November 15, 2016

Facebook, don't even try to censor fake news. You can't draw that line, and you shouldn't want to.

Since we're already talking about Facebook, let me show you this Buzzfeed article: "Renegade Facebook Employees Form Task Force To Battle Fake News/The group is hoping to challenge the position by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the platform has no responsibility to address the issue following the election of Donald Trump."

I absolutely do not trust Facebook to decide what's fake and what's not fake, so I'm with Zuckerberg here and not the "renegades." "Renegade" makes these people sound daring, but they are into censorship and upping the power of the big corporation. The chance that such a power would be used in a politically biased way is approximately 100%. I don't know how much Zuckerberg is really committed to the freedom of speech, but I think he knows if Facebook started deeming some political stories "fake" and taking action against them, Facebook would be accused of bias and censorship and it wouldn't be good for Facebook, the business.

Those of us who care about freedom of speech should try to make it vividly apparent to the people of Facebook that censorship will hurt them economically. You can't trust them to believe in freedom of speech. They've already got a heated-up, self-righteous band of insiders who think censorship is the cutting edge.

By the way, the first definition of "renegade" in the OED is: "A person who renounces his or her faith; an apostate; (in early use) spec. a Christian who converts to Islam." Second is: "A person who deserts, betrays, or is disloyal to an organization, country, or set of principles; a turncoat, a traitor." The set of principles here is: freedom of speech, the autonomy of individual writers, and the viewpoint neutrality of the owner of the forum.

Buzzfeed quotes an unnamed Facebook employee, opining on Zuckerberg's statement that it's "pretty crazy" to think that fake news on Facebook helped elect Trump:
“It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season.” 
We're told that there's a task force of "more than dozens" of Facebook employees holding secret meetings and that "hundreds” of employees are supportive of the cause.
“There is a lot more we could be doing using tools already built and in use across Facebook to stop other offensive or harmful content,” said a second Facebook employee who has been a longtime engineer there. “We do a lot to stop people from posting nudity or violence, from automatically flagging certain sites to warning people who post content that doesn’t meet the community guidelines,” the employee said. He added that while Facebook users were encouraged to flag fake news, the guidelines for removing that sort of content were not clear. “If someone posts a fake news article, which claims that the Clintons are employing illegal immigrants, and that incites people to violence against illegal immigrants, isn’t that dangerous, doesn’t that also violate our community standards?”...

Facebook came under fire in May amid accounts by recent employees that personal bias was pushing the platform’s Trending Topics section towards more liberal news sites. In the wake of the report, Facebook fired its entire Trending Topics team, and said it would instead rely on an algorithm — though as BuzzFeed News reported, experts warned that algorithms were likely to increase the spread of fake news.
Experts warned, eh? Yes, it's those pesky experts. Well, I too am an expert, and I'm not even hiding my name. As an expert, I say: All news is fake news.

I mean, look at this. I did a screen shot of the first thing I saw at when I looked at my iPhone this morning:

The news is that Trump is criticized? There's a core of news: Trump hired somebody. But the headline isn't what Trump did. It's that people are criticizing him, that he is "denounced." And the person he hired is a "hard-right nationalist." That's at the top of the NYT mobile edition. Here's what should be the most respected news site, and it's reframing what Trump does into anti-Trump propaganda by pretending that the real news is what various Trump antagonists think of the news.


Sydney said...

Good post, Althouse. This is what is wrong with the "news" today- too much opinion and not enough fact. That's the problem with social media, too. It magnifies the opinions and prejudices of people. You would think it would do the opposite by exposing people to other opinions, but it is based on social circles so it just makes the cocoon worse. I'm a little worried that the combination of bad journalism and social media is going to result in a break down of our society.

MayBee said...

Really good post, Althouse.
I heard today Google Ads is going to stop advertising on "fake news sites".

Like Rolling Stone?

MayBee said...

This is from Politico's story on the Facebook thing:

" Another, under the headline "Michelle Obama Deletes Hillary Clinton From Twitter," was picked up by conservative radio host Sean Hannity, who later apologized for spreading the lie."

I heard Brain Stelter on CNN mentioning this same fake news story. Who in the world is going to change their vote because they thought Michelle Obama stopped following Hillary on Twitter?
How can the Democrats even think this is their problem?

MayBee said...

These people are liberal and don't want to censor the news, you see. They want to protect you.

Fabi said...

Great post and fine analysis, Ann.

AprilApple said...

NYT - Opinion masquerading as news. Nothing new with the NYT.

Now that an (R) had been elected, opinion masquerading as news will be ramped up to 110%.

Strick said...

Thank you. I was afraid I was the only one thinking along these lines.

David said...

Unfortunately these people got a fake education and have no clear grasp of democratic principles or free inquiry. They were educated to be partisans.

Henry said...

All the fake news I saw during the campaign was anti-Trump.

Cocooning is bi-partisan.

I used to flag spam news as spam, but now I just don't have the time to care.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

By "fake news" they mean "news we disagree with." After all who is investigating to see if it is true or false that the Clintons are employing illegal immigrants. They just don't like the outcome that immigrants could be attacked - so bad news. Lefty fascism.

MartyH said...

Wasn't it just yesterday the Times said, "we aim to rededicate ourselves to the fundamental mission of Times journalism. That is to report America and the world honestly, without fear or favor, striving always to understand and reflect all political perspectives and life experiences in the stories that we bring to you."

They just can't help themselves.

Bay Area Guy said...

75-80% of the "news" is fake, much of it opinion and virtue signaling masquerading as fact.

Who, what, where, why and how have been replaced by "omg don't you understand how racist Trump is?"

Alexander said...

For those watching the meta-game, this is the Democrats doubling down, and starting the process of losing those Obama-Obama-Trump Wisconsinites for a generation.

All hail the Althouse metric!

n.n said...

The Onion should receive a press pass. Their reporting has as much credibility as the mainstream press.

"America's Finest News Source", indeed.

Multiple, ideally independent, sources. Then check if their reporting is internally, externally, and mutually consistent.

tim in vermont said...

Google thinks that they can "fact check" the news, but what they are really doing is "liberal checking" it. They think it's the same thing because they are so tightly bound into this loop of circular reasoning that they can't see outside of it.

I don't believe there is a dime's worth of practical difference between a conspiracy and groupthink.

Laslo Spatula said...

Laslo News Services reports:

Facebook has previously stated that they will use an algorithm, rather than rely on human experts, to determine trending news.

Now, sources say, Facebook will also be using an algorithm to determine the truthfulness of posted articles.

Further, sources say that by "algorithm" Facebook is secretly referring instead to a team of one thousand monkeys chained to computers.

Articles already determined 'truthful' by the Facebook chimpanzees include:

"Trump Is A Poop Head"

"Republicans Are Poop Poop"

"Peaceful Protests Against Poop Trump"


"Increase Your Banana Size: It Works!

Some insiders say the chimpanzees' effectiveness is questionable. Speaking on condition of not being named, one insider said the following.

"Sure, they are right a surprising amount of the time, but they often spend time writing gibberish."

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ...

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” ...


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

The insider added: "Like no one even knows what that stuff means, anyway."

I am Laslo.

tim in vermont said...

I was very upset when Reagan was elected, four years later, it became apparent to me that so much of what was said about him was bullshit that I voted for him. Been a Republican for life. I never did like my intelligence insulted by the stuff Democrats have asked me to believe. Much of what they say is true as far as it goes, and it rarely goes to the full context of what they are talking about.

"Trump said that Obama literally founded ISIS" - Chris Todd.

Either Chrissy thinks I am a moron, or Chrissie is a moron. No other answer possible.

Henry said...

I think there could be a pretty clear list of sites that produce parody news stories. The Onion and it's also-rans. It wouldn't be hard for Facebook to "tag" sites that self-identify as parody news.

Then there are the viral-news sites that produce nothing but click-bait. Those clicks are a revenue stream. Zuckerman will never censor them.

Terry said...

For "news" read "narrative."
I have never been a fan of Facebook or Zuckerberg. Facebook is basically a group blog with a database backend, right? Other than the community, which Zuckerberg does not own, what is Facebook?
What particular genius has Zuckerberg exhibited?

hombre said...

This on the heels of the publisher of NYT recommitting, or some such, to honest journalism.

To repeat: Bias and dishonesty are to the mainstream mediaswine as water is to a fish. I surrounds them and they swim in it.

Hagar said...

Re: Steve Bannon. If Bannon is an anti-semite, how in the world did he get to be a managing partner at Goldman Sachs?

And this morning I saw a NBC headline that no. Trump did not ask for top secret clearance for his kids.

These are things that were trumpeted in the "hard news" media, not just a free for all bulletin board like Facebook.

GRW3 said...

Unlike some who got aggravated, I didn't cut off my more rabid Facebook friends. I just ignore the nonsense. What I did tell more than one was this. If this (whatever the current rant was) was even close to true, it would be on MSNBC or CNN. If not, then it's not true.

Sydney said...

I was very upset when Reagan was elected, four years later, it became apparent to me that so much of what was said about him was bullshit..

I had a similar experience, but it took me 20 years to realize it. Then, I felt even worse when Obama was elected. In that case, it was the opposite, though. Everyone around me was so darned happy and the news told me what a wonderful thing this was going to be. I knew the Democrats had big plans for my profession that would impact my ability to survive. And I knew from news not widely reported by the mainsteram media that the new president had an agenda and political background/experience that would be divisive. Everyone of my fears proved right. We have racial division that we didn't have before. We have a weaponized government bureaucracies. We have chaos in the Middle East. We have an aggressive Russia in Europe. My colleagues are quitting their practices or selling out to big corporate medicine. My city no longer has locally owned and run hospitals, but hospitals bought and run by big business. My patients can not afford their health insurance. Fundamentally transformed!

Howard said...

This is how the censors at Friendface feel about themselves (from Wikipedia):
The Renegade period of the Apache Wars refers to the conflicts between the United States and Mexico and the Apache people who left the reservation system between 1879 and 1886, and renegade Apaches who lived in northern Mexico into the 1920s.[1]

Chief Victorio and the medicine man Geronimo were perhaps the best known renegades of the period.

The emergency escape system cable running from the monkey boards near the top of a derrick to a point beyond where the derrick could fall is called the Geronimo line.

glenn said...

First, great post.
Anybody who gets news from Facebook shouldn't be allowed to vote. They are obviously too stupid to make good decisions.
And on to big media. Donald Trump made them look foolish, and people in their lofty positions can't afford to look foolish. Donald Trump must be destroyed. He never gets that pic ..... slap .... slap. Thanks, I needed that.

The Bear said...

I wonder if anyone can see the tie-in between this brand of censorship and what is going on in Portland with the protestors attacking anyone with a camera and threatening reporters with death if they report the riots going on there.

CWJ said...

Excellent post, Althouse. But the attitudes revealed are very frightening. Think Orwell meets "You have to be carefully taught."

Sebastian said...

"Here's what should be the most respected news site, and it's reframing what Trump does into anti-Trump propaganda by pretending that the real news is what various Trump antagonists think of the news."

"Should be": why? "News site": since when? "Reframing": of course -- it's job #1. Same thing on NPR "news" yesterday: big segment on what Al Sharpton thought of Trump appointments! Irredeemable deplorables, all of them.

campy said...

Those of us who care about freedom of speech should try to make it vividly apparent to the people of Facebook that censorship will hurt them economically.

Great! That will only make them feel even more smug and self-righteous.

Michael K said...

"warning people who post content that doesn’t meet the community guidelines,”

I was warned and threatened with banning by FB when I posted a comment on another's post that "Muslims don't make good immigrants."

That was over a year ago.

Bruce Hayden said...

Zuckerberg is right, and his minions are wrong here, from a business point of view. They can't censor "fake news" without essentially expressing an opinion of their own, and their leftist world view would likely alienate a large percentage of their clientele. Not a good business decision. Currently, I have maybe 100 people trying to "friend" me, and I haven't bothered to sign on for years. Probably won't, until I am convinced that they aren't going to censor whatever I say from a left liberal point of view (and, that it isn't a complete time sink).

Matthew Sablan said...

If Facebook can't keep old, fake, recycled Amber alerts and pictures of sharks in the wrong place after a flood from my feed, why should I trust them to know the difference between fake news, slanted news and The Onion?

Unknown said...

Is it any wonder that the democrat party is becoming a terrorist group with propaganda like that masquerading as "all the news that is fit to print".

Democrat community organizers need to be on watch lists. Maybe trump will fix that. ;)

Rick said...

This is how all institutions become left wing over time. The left wing ethos encourages political involvement at all times. Meanwhile those nominally opposed do nothing because either (1) they think it inappropriate, and/ or (2) the authorities will consider their resistance inappropriate politics (but not the left's activism).

The personal is political.

By any means necessary.

Freder Frederson said...

All news is fake news

That you find an equivalence between a headline that arguably is unnecessarily editorial and "Obama is a Muslim who was born in Nigeria" is extremely disturbing.

You have really started pandering to your crazy right wing base.

Henry said...

Shared from Facebook:

False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical “News” Sources (© 2016 by Melissa Zimdars. Creative Commons License)

Yes, conservatives, you will find some of your favorites on this list -- Breitbart, Project Veritas, etc. But there are lots of left-wing sites as well, including ThinkProgress. And it's nice to see the greasy compassion propaganda like Upworthy get included in the sweep.

Crazy Jane said...

There's a word that describes people who get their news from Facebook: fools. A lot of that going around lately.

CWJ said...

"a headline that arguably is unnecessarily editorial"

OK Freder. Now make the argument that the editorial content is necessary.

mikee said...

As a nonuser of Facebook, I am confirmed in my non-use by effectively every single thing I hear about Facebook, ever. Curmudgeoning is fun.

TwoAndAHalfCents said...

Great movie reference, Glenn - thanks for the chuckle!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Freder Frederson said...

That you find an equivalence between a headline that arguably is unnecessarily editorial and "Obama is a Muslim who was born in Nigeria" is extremely disturbing.

Yeah, the Nigeria thing is an obvious lie. Why would his parents travel from Kenya to Nigeria just to give birth?

cf said...

IT is THICK out there, Ann, Wow. I was driving home this morning from my overnight shift, and NPR is so stuck in their foxhole, i may have heard the word "racist" 32 times in 7 freeway miles, their ability to tuck it into most any sentence regarding the President-elect was ... outragious? psychotic? tragic?

this bludgeon of "racism" is so crude and loud, like a jack-hammer, i do believe my fellows and friends on the other side simply cannot hear the quiet brook anymore, deaf to the subtle Good that is the calling of Donald Trump that open-minded, less idealogically-saturated people can hear.

It is so wearying that these flocks of brilliant flamingos -- the Progressives! -- cannot pause long enough to reexamine their assumptions, and must keep parroting the old ugly squawks. very sad.

now about facebook. . . this technological express elevator Up to someplace we cannot know means we better be VERY Careful.

man, i am in prayer like A LOT. mute prayer that breaks out in song. for america. what an amazing true place it is. how far did jefferson look out to? (it's ok if i refer to jefferson, isn't it?) in his second inaugural or his last speech as president, or maybe both, he begins with a shoutout to the "ten-thousandth generation" of americans as I recall, wayyyy out there into the future, and he says to them, "I salute You."

We missed the missile on election day, thank goodness. we have a much better chance now for More Exceptionalism, a continuing, expansive future.

(god bless us every One )

Sam L. said...

"Here's what should be the most respected news site, and it's reframing what Trump does into anti-Trump propaganda by pretending that the real news is what various Trump antagonists think of the news."

That respect got run over yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs ago. Its dead, Jim!

Birches said...

My professor friend is suddenly worried about free speech on college campuses.

It's a different world out there, kids.

Big Mike said...

What the Times is trying to do is a mix of battlespace preparation and seeing whether Trump can be rolled. Though they probably suspect the the answer to the second is negative.

If the Times really didn't want President Trump then they should have pushed to get Hillary out of the race last spring.

Mike said...

Great. People with fake lives, working at Fakebook are suddenly worried about fake news, in a really fake way. I'm with Althouse 100% on this one: All news is fake news.

Mike said...

Freder Frederson: said...That you find an equivalence between a headline that arguably is unnecessarily editorial and "Obama is a Muslim who was born in Nigeria" is extremely disturbing.

OK I'll bite. What news org ran the "Obama is a Muslim who was born in Nigeria" headline? Link?

Mike said...

I'm serious Freder, because I've never before ran a quote through Google for something so widely talked about and only got ONE result.

Freder Frederson said...

I'm serious Freder, because I've never before ran a quote through Google for something so widely talked about and only got ONE result.

Don't be obtuse. It is such an obvious error I didn't bother to correct it. But since you are all so dense: Kenya not Nigeria. Google that and you get 776,000 hits.

Alex said...

Looks like another mass firing at Facebook is imminent! I doubt these are hard-core software engineers. Most likely some 'librul arts' majors.

Alex said...

Freder - you just MUST believe in the narrative that 'fake news at Facebook cost Hillary the election'. Keep pounding that!

Alex said...

What particular genius has Zuckerberg exhibited?

Maneuvering his way to 28% of Facebook shares.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Freder, serious question. Would some form of "oops my bad" literally kill you, or just break your heart? As Quint might have asked Hooper, Why don't you have the education to admit when you're wrong? Without having it racked out of you?

Rhythm and Balls said...

"Various Trump antagonists?" The bubble you live in must have very thick walls. The alt-right that this guy fostered is a cesspit of the sort of propaganda that your forebears might have enjoyed in 1930s central Europe.

Why did they even come here? This is not a Bavarian beer hall. The Times has a responsibility to not lead its populace to the "We Germans had no clue!" reaction.

Kyzernick said...

Freder, how many of those 700K+ search results reference Obama's author biography at Harvard, which (using details supplied by the author) told wide-eyed readers that this young scholar was born in Kenya?

Because that was a thing that happened.