AltFacts: Bombs and Facebook Changes

Bombs Away. Far, Far Away.

Fake news continues to play a prominent role in real news, creating a surreal media Orobourus [pic] that continues to shake the world. It reached new heights (so to speak) recently over Hawaii, when Skynet launched an automated tweet announcing incoming missiles. For about half an hour, many organizations were honestly expecting World War III, until the glitch was revealed. With what might have been uncharacteristic restraint, Mr. Trump did not press any red buttons, so we are thankfully all still here.

Usually, fake news is more deliberate in nature – like so much of what you read on Facebook (see below). But it could also be worse – China Daily, an English language Chinese paper, recently described the overwhelmingly dominant thought leadership by Chinese president Xi Jinping in the international financial summit meetings at Davos. They added an obsequious made up quote from the mayor of Davos: “…The whole program was developed based on President Xi’s important thoughts …” as reported by Quartz magazine. If you go to the article now, the text no longer appears (there is no retraction, and the site index on the internet archive is unavailable). Perhaps this was a form of satire that fell, completely misunderstood, into a cross cultural crevasse? At AltFacts, we like to give the benefit of the doubt to misunderstood satire. Chinese reporter Fu Jing (Fudging? Really?) could not be reached for comment, but Motif has put our ace investigator May Dup on the story.

An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook made big news recently by announcing changes to their newsfeed algorithm, which will more decidedly favor posts from friends and family over pages and news sources (fake and real). These changes were largely in reaction to Russia’s social networking efforts that may have influenced the last US election, and a reaction to fake news in general.

Mr. Zuckerberg, while your desire to fix this insidious rats’ nest of growing detritus that has thrived on the back of your social engineering feats is laudable, running away from the brain rot is, respectfully, running in the wrong direction. There’s an opportunity here.

Instead of trying to stop unchecked, inaccurate news from spreading on the wings of memes, take a step toward the light and develop a form of curation.

Create Facebook News. Right now no one trusts you (and by you, I mean news they get through Facebook). But hundreds of millions of people are still drawing their information from this quick, convenient source – that means you are, in fact, where verification is most needed. Fight fake news where it lives! People watching Fox News and people listening to NPR might as well live on different planets right now, inhabiting parallel realities as diverse as Earth and the Upside Down in “Stranger Things” (stop arguing about which is which – it’s just an analogy). But objectivity, while it may not entirely exist, is still a worthy ideal to pursue.

There are established methodologies. Traditional journalism has worked out the kinks with tenets like finding multiple sources, using original sources, fact-checking, journalistic ethics and so much more. But the traditional outlets don’t have the money to deploy these tactics as widely as they are needed. Even stalwarts like The New York Times and Washington Post are overwhelmed, and have to carefully select what they are going to cover and fact check. The money (and some of the attention) has moved away from them. To you.

With great power comes great responsibility, they say. Facebook’s core values include a dedication to being unjuried and to radical transparency. No one would expect that to change. But you could set up something that falls between Snopes and Politifact – a curation of fact-checked news from all sources. There are credible, established people out there who could work with you on this (you would have to dedicate it to not being influenced by corporate power), it would make the world a better place, and there is a real need. Plus, it could help you build credibility and keep Facebook relevant. A much stronger response than, “We realize a lot of this is crap, so just talk amongst yourselves.”

Another way of looking at this, Mr. Zuckerberg: You broke it, you bought it, you fix it.

MOST CUTWORTHY:

The Valentine’s Issue:

Remember that, if bouncing single around RI, there are options more IRL than Tinder or OKCupid! Speed dating is one possible way to meet your mate – Pre-dating regularly organizes these events locally (it still starts online – pre-dating.com). You can also explore high-speed speed dating, which involves zip lines aimed so that hopeful romantics will literally make an impact on one another.

In other daily news, Motif was pleased to receive their copy of the Daly Greeting, the only Daly paper to come out once a year. The personal newsletter comes from the clan of recently retired Channel 12 TV political reporter Sean Daly, and reminded us that broadcast TV and RI politics miss you Sean! (Mr. Daly now produces books featuring his stunning photographs of lighthouses from our region. You can check them out at XX.)

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