that effect but that doesn't work so well.

        Now, should you rate the relevance in terms of how much the reader likes the content ? No, that would lead to rate hoaxes higher.

        The only solution : give higher relevance to articles that come from verified sources. Not perfect, but better.

    • by ABEND ( 15913 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:20AM (#55300885)

      We can blame Google and Facebook for displaying click-bait as "top stories."

      If they want their "top stories" to be more credible they should have humans review them for veracity and logical conclusions before they're shown to users.

      Also, they should post conflicting versions of stories and events to help readers make better informed decisions as to whether or not a news item is believable.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Also, they should post conflicting versions of stories and events to help readers make better informed decisions as to whether or not a news item is believable.

        The problem with that is that it gives credibility to fake news sites by presenting them as genuine alternatives to reputable sources.

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @11:20AM (#55301849) Journal

          I think in some peoples' eyes, that's not a problem, that's the point, to obscure reality and to give fake claims the aura of truth by removing any critical capacity to measure them. They don't want anyone, let alone Google or Facebook, going in and debunking their false stories, and will fight tooth and nail to prevent any independent review of the garbage they either are putting out there, or believe themselves.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            It's definitely their strategy. They like to create genuine looking fake news sites and then spam links to them everywhere, while also doing their best to discredit non-fake sources by overstating their failings.

    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:20AM (#55300887)

      The whole exercise is good training for Internet users in general:

      You can't trust the first thing you read on the Internet - even if you see it repeated 100 times.

      Sources matter.

    • I was thinking the same thing. This is like blaming the mail man for bringing you junk mail or the phone provider for connecting a telemarketer to your phone. They're pointing the finger at the wrong people. Now if these two sold ads that were spreading misinformation then I'd agree, but you can't blame them for an algorithm that is designed to upvote popular content when we've demonstrated time and time again that the population is no longer driven or even cares about facts, just hyperbolic finger pointing

      • In this case the mailman watches everything you do , decides what mail you should and should not get, and even exerts control over what mail gets sent(if they don't like what your site publishes, you lose your ads.) If you allow such concentration of power, it turns against you. And what's the topic here? That google are not exerting enough control. That's very weird.

    • by strstr ( 539330 )

      WAIT A FUCKING MINUTE.

      This stuff has been on the net for ages. Everyone who surfs the net knows jokes, proofs, and the like are online. Why are they making it an issue, when we know to be on the look out for such information on line? Why is it not obvious a joke when someone lists working for many different places it would be obvious he didn't work for? Who would ever believe it anyway? WTF?

      https://www.trumpsweapon.com/ [trumpsweapon.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is that people accept everything as the Truth until proven otherwise and even then, some people will refuse to believe the truth because it doesn't fit into their World view.

      I see and hear a lot of things that I don't like, but I have to accept them. And as I get more information, I change my opinions. And it's unfortunate in this society that people who do what I do are called "flip floppers."

    • Can't somebody catch that terrible hacker already?
  • Feature, not bug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:06AM (#55300801)

    This is the way free information works... most of it is crap. You can't have a system where it is possible for people to post unverified stories about life behind a dictatorial regime that is also moderated.

    • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:37AM (#55301017)
      Agreed.

      The answer to the "problem of free speech" is more free speech.
      • by citylivin ( 1250770 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @04:25PM (#55304027)

        "The answer to the "problem of free speech" is more free speech."

        Quotes and platitudes sound nice but do nothing to solve the problem.

        The problem with "free" speech is that it is not equal, or in the best case, a meritocracy. People with money to buy facebook ads, or just simply a bot army, can be much louder than legitimate people who know what they are talking about.

        How do you tell them apart? Critical thought? People who are not knowledgeable about the subject matter are incapable of that. I for instance, cannot tell if the shockwave that is generated by NK nuclear tests is an atom or hydrogen bomb. I rely on "experts" to interpret that data for me.

        In years passed, you would pick your news source by the writers and editors leanings, and the publications did have rough standards, or they would go under as untrustworthy. On the internet, there are no standards. Joe679@hotmail.com is zero percent accountable to anyone. What i think the article is arguing for is some sort of curated system for these massive distribution networks of "news". Since we can assume people are horrible at telling fake news from real news, and yet these companies are passing off these "feeds" as "news", they should be held accountable when its wrong.

        I mean its a hard problem and i don't claim to know the answer. But just saying 'yarrr more free speech!", doesn't really do anything but make americans feel good about their ideology.

        • Quotes and platitudes sound nice but do nothing to solve the problem.

          Its not a platitude, and your argument is severely flawed.

          Also the reason "problem with free speech" is in quotes is because its not a fucking problem.

          The only people that think free speech is a problem are those intent is silencing others. Thats you, you fascist marxist fuck.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This is the way free information works... most of it is crap. You can't have a system where it is possible for people to post unverified stories about life behind a dictatorial regime that is also moderated.

      Exactly right. Who exactly do you want to decide which news is "fake", and then suppress it? Gee, what could go wrong with that?

      Anyway, it's not like the mainstream news media never get initial reports wrong; they do, often. But they get a pass, because reasons.

      (Not to mention Dan Rather still standing by that Microsoft Word document from the 70s that just so happened to prove what he wanted to be true.)

  • by link-error ( 143838 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:07AM (#55300805)

        No thanks, I don't want to live in China.

  • Flawed premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:08AM (#55300809)

    These companies are the most powerful information gatekeepers...

    (Emphasis added)

    This is what is commonly referred to as a flawed assumption. Everything that proceeds after it is therefore suspect.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not a flawed assumption, it's an unwelcome observation. Google does a lot to filter data, but not in the timeframe the article author wants.

      Google does have an automated search engine, and a scripted page ranking feature, but there is a lot of manual adjustment of the result list. Look at the different result lists for certain (Tienanmen) search results based on whether you are using a a proxy through China or Canada.

    • This is what is commonly referred to as a flawed assumption. Everything that proceeds after it is therefore suspect.

      I think this is a very reasonable assumption. Yes, Google and Facebook aren't strict gatekeepers as in traditional media, but the way it ranks search results, and the way users rarely get past one or two pages worth of results, it effectively makes it into a gatekeeper. That powerful influence allows them to direct focus and attention similarly to news editors of old.

  • by drunken_boxer777 ( 985820 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:08AM (#55300811)

    It isn't incumbent upon Google or Facebook to separate fact from fiction, never mind deal in shades of grey. It isn't their job to think for us, and anyone who thinks so, clearly isn't thinking. ;)

    • by mvdwege ( 243851 ) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:59AM (#55301191) Homepage Journal

      It isn't incumbent upon Google or Facebook to separate fact from fictionIt isn't incumbent upon Google or Facebook to separate fact from fiction

      That's an assertion that needs some backup. It's called "News" in the search result, not "Fiction". One reasonable claim you could make about news is that it contains verifiable facts.

      What I see here in the discussion is the fallacy of the excluded middle: just because some sources state another version of reality does not mean they are equally important, and should get the same amount of attention.

      Surely you wouldn't plead for creationists getting top billing in the Science section in searches on the origin of life? I would even think a case could be made they should be put under serious cosmology and evolutionary biology sources in the main page.

      Of course the reality is that most of the whining is butt-hurt alt-righters who see their 15 minutes of fame quickly counting down.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Shotgun ( 30919 )

        If you're getting results from creationist while searching for articles on evolution, you're doing it wrong.

        Google is a tool to give me stuff I'm looking for. The system requires that I know what I'm looking for.

        Facebook is a medium for me to communicate with people I may or may not know. Asking it to moderate my communications is outside the scope of the design, and a bit insulting.

        • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

          If you're getting results from creationist while searching for articles on evolution, you're doing it wrong.

          I suggest you go back and read what I actually wrote, not the strawman you're attacking right now.

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tpno - c o . o rg> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:09AM (#55300813) Homepage

    If it's all the same to you, I'd really rather not entrust censorship to Google, Facebook or any entity.

    Perhaps people can stop being so fucking gullible instead?

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @11:23AM (#55301873) Journal

      At this point it's just willful gullibility. I suspect most people, for instance, that went around spreading the Pizzagate story knew it was bullshit (except for the fruitcake who showed up there with a gun), but the lie serves a purpose.

      • I can't speak for Pizzagate people particularly (because I don't know any of them), but this sort of conspiracy theory is common all throughout America. A few of my Facebook friends think that the unusualness of this shooting (and it certainly was unusual) implies that it was a government plot. When Bush finished his second term, I knew plenty of intelligent liberals who were worried that Bush was going to overthrow the government and cancel the election.

        My point is, when I've dug into these conspiracy t
  • Failed US? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:11AM (#55300821) Journal

    We're not their customers. We're their PRODUCT.

    -jcr

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      We're not their customers. We're their PRODUCT.

      You can still deliver a poor service even if it's "free", like if the deal was to give me accurate, balanced news and I watch your ads. True it won't hit their wallet until the advertisers pay less, but I think that causality is obvious enough. The question is if that's what people really wanted or if Google/Facebook is a product of giving people exactly what they want. I mean most people look for exciting, spectacular news or to collaborate what they already believe, not to challenge their beliefs with fac

  • This isn't new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:15AM (#55300847) Homepage Journal

    It's not even limited to Google, Facebook, Twitter, et al.

    The momentary news cycle is leading to the rush-to-publish, with the inevitable errors. When you measure the news cycle by minutes or even less, you will get this. Somehow lamenting that we are not getting accurate, to the second valid reporting is not a symptom, it is THE problem.

    Learn to let go. Let a story be reported with valid, accurate facts, which may take up to an hour, God forbid. Accept that initially you will get only general statements, conflicting facts, and confusion, and be willing to let a comprehensive report be delivered when it can be accurate, not merely FIRST.

    This has afflicted CNN and FOX for decades, lest anyone forgets, and they have been trolled mercilessly in some high-profile cases. The second-tier networks have been abused even more, deservedly so. If you are looking for a sub-minute lead on some other network, you will make terrible mistakes.

    This also highlights our distraction by celebrity and horror. We have to, HAVE TO KNOW NOW what happened and WHY WHY WHY.

    No, we do not. Waiting for accuracy will not diminish the importance of the event, and will not diminish your experience, unless you revel in the agony of others.

    • Re:This isn't new (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:20AM (#55300889)
      It is pretty strange... for all their faults, the mainstream media is going to be about as good as you can expect on quickly vetting information, and there's no way that Facebook and Google would be able to verify things any faster without an equal amount of manpower. The thesis that they should is absurd.
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        It is pretty strange... for all their faults, the mainstream media is going to be about as good as you can expect on quickly vetting information, and there's no way that Facebook and Google would be able to verify things any faster without an equal amount of manpower. The thesis that they should is absurd.

        I don't think anyone is suggesting that they should. I think what people are suggesting is that those sites should recognize whether something is a trending news story, recognize whether a given site has

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:25AM (#55300913)
    The more people click on an article, the higher it ranks. If people won't be so stupid to read things from 4chan, it would never show in the results.
  • EDL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnotherBlackHat ( 265897 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:25AM (#55300923) Homepage

    Don't try to make Google to do your censoring.
    If you really want a censored internet, then publish an Edit Decision List for it, a.k.a. moderation, a.k.a. RBL, a.k.a. boycott list.
    If your list has value, then other people will use it.

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:26AM (#55300929)
    Social media aren't there to suppress anything about human nature. They can only exacerbate and accelerate it. Unfortunately some of it is bad.
  • by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) <vincent.jan.goh@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:27AM (#55300931) Homepage

    When everyone read newspapers and had the same 3 main channels for the evening news, the level of understanding of the world was somewhat better. You can make the point—and it's a fair point—that our curated news stream also robbed us of knowing things that the powers-that-be didn't want us to know. But in general, the news that was reported was the news that actually happened.

    We have precious few trusted sources now, and part of the problem is that Google represents itself—or at the very least doesn't try to disabuse people of the notion—that they're a way to search for knowledge and truth, and so people take Google at face value when it returns results, and the people that would like to undermine the news for whatever reason (their own gain, their own amusement) know it and they game the system.

    It's not censorship to mark sources like 4Chan as of dubious value. Yes, yes, people should be less gullible, but who's teaching them to be less gullible, and what damage can be done before they learn?

    Perhaps the real problem is that Google has too much trust and authority, and too much ability to control the news. Or that Facebook is many people's main source of news on any given day, and that too is subject to exploitation. It's impossible for the government to regulate companies like Facebook and Google effectively; not only do I not think the government would do a bad job of it, the value of those companies comes exactly from the massive network effects that lead to this fake news problem in the first place.

    Better to let Google and Facebook try and find some way to indicate that a news source is probably untrustworthy than let governments in the world do it. And they WILL do it if the corporations don't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      No ass-hole, it is censorship and Google and Facebook are not meant to think for you. It's called Critical Thinking. Develop it sometime.

      History lesson: New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN all promoted the Weapons of Mass Destruction lie of the Bush Administration that led us into war with Iraq. So no they did not reported the news that actually happened.
      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @11:26AM (#55301901) Journal

        You will note that when no WMDs were ever found, these news outlets in fact reported that. As opposed to some of the alt-right "news sources" who kept peddling bullshit like the uranium claim and Pizzagate long after both had been fully debunked. And that's the difference. Inevitably even the very best journalists are going to get it wrong sometimes, but there's a degree of accountability there as well. Rolling Stone ate a lot of crow after the Rape on Campus story was debunked, and retracted the story. That's what journalists do when they fuck up. But the fringe bloggers on all sides of the political spectrum are not accountable, and seem to completely reject the notion of accountability. They are propagandists through and through.

  • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:28AM (#55300945) Journal

    Much of the fake news was carried on Cat5 ethernet cable and over Wi-Fi.

    Thus, Cat5 and Wi-Fi have failed us again! When will we learn???

    • I think this is a bigger failure than that. It all started when people learned they could transfer information over wire with electricity. I blame Samuel Morse, he started it all.
    • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

      I only have dial up you insensitive clod!!

    • Much of the fake news was carried on Cat5 ethernet cable and over Wi-Fi.

      Thus, Cat5 and Wi-Fi have failed us again! When will we learn???

      To be fair to the poor cat5 cable, according to the network layer the cat5 cable has never done anything to moderate any content I wanted it to deliver. The same can't be said for Google or Facebook.

      Cat5 lives matter.

  • It is YOUR fault! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:30AM (#55300959)

    You demanded instant information, and this is what you get. It isn't Google or Facebook's fault, it is yours-- for wanting to know things instantly while details are still foggy and people who want to make a name for themselves or spread an agenda can dominate with their canned story.

    You want Facebook to help-- get them to brand people as "unreliable" or "has difficulty separating facts from fantasy" or "lacks critical thinking skills." But don't complain when you mistake data for information and bear the brand as well.

    • Well said.
  • Soft Censorship (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:30AM (#55300967)
    Is anyone else a little bothered by the idea that the government needs to "do something" about inaccurate news? As much as the line that "censorship means the government does it, not private corporations" has some kernel of truth, this seems to very quickly lead the way to a system where the government forces the corporations to do the censoring, with the former retaining deniability and the latter squashing more and more "fake" opinions in an attempt to keep up with nebulous demands.
    • by c ( 8461 )

      Is anyone else a little bothered by the idea that the government needs to "do something" about inaccurate news?

      I certainly think they need to do something about innacurate news.

      For example, I'd gladly support the government establishing and funding an education system which sends young people out into the world with the basic critical thinking skills to understand (or even suspect) when they're being fed bullshit.

      Sadly, I expect we'll be sticking with the status quo...

    • by Gryle ( 933382 )
      Speaking as an American (USA-ian?), there's an element of our population that seems to think that government solutions are the only ones worth pursuing.The idea that the tools and powers they give the government may one day end up in the hands of people they dislike or who dislike them seems to have not occurred to them, or at least dismissed.
  • by Roger Wilcox ( 776904 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:39AM (#55301033)

    Censorship is good, as long as only the "bad" stories are censored? Good luck keeping that pandora's box in check...

    Use your head. If news seems fantastic and outrageous, it probably is. If news seems reasonable, remember that everyone has a limited perspective and the story has inevitably been told from some writer's or editor's point of view.

    Informational noise has existed since people began sharing information. The Internet has made sharing information easier--that is all. There is quite literally nothing new to see here.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      Censorship is good, as long as only the "bad" stories are censored? Good luck keeping that pandora's box in check...

      Use your head. If news seems fantastic and outrageous, it probably is. If news seems reasonable, remember that everyone has a limited perspective and the story has inevitably been told from some writer's or editor's point of view.

      Yes! Also can someone point me to a time in history when news was always completely accurate and unbiased? I've got news for you people who think 1) News ought to be flawless and 2) They should be this way so you don't have to use your brain.

      GET OVER IT! People have been bullshitting people since the dawn of human civilization. All you need is a better bullshit detector aka Critical Thinking Skills. Level up and you won't have a problem will being gullible.

      It seriously amazes me the level of perfection

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is there are four kinds of fake news:

      • clickbait to make money
      • trolling / harassment
      • end justifies a means agenda pushers, e.g. pizzagate
      • foreign state

      The last two are really propaganda, before the Internet these used to be expensive and difficult since you'd need to make and distribute thousands of flyers and posters. Now for very little money you can setup a site and use a few ads and viral stupidity.

      A key part of democracy is an informed populace, unfortunately a huge swath is gullible and will be

  • Those arguing that "gatekeepers" failed you, should be careful what you ignorantly accuse and demand from information providers.

    Especially when you're rather busy protesting censorship and promoting free speech.

  • I find it amusing that this was posted here, with no mention whatsoever about how hard Slashdot failed us as well during the same period. It was so pwned by low-uid posters with pro-Russian (and only incidentally pro-Trump) posts that I had to quit reading. Anything sensible got modded down to oblivion, and the only way you even knew it ever existed at all was if a Russian ridiculing it got modded +5 insightful.

    Previous elections I really relied on /. for good well-reasoned statements of positions on both

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      Ack. I mean "high-uid". That actually shows part of what happened though. I had to ditch /. for sites that had more developed systems of user moderation (where a troll's new account will have "low" reputation) that I no longer am even used to thinking in /. terms about these things.

      /. really needs to quit puttering with the shininess of the UI and modernize their reputation system. There are enough of us dedicated users to fend off Troll attacks, if they'd just give us the tools to do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @09:46AM (#55301085)

    It's clear this article is all about pushing censorship. Google should be returning all relevant results, not censoring the internet to push a particular message.

    It's likely Google themselves didn't know what was going on, so they couldn't effectively filter information. Even the mainstream media frequently reports incorrect information on breaking news stories while the situation clarifies itself.

    Censorship is never good. If the government could censor information so that only 'the truth' was reported, you'd have found all the videos of Spanish police beating the hell out of Catalonian voters would have quickly disappeared from the internet.

    Censorship can never be tolerated.

  • The Atlantic doesn't give a shit about news or impartiality. They sell news and opinion via various media and are upset that the barriers to entry in their chosen field have been lowered by Google and Facebook and 4Chan.

    This horse left the barn a long time ago. Anyone can report news in real-time thanks to their smartphone.

    The Atlantic isn't really upset about Google and Facebook - they are upset that anyone can report news and can broadcast an opinion of that news to the entire world.

    The high-priests of

  • Like many said or implied, we have to distrust our information sources. With that in mind, I can easily imagine why a magazine like The Atlantic would be against unfiltered information, in favor of its idea of intellectual, curated content/editorials (I imagine they would at the same time be upset if they didn't show up in search results..).
  • OMG a free service that I don't pay 1 cent for, FAILED ME. I'm going on a moral crusade to make right this horrible wrongdoing!
  • Does the world owe you fully whetted and verified information for free? Why do you feel so entitled?

    People who pay to get their information verified, who are willing wait for the verification to be done, get accurate information. They read smudges of ink and dye on dead tree mashed to pulp.

    Sadly people like you not willing to pay for accurate information is why newspapers are dying.

    You are responsible for the rise of fake news purveyors. You are not protecting and nurturing your tomato plants. Your garden is now overrun with weeds. Why blame others for it?

  • If you looked at a Facebook group or a post from 4-chan without a critical eye, you have failed yourself. Any noise spewed by idiots will be soon washed away by intelligent rebuttal. If the noise sticks around, it may be that the science isn't really all that settled after all. The answers to bad information is not censorship. It is good information with supporting evidence.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @10:34AM (#55301489)

    The problem isn't Facebook or Google themselves -- it's how people use them. People with an agenda of any kind love this new world of instant communication because their views can have just as much weight as anyone else's, including what most people would consider mainstream. I'm of the opinion that this brings out the worst in people, and the anonymity of the Internet makes it even worse because people don't feel typical societal pressures to behave nicely.

    For ages, society operated on a more or less even keel because fringe opinions were marginalized and information didn't spread across the entire country in seconds. Before TV, it wasn't well known that FDR had polio and was confined to a wheelchair, for example...try running for President with a condition like that today, in a world where every syllable coming out of political figures and every muscle movement they make is tracked 24/7 by multiple news sources. Even after TV, there were only a few news sources and newspapers of record covering goings-on, and by and large the public didn't get a front-row seat to see "how the sausage is made." For example, it baffles me when I hear that people are surprised that political corruption exists. It's been going on forever, and it was just well-hidden from the public. The only time anyone ever got to see anything was when it got too big to keep under wraps. Everyone in public office from the lowest town councilman to the Senate accepts direct bribes and other favors; just because it's easier to uncover now doesn't mean it didn't happen.

    That's what I think will eventually bring us down...the constant infighting generated by the ability for anyone to craft an official looking "article" on social media that is specifically targeted to anger a certain group. We're already fragmented as it is and social media makes it worse. For example, I'm a lefty who thinks gun control is a bad idea for the simple reason that it will give every gun nut out there free reign to post their paranoid anti-government fantasies and start a redneck revolution. We have to find some way to keep the peace in a world where it's so easy to upset it.

  • This seems to be the same ages-old call for censorship that authoritarian scum always do when they think they can get away with. The pattern is always the same: Use an event that sparks public outrage and then suggest that certain people using their free speech rights are responsible for the event or something closely connected to it. The authoritarians hope to create a general feeling that free speech is not something everybody has a right to and that is subject to what people will say using this right. Th

  • More guns, more violence.
    More guns, more suicide.
    More guns, more dead cops.
    More guns, more dead kids.

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and... [vox.com]

  • When a car company makes a dangerous product, they get sued by the victims.

    When gun manufacturers and dealers do the same they need to be held similarly accountable.

    A free market solution.

    • I believe the free market solution was putting 300 million firearms into the hands of a disgruntled populace.
  • Why would anyone consider information from ANY Social Media site trustworthy ?
    Google and Facebook are designed as information gathering . . . er . . ENTERTAINMENT platforms, not news.

    If you're relying on such platforms for accurate information, it's not Google or Facebook that is failing, it's you.

  • Do we really want the likes of Google and Facebook to be curators of information? They are like the phone system - the phone company does not prevent people from making false statements on the phone. If we expect Google and Facebook to do that, we give them the power to tell us what is true and what is not - and we relinquish our individual ability to decide for ourselves. Better that we have deep distrust for Google and Facebook.
  • Dole Office Clerk: Occupation?

    Comicus: Stand-up philosopher.

    Dole Office Clerk: What?

    Comicus: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.

    Dole Office Clerk: Oh, a *bullshit* artist!

    Comicus: *Grumble*...

    Dole Office Clerk: Did you bullshit last week?

    Comicus: No.

    Dole Office Clerk: Did you *try* to bullshit last week?

    Comicus: Yes!

  • Swamped by trying to be relevant with rumors alone.

    CNN once reported the gunman fired so many bullets they set off the smoke detector which pin pointed his location. I never heard another report of the smoke detector.
    Searching it one gets 230K results today, down from 800K yesterday. las vegas shooting smoke detectors = https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

  • not to censor anything, but to highlight entities that have developed a track record of being reliable while remaining totally optional for the user.

    I use such a system when I download from the Pirate Bay, I use it when I order things from eBay. I even use a variation when I read comments here on /.

    It would not be perfect of course, but would simply be another tool in the arsenal to be used alongside common sense. Or not.

  • Errm, would being published at Infowars speak for or against his credibility? Infowars is the QVC for right wing conspiracy nuts after all.
  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @12:24PM (#55302313) Homepage Journal

    95% of what you read on the internet is completely made up.
      -- Henry Ford.

    And 10% is about the Kardashians.
      -- Bertrand Russel.

  • Tech Journalists (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LightningBolt! ( 664763 ) <lightningboltlig ... hoo.com minus pi> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @01:55PM (#55303111) Homepage

    Back in the day, tech journalists were people who knew tech. Many were dabblers in coding. Even the worst of them usually knew enough to understand that a computer isn't a magic box.

    Nowadays, tech journalists are usually just writers who like gadgets and who discovered that there's money to be made writing about tech. They have no background in computer science or information theory. They have virtually no understanding about what makes any of it tick, the problem space, or the solution space. So they write about how twitter should get the Nazis off their platform. And how Facebook needs to fix its fake news problem. And how google should filter results better to provide more truthful stories.

    Because they don't understand technology, they write incensed articles complaining about these technology problems. The reality is that what we are seeing are social problems. And all of these problems existed before any of these companies existed. Sadly, I see some tech people starting to agree with these misguided assessments claiming technology failures. But I am heartened to see the slashdot community commentary here pretty firmly grounded in reality.

Practical people would be more practical if they would take a little more time for dreaming. -- J. P. McEvoy

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