Fake News

The good coming out of Caitlin Dewey’s article on the “Facebook Fake News-Writer” is that people will be more generally aware of the problem. The torrent of responses from Silicon Valley’s big whigs has also made it headline–even “front page”–news.

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/11/17/facebook-fake-news-writer-i-think-donald-trump-is-in-the-white-house-because-of-me/?utm_term=.1b4b32589471

The video at the mid-point of the piece provides a number of checks and software interventions readers can employ to ferret out the fake from the real.

I expect to see more browser add-ons like FiB that automate the process. It should be a component of utilities like Norton and McCafee–which already incorporate “Internet” antivirus and trojan protections.

See http://www.businessinsider.com/students-solve-facebooks-fake-news-problem-in-36-hours-2016-11

Antivirus software has gotten so good that upon paying our annual subscriptions, nobody thinks about it anymore. Remember when the latest worldwide computer virus used to make headline news?

It makes good bottom-line sense for the platform providers to act in their own interest. A big driver of the fake news industry is its monetization via programs like AdSense. Clicks translate into dollars. I think this will be a strong motivator for Google, Facebook et al to get out of the inadvertent business.

And of course, there are the “thousand eyeballs” features that enable self-policing for spam, inappropriateness, abusiveness, etc. Check those boxes more often!

Perhaps now, people will at least be more sensitized to use them.

Did fake news influence the election? Clearly, a plurality bought into Trump’s tweet stream, which despite the facts, lack of clear articulation and incoherence, was sufficient to win the presidency. But that’s been true of prior media.

There was a language analysis done in the 1960s on the Eisenhower-Stevenson election of 1952. The operative question was why Stevenson lost. The conclusion was his language was far more academic than Eisenhower’s–in terms of sophisticated usages and sentence length. Moreover, there was a reapplication of the analysis to a number of other campaigns. It was found that simpler language, even if false, generates greater trust. In all cases, the commonest man one the day.

What’s needed is broader education on critical thinking skills, to which much lip service is offered, but little room given in the curriculum.


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