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Facebook Exec Admits 'No Real Understanding' for the Scope of Fake News (mercurynews.com) 219

Three executives from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube appeared at Stanford to discuss free speech in the social media age, with one law professor raising concerns about how the online giants are curating their services. All three tech executives talked about increasing transparency and authenticity. But all acknowledge that nothing is foolproof and political speech in particular is most difficult to regulate, if it should be at all. "That puts a lot of control in the hands of the companies sitting here in term of what kind of speech is allowed to have the global reach," said Juniper Downs, YouTube's global head of public policy and government relations. "That is a responsibility we take very seriously and something we owe to the public and a civil society...."

Facebook is making information available on its platform to researchers to help understand the effect of Facebook usage on elections. Still, Facebook's Vice President of Public Policy Elliot Schrage urged caution. "There is no agreement whatsoever on the prevalence of false news and fake propaganda on our platform," he said. "We have no real understanding of what the scope of misinformation is." He suggested that despite these chaotic times, "I do think we should be pretty modest and circumspect in the approaches we take." Social media companies need to find creative ways to improve the spread of information, Schrage said. But it won't be easy. "No one company," he said, "is going to solve this problem."

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Facebook Exec Admits 'No Real Understanding' for the Scope of Fake News

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2018 @03:48AM (#56562246)

    With the near-zero journalistic integrity of all basically all MSM in America, the obvious problem for Facebook is whatever objective criteria you set for labelling "Fake News", you would include basically all MSM, and also including a lot of (if not all) advertising.

    The day FB successfully combat Fake News is the day FB lost all its ad revenue. Of course they aren't going to solve this.

    • Maybe it's not about journalistic integrity. Maybe ALL news has ALWAYS been "fake news".

      There's no such thing as objectivity about social, political, economic issues. Everything is propaganda of one flavor or another.

      What we're seeing now is a mass awakening. Whole classes of people suddenly seeing the truth, that formerly was recognized only by a few philosophers and curmudgeons.

    • Because ALL news is fake
      With the near-zero journalistic integrity of all basically all MSM in America, the obvious problem for Facebook is whatever objective criteria you set for labelling "Fake News", you would include basically all MSM, and also including a lot of (if not all) advertising.

      Seriously, the first step should always be to start by considering ANY NEWS as fake

      Then you should be doing your due diligence :
      - What is the source ?
      - Is the source even actually stated or is a completely unsourced post ?
      - If you follow the source trail, do can you go back to a primary source ? Or are you stuck in an endless loop of clickbait/internet meme/etc. cheap websites citing each other ?

      Further, regarding sources :
      - is the image actually relevant to the article, or i

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Sunday May 06, 2018 @04:05AM (#56562280) Homepage Journal

    And foolish people will recommend fake or stupid news. I'm much less concerned about the sincere fanatics as the paid propagandists and professional trolls. As it exists now, Facebook is their perfect tool. Not just for propagating the BS but for dividing and conquering the opposition.

    Solution time? I feel like I'm wasting the keystrokes since the same solution applied to a recent story and elicited no detectable interest. (ACs don't count and I don't see their comments.) However I think EPR (Earned Public Reputation) would be a strong solution approach. You can think of it as karma on steroids, but the basic insight is that positive interactions (in various dimensions) should earn reputation that is then (among other uses) reflected in the news sources you choose to recommend. In a contrasting example, if you tell (or propagate) a lie and someone is willing to take a bit of time to prove it, then your reputation should go down and your further comments should be seen in that light.

    Actually, mostly not seen. The real reason I want EPR is to focus my time on reading comments from people who are demonstrably nicer or better informed or even funnier than I am. The other people would be invisible for me, if'n I had my druthers.

    • Well the Chinese have started up the Social Credit System. You'll love it.

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Well the Chinese have started up the Social Credit System. You'll love it.

        My initial impression is that you saw a headline on the idea. I actually read a couple of articles on it and could critique it in detail, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to go there on the basis of your bit of fluff.

        • In fact the idea of reputation scores on the web is being implemented. It's called the war on fake news and every player with any clout is elbowing in to have the reputation system tilt their way.
          The result is that the reputation system works for power. For a lot of people that is fine, if they have a comfortable place in the whole thing.

          The approach that enforcing a reputation system is good provided we take some measures to minimize mistakes is doomed to fail.

          Looking at it another way we can't do without

          • by shanen ( 462549 )

            Short response, basically an ACK. Longer response to the more polite question in the other branch of this thread.

            I am primarily enthusiastic for using my time as well as possible, but I also prefer to spend time with nice people. These days "nice people" mostly means old friends, but I also want to be open to new ideas from sincere people I don't know. In contrast I am unenthusiastic about wasting time with trolls, even the time to recognize that they are trolls when their own trollish reputations could pre

            • Who could object to a modest guiding system which advises you what music to pick. It is no problem if it dismisses a lot of good music as long as it provides a few good suggestions each day. It doesn't hurt anyone.
              There is a need to balance the quality of the scoring system with its power. I reacted because I perceived an aspiration for a more ambitious scoring system.

              I do have complaints about the current system and I don't use it as a filter. I would like to make anonymous posts an exception rather than t

              • by shanen ( 462549 )

                I feel like we have some underlying areas of agreement, but we are having trouble finding them. I do think you are misleading yourself to some degree about how you filter your input and manage your time. The main area of agreement seems to involve the value of "an online persona", but right now I think you are confused about how much you and I values ours in contrast to how little the trolls and sock puppets don't value theirs.

                Does it make sense to worry about problems unless solutions, or at least approach

    • How is EPR different from China's "social credit" automated tyranny system?

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Neutral enough question, though not exactly enthusiastic. Not knowing what aspects you are actually asking about, I'm basically forced to guess, and not knowing about your reputation I'm only going to give brief elevator responses. Perhaps you merit more, but I have no way to know that.

        The goals matter. The Chinese are primarily concerned with controlling the flow of information and with stifling the news they don't like.

        The goals of EPR would be to encourage positive reactions and to tilt the scales of rep

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Sunday May 06, 2018 @04:10AM (#56562294)

    You can say "well, the stuff that isn't true"... well, how do you know what is and isn't true?

    Its going to basically boil down to "because X told me it was true and they wouldn't lie." Or "X, Y, and Z all agree so it can't be a lie."

    problem is that X will sometimes be wrong whether they're intentionally wrong or not. And thus "X says its true" does not equal truth.

    X, Y, and Z agreeing doesn't help either because often information will only have one or two sources. And if you eliminated all news that didn't have lots of sources the news would basically say almost nothing every day. And that would simply cause any news feed that did that to be ignored in favor of more responsive and topical news. What is more, like the first problem... whilst it might be unlikely that X, Y, and Z could be wrong... they can be still. Sometimes lots of people are wrong. And strictly speaking when someone is wrong... if "untrue = fake news"... then "wrong = untrue = fake news"...

    Boiling it all down, the fake news argument is a consequence of increasingly politicized and biased press on ALL sides. Coverage is biased. And it is frequently overtly biased. Given publications will sell themselves to readers in fact on being "the most progressive" or "the most conservative" or whatever.

    That doesn't mean that partisan press is real or unreal or true or untrue. But it does speak to an increasing intolerance for media other than what you are consuming. And it is totally understandable that when someone is exposed to media that is 180 degrees off their political echo chamber... whatever that is... they woudl see that as "fake news." They'd see it as biased and not trust it.

    Totally understandable... at first glance. However, here is where some basic integrity comes to the rescue. "IF" you hear something that you think is fake news... just check it out. It may or may not be fake. And don't just go to your political echo chamber to find out if THEY think it is right or wrong. Play devil's advocate with the position. Honestly vet it.

    Typically when there are disagreements on these issues people are just reacting badly to opposition media that isn't saying anything that isn't verified by a lot of sources. And in the few cases otherwise it is often still true but not widely reported. In a very small number of cases, you're dealing with real crap. But by and large its just hostile presentation or obscure information.

    • There is no agreement on what actually constitutes fake news, either. Some pieces are clearly fake, but what about Brietbart or can?
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      There's a fundamental error in your argument - that people want to verify something they have read in their echo chamber.

      People get their "news" from biased or known fake news sources because they want to hear what they already believe: Trump colluded with the Russians, Clinton ordered the hit on Seth Rich, Bush was dumb, Obama wasn't a citizen. They're all absurd stories, can't be verified, and people keep repeating them because that's what they want to hear.

      • Oh I am aware, the "fake news" meme started as a means to discredit and no platform alternative media.

        that was then flipped around and used on CNN etc as they were if anything more vulnerable to claims of making intentional misstatements regarding events.

        That lead to a general food fight with everyone calling everyone fake news.

        Facebook doesn't care about fake news. They're just trying to placate fussy users that want control of their space.

        And I agree with the users that want control. Not because I think t

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      It's right there beside "what is hate speech." Or whatever some whiny little authoritarian is crying over because they don't like what someone is saying.

    • Boiling it all down, the fake news argument is a consequence of increasingly politicized and biased press on ALL sides.

      That's some relativistic BS. Your argument is like saying, "Nobody is perfect, so we have to trust all people equally." There might be occasional instances of bias within any new outlet, but it doesn't follow that we should treat them all as equally reliable.

      Real news organizations at least make an effort to weed out completely false or unsupported assertions. They make some effort to be fair. Maybe you shouldn't believe every single thing you read in the New York Times, Washington Post, or the BBC, bu

      • You're proving my point and don't even realize it.

        Everything out side of your political safe space just so happens to be fake news.

        Hell of a coincidence. And so thick is the cognitive dissonance that you don't see it. You can't.

        And before you say "nuh uh"... consider that IF you were suffering form cognitive dissonance here, you would NOT be able to see it. You would conclude just as you are now... that that is so.

        Actually back up and process things again. Take a double take. Go through some examples empiri

        • Everything out side of your political safe space just so happens to be fake news.

          No, blatant propaganda is propaganda. I'm not sure if you're part of the propaganda machine, you're being fooled by it, or both, but you're part of the problem.

          Oddly, you're disproving your own point: You're claiming to have some kind of access to objectivity-- at least to the point that you can absolutely judge the relative credibility of all news sources. And before you say, "nuh uh", you can only claim that two news sources are equally credible if you have an accurate judgement of their credibility.

          • Of course I'm part of the Illuminati big feet alien jewish conspiracy. I'm not in your tin foil hat safe space. So I must be a Russian bot.

            Cite media outside of your safe space that isn't propaganda. Try. I bet its mentally like trying to pull your foot out of tar isn't it?

            Seriously, get help.

            No really.

            • I wouldn't say you're a Russian bot. I'm pretty sure you're a person. I don't know if you're a Russian, a skinhead, or a moron, but you're certainly spreading some nonsense propaganda.

              And talk about snowflake. You can't even take criticism about your favorite news agency without crying about how unfair it is.

              • What is my favorite news agency? I professed no affiliation with any news agency.

                Seriously. Get help.

                • Aw, did I hurt your feelings? Poor little snowflake.

                  And yet, for some reason, you don't object to the idea that you might be a Russian or a skinhead. You're upset that I said you had a favorite news agency.

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Sunday May 06, 2018 @04:27AM (#56562326) Homepage

    we're all quite familiar with the concept of a monoculture, from biology. once a population gets dominant it is vulnerable to viruses that take down the *entire* population in one fell swoop. when microsoft was dominant we saw the same concept being analogously applied: computer viruses propagate because of a *monoculture* operating system, the great joke being when Wine was "good enough" to run windows viruses it was actually celebrated - i'm sure there was a story before this one, i remember seeing one on /. involving a word macro-virus https://linux.slashdot.org/sto... [slashdot.org] ... so with that concept established, let's look at facebook (except from a *psychological* perspective rather than a technical one). it's dominant... it's a mono-culture... and it has the ability to... spread memes. it's therefore perfect for spreading "sickness".

    question. is facebook going to *stop* spreading "sickness"? no, of course not, because its *entire business model* revolves around spreading information^sickness.

    question. can facebook discern which information is "sick" and which is "well"? clearly they can't.

    question. *should* facebook be the one that "determines" which information is "sick" and which is "well"? honestly no they should not, because that's *our* responsibility, as *individuals*, not theirs.

    question. if facebook cannot serve us, and we are not being served by facebook, what is the next logical step to stop the "illness" from spreading?

    answer: don't have a monoculture. that means terminating facebook as it stands, forcefully (by law) or voluntarily (#DeleteFacebook) or by creating an alternative and communications interoperability standards.

    bottom line: an internet-connected world culture is great... until you get internet-connected world cultural "disease". one way or another this is going to get "solved". i'd like it to be the case that people take advantage of that funding that's being made available: https://tech.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]

  • They're lying.

  • Demonetization is likely the only way you're going to get any traction to curb the fake news problem. You sure as hell aren't going to fix stupid. In fact, it would seem the masses are actually becoming more gullible these days, evidenced by how often fake news goes viral.

    When we stop financially rewarding bullshit peddlers, the justification to peddle bullshit tends to go away.

    • Demonetization is likely the only way you're going to get any traction to curb the fake news problem. You sure as hell aren't going to fix stupid. In fact, it would seem the masses are actually becoming more gullible these days, evidenced by how often fake news goes viral.

      When we stop financially rewarding bullshit peddlers, the justification to peddle bullshit tends to go away.

      If you want to consider how gullible people are then consider the past two presidents. Who really expected hope and change from a Chicago politician? That takes a certain flavor of stupid. Along the same lines, draining the swamp from someone from New York City is just as unlikely. Economic desperation is allowing these clowns to get into office. Until the economics get better expect ever more extreme politicians.

    • People who disagree with my political opinions don't DESERVE to earn a living!

  • I personally would like to see a capability to allow me to block all politically oriented content (ads and posts from friends). There was a lot of conflict between individuals on Facebook during and after the 2016 election. I also say this spilling over and impacting friendships outside of the Facebook platform. Facebook needs to deliver more options to allow users to filter out certain types of content.
  • by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Sunday May 06, 2018 @07:23AM (#56562636)

    Why should they give up fake news? It makes a lot of money and brings them a lot of free publicity and political attention. That's just what rich and powerful people love.

    Google's and Facebook's policies have effectively turned most online news into clickbait. Media outlets have to do this to compete with each other and gain advertising revenue in the environment created by them.

    Facebook runs on the same principle: If you can incite/provoke enough indignant moral outrage, you can get your messages out there and make some money.

    In an environment like that, do you really think that anyone who's in it to make money is worried about journalistic integrity or the truth?

    Inciting/provoking indignant moral outrage has always been a problem in news, i.e. there's always competition for people's attention, which is in short supply. What companies like Google and Facebook have done is to magnify this problem to the point where it overwhelms everything else.

    • The example that comes to mind is the George Zimmerman case. Never was there a more obvious example of a media determined to drive a narrative for the sake of maintaining public interest and thus profits, and at the extreme cost of the individuals involved.

  • Political debate in the west has been pushed into a war between the supposedly right and left. The casualty is information because the right led by billionaire funded think tanks discovered that winning a propaganda war was a paychological question as illustrated initially by cancer and tobacco. It is no longer a debate between opposing political philosophies it has become a propaganda war fueled by lies and hatred. There is no place left for rational debate about the consequences of political choice. Effec

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