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Facebook Says It Can't Guarantee Social Media is Good For Democracy (reuters.com) 219

Facebook said on Monday that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy, but noted that it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else. From a report: The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. Moscow denies the allegations.

Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media's role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject. "I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can't," Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in his post. Facebook, he added, has a "moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible."

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Facebook Says It Can't Guarantee Social Media is Good For Democracy

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  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @11:06AM (#55978157) Homepage
    One wallows in Mediocrity.
  • by scourfish ( 573542 ) <scourfishNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday January 22, 2018 @11:14AM (#55978235)
    People have the capacity and agency to double check sources for sensational claims, including "fake news." While it might set certain censorship standards based on market demand, we don't need an authoritarian government demanding censorship because things that offend their sensibilities were said. This goes for both liberal groups that want "fake news" censored, and for the "there are only 2 gender" social conservatives that get mad whenever some teenager makes up pronouns.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      People have the capacity and agency to double check sources for sensational claims, including "fake news."...

      When Zuckerberg was initially starting Facebook, he referred to his first customers as "dumb fucks".

      That description still rings true today. Spare me your delusions that people have the capacity and agency, because they don't. If they did, peddling bullshit wouldn't make so much fucking money. The masses are ignorant, stupid, and too fucking lazy to "double check" anything.

      • The comment stated in an IM by zuckerberg was "They trust me- dumbfucks" which could very easily be interpreted as self-deprecating humor.
      • Spare me your delusions that people have the capacity and agency, because they don't.

        Then democracy is a fools errand, isn't it? We might as well accept this truth and reinstate the monarchy.

        The masses are ignorant, stupid, and too fucking lazy to "double check" anything.

        No one is informed on everything and politics is about everything. Everyone has better uses for their time than to double check anonymous cowards spewing bullshit online. You are probably just as stupid as the rest of the people you bemoan yet you seem to love the smell of your own shit. Good for you.

        Insightful comment my dingleberry encrusted ass.

  • What is this? It looks like news, and it comes from a business that has reported on news in the past... Can slashdot guarantee this is actually news, please?
  • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @11:23AM (#55978331) Homepage

    Empirical evidence suggests it is bad for a lot more than just that. But the unfortunate takeaway is that this is only the case because of deficiencies of character in the participants.

  • The Decider (Score:5, Insightful)

    by narcoossee ( 4827125 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @11:23AM (#55978333)
    So who all of a sudden gets to decide of FB, et al are "good for democracy". As an informed, educated and interested citizenry, that is OUR job.
  • Its a good thing, and about time, that Facebook finally makes a clear distinction between entertainment and news. Everyone needs a hand sometimes, and if Facebook can help steer people back to "news", it would be better for everyone. Facebook never should have been in the "news" business to start with, news feeds were dangerous territory to move into. They are right to make the distinction and help people move along.

    The lines are so blurred due to the awful news cycles of cable news, that well meaning,

  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @11:31AM (#55978413) Journal
    Maybe having the unwashed masses be involved in every single decision the gov makes turns it into a popularity contest and strips actual merit from ideas anyway, and facebook is just the latest doing exactly that?
    • In that case, Long Live Facebook. And peaceful societies.

    • Elitism
      Aristocratism

      Yeah sure thing buddy, because having The Rich decide everything for everyone else has worked so goddamned fucking well for people since the dawn of human civilization.

      Power corrupts proportionally; absolute power corrupts absolutely

      (the former) Soviet Union; Russia; China; North Korea; just to name a few. How well has that worked out for the Average Citizen, hmm? How about this: Go dig up and resurrect Marie Antoinette and ask her how well that seemed to work out, okay?

      If you're so goddamned concerned about the so-called 'unwashed masses', then how about we get them

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

        I agree - we need better education; but I also agree that not everyone should be able to vote. Why should we let people who don't even understand our constitution decide who gets to lead us? I posted this above: What Americans Don't Know About the Constitution [uh.edu], in a poll (granted an old one) "... Nearly half believed that the Constitution contains Karl Marx's phrase 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.'"

        It's not wealth - it's education. It's an incentive to get educated.

        • Gee who gets to decide who can and can't vote? Southern states have been trying to pull shit like this for decades to prevent blacks and other minorites from being able to vote. Are you a racist? You're sure sounding like one.

          they have to be EDUCATED enough to vote!

          so then you gut the public school system, make sure blacks and the poor get a shit education, they don't pass the 'test' required to qualify to vote, and rich whites get to dictate their will to everyone else. Racist, elitist, bigoted. Fuck that. I'd rather have the mess we have now th

          • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
            You don't need the public education system - virtually everybody has the ability to surf the internet or use public libraries and, for the record, there's more white people living in poverty in the south that blacks - sorry if the reality doesn't fit your narrative.
      • by dAzED1 ( 33635 )
        You seem to be responding to several things I didn't say....and if I click the parent of your post, it just goes to mine. Do you not understand there may be a difference between having absolutely everyone involved in every single action of gov, and gov being "the few enforcing their will on the many" - you seem to be taking dramatic liberties in assuming things I didn't say, and then extrapolating those event further. Here, I'll make it less controversial for you - I also don't think people should play Dr
    • Well it's a good thing we invented republics then.

    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      "Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Maybe having the unwashed masses be involved in every single decision the gov makes turns it into a popularity contest and strips actual merit from ideas anyway, and facebook is just the latest doing exactly that?

      More like Wikipedia democracy... whoever has an ax to grind or agenda to run and know all the rules and processes overwhelms the majority by persistence. A direct democracy has to be balanced so you ask people to decide on a reasonable number of issues because you can't have 300 million paying attention to everything that happens in every sub-committee. Hell, I hear even Congressmen who have politics as a full time job don't have time for that. That and getting people to balance out the budget, if they want

      • How is that different from how it works now? Those who cares about any given issue enough just sends a fleet of lobbyists. I guess it requires more money in the current system, for lunches and fact finding and bribes^W campaign conributions?

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @02:50PM (#55980253) Homepage Journal

      I don't think education or status are perfect vaccines against mob thinking, either. In every historical instance of a society driving off the cliff into folly has plenty of people who should have known better egging it on.

      Facebook is to bullshit as crack is to cocaine. Crack is cocaine, but packaged to provide a cheap, short-lived high. Facebook is a means of consuming a lot of bullshit by repeatedly deciding to consume just little bit more.

      Just look at the basic Facebook mechanic: the like. What the easiest way to get that sweet hit of external validation? Find a group of like-minded people and express a completely conventional thought in an outrageously provocative way. And how long does that hit last? Days? Hours? Minutes?

      Facebook didn't invent getting yourself lost in an epistemic bubble; it just made it accessible to people who don't have the time to invest in joining a cult. That makes a difference.

  • Shut down Facebook and do something useful.

  • Does Facebook know of somewhere democracy is practiced? Or maybe it means that social media acts to prevent any movement towards democracy.

    Like Gandhi's reaction when asked by a patronizing British journalist what he thought of Western civilization.

    "I think it would be a very good idea".

  • The problem is the people on Facebook and in society. You know the ones; the university students using free speech to call for an end to free speech. the people who believe in a flat Earth, the creationists, the people who promote Paltrow and GOOP, the people who listen to and worship Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra.

    The problem is the stupid, ignorant, and gullible people.
    • If you had included Fox News believers and Trump supporters in your list of the gullible and willfully ignorant, you'd have had 100% agreement from me.

    • It's not that easy. At any given time, decent ideas are spouted by regular people. One wouldn't want policy decided at the local coffee shop, but there are certainly talking points that can sprout from those conversations.

      Policy discussion then comes from an in depth conversation, of those few good ideas. The "best" of those ideas float or sink to the top, which is the basis of a government by the people.

      --
      It's a bird, It's a plane!

    • I would be happy to discuss creationism with you any time. I have a PhD in Engineering and have taught at the college level for years. I routinely discuss and debate with professors in the biology and astrophysics departments, and they never win, because they don't have any hard facts or solid logic to support their theories.

      You seem be be laboring under the false impression that cosmic evolution (or biological evolution) is in any way scientific. Both Creationism and Evolution (cosmic and biological) re

      • If you want to discuss creationism, fine. Here are the things you must do, in order:
        • State who your claimed creator is.
        • Provide credible evidence that said creator exists Evidence that can be attributed to other claimed creators or the scientific explanations is not credible evidence of your claimed creator.
        • Provide credible evidence that said creator did, in fact, create the universe. Evidence that can be attributed to other claimed creators or the scientific explanations is not credible evidence of your
        • If you want to discuss creationism, fine. Here are the things you must do, in order:

          Um no. You are not the moderator of this discussion, but a participant, nor are many of your criteria reasonable. A reasonable person seeking truth evaluates all the theories (because no one in this discussion was present at the beginning of the universe) and picks the most reasonable theory with the most evidence to back it up. But nice try. I will answer some of your questions though in an effort to help you seek truth:

          State who your claimed creator is.

          - Elohim, the singular creator God described in the Bible. An infinite, all knowi

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )
      Voters can't guarantee that their votes are good for democracy, either.
  • All the news they want YOU to know.

  • Well yeah, when the population is largely composed of gullible idiots that believe anything they read online.
  • Facebook Cop Out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pyramid ( 57001 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @12:31PM (#55978917)

    Sure, FB can't guarantee it or other social media is good for democracy, but it would be a great start if they and other players like Google/Youtube were to curtail curating your feed for the sole purpose of keeping your eyes on the screen as long as possible.

    It has already been proven the FB feeds posts, news, etc. that align with the political ideology it "thinks" you hold. This creates a hyper-echo chamber where people no longer are exposed to dissenting ideas and become inured with their beliefs being endlessly reinforced instead of challenged.

    Facebook's behavior actively discourages civil discourse all in the name of advertising revenue.

    • And how is that different from before? In the old days people would hang out with friends who were similar to themselves, shielded from exposure to dissenting ideas and having their beliefs reinforced instead of challenged. Now that people are doing the exact same thing online, suddenly it's the end of democracy as we know it? I remember reading an article in the 1980s about how you could guess someone's political affiliation pretty accurately by looking at which magazines they subscribed to. Nothing ha
      • maybe we should think of it as democracy having succeeded in spite of people hanging out in their own cliques

        Optimism... Who are you and what time period did you come from? Did the robots win? Tell me! DID THE ROBOTS WIN!?!?!

        But seriously, it is nice to see an optimistic thought whenever society and/or politics is discussed even if it is rare. Everything is all so doom and gloom. Then again, sitting around a campfire singing koombaya holding hands is pretty lame.

        Back to your regular scheduled nay-saying... "Social media has fundamentally changed human nature like never before! The written word and printing press b

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @12:39PM (#55979005) Journal

    1. Oh no, anonymous trolls!
    2. Ok, require real names.
    3. Many don't like that, especially in an era of zero tolerance social get you fired lemming ostracism.
    4. Many move to anonymous fora.
    5. State-sponsored trolls flood said fora convincing people of misleading ideas or outright lies.

    It isn't an issue of free speech so much as not knowing who is manipulating you.

    Hence "Hillary wants to literally start a war with Russia!" gets pushed by Russian state actors over and over, to cause the failure of a candidate who will continue to apply sanctions to their leadership because of lack of democracy and a free press there, and a disturbingly Nazi Germany-like invasion of a sovereign country to "protect" the Russians living there.

    This continued pressure would be favored by most Americans, especially those who lived through the Cold War or earlier.

    We don't need to ease sanctions on such a country's leaders so they will open up development to the West in a tit for tat.

  • To be fair about it: I'll lay 50% of the blame on 'social media' itself, and the other 50% on the people who flock to social media, the former for providing a platform with such a high potential for abuse, and the latter for abusing it in one way or another, or for catering to the social media-abusers. But this is not to say that 'social media' shouldn't just go the way of the dinosaurs.
  • As a QA professional, the problem with TFS is that "good" is not defined? You can't test for a condition that is not defined. I find these sort of statements all the time in technical requirements, and it always ends in a conversation with the author where I repeatedly explain that I can't write a test that goes "if (condition > good) { pass} else {fail}"

    If the article is to mean anything "good" has to first be defined. The interesting part is that the definition of "good" will expose a lot of the bia

  • My thinking is FB in one way of many, control everything you do. How is that a social network? i don't think it is.
  • We don't need Facebook to be good for democracy, and they certainly shouldn't need to prove that they are.

    Even if someone can prove that Facebook is bad for democracy, that should merely inform a debate on whether that even fucking matters.

    What does seem to be clear is that social media is fucking terrible for totalitarian states. Assuring those fail is a fine start towards helping democracy succeeds.

  • How smart the founding fathers were, in creating something new called a Constitutional Republic, as opposed to a "democracy", which is effect a "mob rule" mentality. By giving the people, the house of representatives, the people have a voice. The senate, until the 17th amendment was the state's voice. A democracy, is not "everyone has a voice" but emotional MOB RULE. Just think, if we had a democracy, what happened in Ferguson Missouri, would have meant the death of that police officer, since most social m
  • Thank God I live in a Republic and not a Democracy.
  • Russia influence failed in France, facing huge and obvious influence from french medias that backed Emmanuel Macron.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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