Face­book or Fake­book?

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

Let’s be clear about what he — and we — mean by “fake news.” The term has been hi­jacked by con­ser­va­tives who are us­ing it as one more weapon to at­tack the main­stream me­dia. And it’s cer­tainly true that even the best re­porters make mis­takes, or have blind spots. But that’s not fake news. Fake news is de­lib­er­ately fab­ri­cated to gen­er­ate clicks, to make money and, in some cases, to al­ter the po­lit­i­cal de­bate.

Pew re­ports that 23 per­cent of Amer­i­can adults have shared fake news sto­ries with oth­ers, and 64 per­cent said made-up news has caused “a great deal of con­fu­sion” among vot­ers.

So it’s a se­ri­ous is­sue, and as a first step, Face­book is crowd­sourc­ing the prob­lem, “test­ing sev­eral ways to make it eas­ier to re­port a hoax if you see one on Face­book,” says Mosseri.

Those re­ports will be for­warded to third party fact-check­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions like Snopes and Poli­tiFact. If those ser­vices “iden­tify a story as fake, it will get flagged as dis­puted,” ex­plains Mosseri.

You’ll still have the choice to share a flagged story, but it will carry a clear warn­ing.

In ad­di­tion, Face­book is “do­ing sev­eral things to re­duce the fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives” for hoax­ers by cut­ting off their abil­ity to sell ads through the site.

These are good steps, but small ones, and they do noth­ing to solve an­other huge prob­lem: Face­book al­go­rithms that cre­ate “echo cham­bers” by send­ing read­ers only news ar­ti­cles that mir­ror the choices and pref­er­ences they’ve ex­pressed in the past.

“Be­cause Face­book tailors your News Feed based on your own be­hav­ior, you in­ad­ver­tently be­come vic­tim of your own bi­ases,” Nel­son Grana­dos, a pro­fes­sor of in­for­ma­tion sys­tems at Pep­per­dine, writes in Forbes.

The power of fake news is re­in­forced by these echo cham­bers. Peo­ple who are in­su­lated from dis­sent or con­tra­dic­tion de­velop “tun­nel vi­sion,” says Grana­dos, and are more likely to be­lieve fake sto­ries that com­port with their world­view — no mat­ter how out­landish.

One an­swer: Face­book could mimic a well- edited op- ed page. Al­ter the al­go­rithms to make sure a cer­tain num­ber of “cross-cut­ting” sto­ries are pro­vided in ev­ery News Feed. Peo­ple can­not be forced to read them, but at least they’ll see an­other light in their tun­nel.

Face­book is a great in­no­va­tion, but it has to make sure it doesn’t be­come Fake­book.

Steve and Cokie Roberts can be con­tacted by email at steve­[email protected] com.

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