A response to the Associated Press article published by Barbara Ortutay on December 15, 2016 at 4:16pm titled “Facebook gets serious about fighting fake news”:
Facebook is taking new measures to curb the spread of fake news on its huge and influential social network. It will focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers and news organizations to sort honest news reports from made-up stories that play to people’s passions and preconceived notions.
Mainstream news organizations by design play to people’s passions and preconceived notions. It is inherently in their interest to create sensationalized stories to attract more readership and viewership. As stated in my previous article about social media, Facebook needs to present both biased sides of the argument in order for people to come to their own conclusions. Eliminating one side only serves to enhance the echo chamber more.
And who fact checks the fact-checkers? What happens when the the fact checking organizations themselves have a hidden agenda? In the free market of ideas, all sides deserve to be heard, and there is no such thing as an all-knowing fact-checking organization.
The social network will make it easier for users to report fake news when they see it, which they’ll be able to do in two steps, not three. If enough people report a story as fake, Facebook will pass it to third-party fact-checking organizations that are part of the nonprofit Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.
It is counter-intuitive to let users, the ones who were supposedly swayed by fake news, to try to identify the fake news themselves. It is essentially a “do you have the same opinion” feature, and if you disagree with the opinion, you will never see it again. This will only polarize people with opposing viewpoints more as they see less of the other side of the argument. However, because of the innate bias of organizations that Facebook has chosen to become arbiters of this feature, all Facebook users will eventually align with the political bias of these organizations. These organizations are evidently all politically biased, since they blame the so-called “fake news” for the rise of a candidate and party whose values they disagree with in the latest U.S. election.
Furthermore, “International Fact-Checking Network” is already a complete logical fallacy in its name alone. It is comprised of self-made tautologies to disprove any counter-narrative. You can’t just prove a point by saying “because the International Fact-Checking Network said so”.
Five fact-checking and news organizations are working with Facebook on this: ABC News, The Associated Press, FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes. Facebook says this group is likely to expand.
All five of these organizations have been revealed through WikiLeaks and DCLeaks‘ leaked e-mails to be working closely with the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 U.S. election. As much as they like to blame Russia for the leaked e-mails and swaying the election “because the CIA said so”, the authenticity of the e-mails are indisputable, and thus it is well-documented that all of these organizations now responsible for “fact-checking” Facebook are radically left leaning, supporting the ideologues that sought to put Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party in power. (It should be noted though that this is no longer the traditional Liberal Democratic party, but rather a party of neo-liberal and neo-conservative types that are more interested in holding globalized power and pushing Saul Alinsky-esque radical left strategies as means of obtaining that power).
Stories that flunk the fact check won’t be removed from Facebook. But they’ll be publicly flagged as “disputed,” which will force them to appear lower down in people’s news feed. Users can click on a link to learn why that is. And if people decide they want to share the story with friends anyway, they can – but they’ll get another warning.
It hasn’t been any secret that Facebook and Twitter have been “shadow-banning” topics they would like to see less popular, but both sites have increased banning and issuing warnings. This is a serious case of silencing dissent, tactics normally reserved for dictatorial regimes. Ideas they would like to see supported are pushed the front, but because of their weak rational foundation, these ideas cannot withstand scrutiny, so the have to resort to silencing any reasoned argument against them.
Again, in the free market of ideas where both sides of the argument are shown regularly, the truth will eventually be found out. The latest from Facebook is a step backwards in society, and social media now adds brainwashing to its list of detrimental anti-social side-effects, alongside breeding of narcissism and group-think.
“We do believe that we have an obligation to combat the spread of fake news,” said John Hegeman, vice president of product management on news feed, in an interview. But he added that Facebook also takes its role to provide people an open platform seriously, and that it is not the company’s place to decide what is true or false.
There is no obligation, just as the post office isn’t obligated to open every single envelope back in the day to check whether the written letter has “fake news”. Will telephone companies also start eavesdropping on conversations and cutting the lines when hearing something questionable?
Hegeman correctly cites the necessity for an open platform, and that it shouldn’t be up to them to decide what is true or false. Hegemon fails, however, to see that picking third party mediators is the same thing as deciding what is true or false, by proxy.
Fake news stories touch on a broad range of subjects, from unproven cancer cures to celebrity hoaxes and backyard Bigfoot sightings. But fake political stories have drawn outsized attention because of the possibility that they influenced public perceptions and could have swayed the U.S. presidential election.
There have been dangerous real-world consequences. A fake story about a child sex ring at a Washington, D.C., pizza joint prompted a man to fire an assault rifle inside the restaurant.
That’s jumping to conclusions. As entirely unsubstantiated claim that “PizzaGate” led to the above event, there is no evidence backing either side to say whether it was a false flag or a reaction to the story. It is impossible to predict the outcome of any discourse over social media and it would be foolish to try to control that. Outside of actual NSA-level spying that can uncover terror or murder plots, trying to link any sort of news story, real or fictional, with the possibility of a negative outcome is absurd.
With Facebook now controlling the stories that get shared, who knows what would happen now that the public isn’t allowed to discuss anything other than what the people in power want them to discuss? That could lead to actual, revolutionary type violence, or the violence that comes from living under a totalitarian regime.
By partnering with respected outside organizations and flagging, rather than removing, fake stories, Facebook is sidestepping some of the biggest concerns experts had raised about it exercising its considerable power in this area. For instance, some worried that Facebook might act as a censor – and not a skillful one, either, being an engineer-led company with little experience making complex media ethics decisions.
“They definitely don’t have the expertise,” said Robyn Caplan, researcher at Data & Society, a nonprofit research institute funded in part by Microsoft and the National Science Foundation. In an interview before Facebook’s announcement, she urged the company to “engage media professionals and organizations that are working on these issues.”
Labeling oneself “non-profit”, just like labeling oneself a “fact-checking” site, does not grant immunity to criticism.
As stated repeatedly, show all sides of the story, and let the free market of ideas sort out the untruths from the truths. People don’t need to be, and shouldn’t be spoon-fed “facts”. People already lack critical thinking skills because they have not needed to use them in this age of mollycoddling, and there’s no need to dig a deeper hole in this “Idiocratic” movement. People need to discover truths on their own.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that fake news constitutes less than 1 percent of what’s on Facebook , but critics say that’s wildly misleading. For a site with nearly 2 billion users tapping out posts by the millisecond, even 1 percent is a huge number, especially since the total includes everything that’s posted on Facebook – photos, videos and daily updates in addition to news articles.
In a study released Thursday, the Pew Research Center found that nearly a quarter of Americans say they have shared a made-up news story, either knowingly or unknowingly. Forty-five percent said that the government, politicians and elected officials bear responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention. Forty-two percent put this responsibility on social networking sites and search engines, and a similar percentage on the public itself.
This is why social media like Facebook needs to be dumped. Even old social media like MySpace did not breed so many societal ills. Current social media now serves as an echo chamber that accelerates collective thinking and narcissism. All the anti-social behavior from grade school and high school like cliques, gossip and bullying is now infecting 2 billion users worldwide. Adult Facebook users are experiencing never-ending high school drama for the pursuit of “likes”.
The numbers from the Pew Research study are meaningless. Not only have they failed to indicate a majority in any of the subjects they listed, even though it wouldn’t matter if it was a majority, it does not assess the root problem: social media is polarizing everyone into groups and cliques. With each side calling the other side “fake news”, adults are now in perpetual adolescent mode of bickering once only seen back in grade school. Reasoned argument and thinking has completely disappeared and Facebook is largely responsible for that. Don’t give Facebook more power to polarize the situation even more.
Fake news stories can be quicker to go viral than news stories from traditional sources. That’s because they were created for sharing – they are clickable, often inflammatory and pander to emotional responses. Mike Caufield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver, tracked whether real or fake news is more likely to be shared on Facebook.
He compared a made-up story from a fake outlet with articles in local newspapers. The fake story, headlined “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide” from the nonexistent Denver Guardian, was shared 1,000 times more than material from the real newspapers.
“To put this in perspective, if you combined the top stories from the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times, they still had only 5% the viewership of an article from a fake news,” he wrote in a blog post .
Facebook is emphasizing that it’s only going after the most egregious fake news creators and sites, the “the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain,” wrote Adam Mosseri , vice president of product for Facebook’s news feed, in a blog post Thursday.
Clickbait is what it is. But that doesn’t mean the public can’t discern reality from fiction on their own and that Facebook needs to sort out what the public sees.
Leave it up to the people to decide. The truth is likely just as viral as the lie.
The social network’s first public step toward fixing the fake-news problem since the election was a statement barring fake-news sites from using its lucrative ad network. But it wasn’t much more than rhetorical. Facebook’s policies already blocked sites that spread misleading information from its ad network, an automated system that places ads on sites across the internet.
Now, Facebook says it has also eliminated the ability for spammers to masquerade as real news organizations by spoofing domains. And it says it’s weighing a crackdown on publishers of fake news as well.
Depriving scammers of money could be effective.
“Google and Facebook are the single two biggest engines for monetization,” said Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester Research focusing on digital publishers. “I don’t think you are ever going to completely eradicate it. But it could get down to a manageable level.”
Facebook will not allow publishers to promote any story flagged as disputed. If this works, users should not see fake news stories in Facebook advertisements.
As private companies, choosing who to pay is entirely their prerogative. But they should be careful in choosing sides, as it will alienate half of their customer base, or perhaps even more when people come to realize the bias they are showing, rather than just being neutral conveyors of the message.
“We believe providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share,” Mosseri wrote.
Right now, their actions do not match their words. Facebook has now clearly picked a side and has admitted to not being neutral. They aren’t providing context, they are now in the business of brainwashing their users by effectively censoring opposing viewpoints.
It is time for users to unplug from Facebook and Twitter, and exit the echo chamber before radical ideology (left or right) gains more traction.
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