Items tagged with: Cambridge Analytica
3 months ago
It’s not just spreading phony stories everywhere—it’s killing real news.
A country riven by ethnic tension. Spontaneous protests driven by viral memes. Violence and riots fueled by hateful fake-news posts, often about “terrorism” by marginalized groups.
It’s a story we’ve seen play out around the world recently, from France and Germany to Burma, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. The particulars are different—gas prices were the trigger in France, lies about machete attacks in Nigeria—but one element has been present every time: Facebook. In each of these countries, the platform’s power to accelerate hate and disinformation has translated into real-world violence. (...)
In other words, though it has already facilitated the election of a demagogue committed to stoking racial prejudice, enriched his family, and sold out America’s national interest, social media may not yet have shown us the worst it can do to a divided society. And if we don’t get a handle on the power of the platforms, we could see worse play out sooner than we think. (...)
In the case of social platforms, their power is over the currency of democracy: information. Nearly 70 percent of American adults say they get some of their news via social media. That’s a huge shift not just in terms of distribution, but in terms of quality control, too. In the past, virtually all the institutions distributing news had verification standards of some kind, no matter how thin or compromised, before publication. Facebook has none. Right now, we could concoct almost any random “news” item and, for as little as $3 a day to “boost” it via the platform’s advertising engine, get it seen by up to 3,400 people each day as if it were just naturally showing up in their feed.
This is no hypothetical. It’s precisely what Vladimir Putin’s minions, and the Trump campaign and its allies, did in 2016. (...)
But make no mistake: While Facebook and YouTube, Twitter, and the other platforms may have been genuinely shocked by what happened in 2016, disinformation and manipulation are not a bug in their businesses. It’s the very core of the model, which is why they will never fix it on their own. (...)
Instead, what we know now is that, for years, Facebook has been aware that user data was being shared with outside actors and that its platform was being turned into a disinformation machine. Over and over, it had the option to address the problem and inform the public. And over and over, it chose to go the other way. (...)
The list goes on—from Brexit to Black Lives Matter, we keep learning of episodes where social media was used to spread disinformation and hate. The transformation of Facebook into a tool for manipulation was not something that, as the commercial claims, just happened. It was facilitated and concealed at every step by Facebook itself. And the actions of Facebook’s leaders make it difficult, even for those formerly inclined to giving Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg the benefit of the doubt, to continue doing so. (...)
But Facebook has not just given aid and comfort to propagandists. It has hurt the antidote to fake news—real news. Review, briefly, the recent history of our industry. First, starting in the 2000s, came the giant migration of advertising dollars from publishers to Facebook and Google. (...)
In large part as a result, there are now roughly 24,000 journalists working in America’s daily print newsrooms, down from some 56,000 in the early 2000s. And more and more of them work for hedge-fund owners who milk what remains of newspapers’ profits—mostly through layoffs—while further degrading coverage. (...)
It came, then, as an improbable bit of good news when, on November 6, 2014, Zuckerberg stepped in front of a microphone to describe how Facebook was going all in on news. (...)
For us, this was a way to reach more people with investigative reporting. But for many newsrooms—especially those dependent primarily on advertising revenue—the urge to feed Facebook changed the way news was produced. First came clickbait and the rise of entire companies (Upworthy and the early versions of BuzzFeed and HuffPost) built entirely around getting you to click, like, and share. (...) Super-shareable bits that pushed emotional buttons, from warm and fuzzy hope to anger and fear—the “information equivalent of salt and fat,” as Danny Rogers of the Global Disinformation Index puts it—became the ticket to business success. (...)
All along the way, as Facebook pumped headlines into your feed, it didn’t care whether the “news” was real. It didn’t want that responsibility or expense. Instead, it honed in on engagement—did you share or comment, increasing value to advertisers? Truth was optional, if not an actual hindrance. (...)
This is what Zuckerberg and the other platform chiefs still haven’t grappled with: Their tools are great at helping you find content but not truth. (...)
And then they delivered the sucker punch. In January 2018, Zuckerberg announced what amounted to the end of the “perfect personalized newspaper”: Facebook was pivoting back to friends. The algorithm would ramp up the number of posts from individuals a user was connected with and dial way back on news. Not the fake kind—the real thing. (...)
For many serious publishers, Facebook reach has plummeted—so much so that some are even breaking their rule against disclosing internal analytics. (...)
And because, with the stroke of an algorithm, Facebook erased a huge part of publishers’ audience, it also vaporized much of what was left of the revenue base for journalism. (...)
It’s also become clear that Zuckerberg doesn’t fundamentally grasp the difference between journalism and propaganda. Last May, he explained to a roomful of journalists that “a lot of what you all do is have an opinion.” Facebook, he said, is just providing space for many opinions. (...)
[C]onservatives have managed to keep Facebook constantly seeking to appease them, despite (or rather because of) its perceived liberal bias. (...)
As it happens, conservative entities like the Daily Caller are thriving in the everything-is-opinion world Facebook created. (...)
This pattern holds true day after day—and it’s worse when you zero in on politics. Of the top 20 political news posts on any given day, more typically come from conservative outlets than from mainstream ones, with progressive voices barely breaking through at all. (...)
So right-wing sites and clickbait dominate the platform that dominates American news consumption. And that same platform, despite its stated commitment to supporting “quality news,” keeps making it harder for people to find genuine journalism. (...)
Even if Facebook becomes better at weeding out, say, voter suppression or racist hate, history does not suggest it will deploy this capability in ways that could hurt its bottom line. It won’t make itself less dominant in the way people access information about the world or more cautious about using the data it has on us. And, for that matter, we shouldn’t let it solve these problems for us. We shouldn’t expect it to be the arbiter of how much news we see in a day or how much distortion is okay.
We need to take control of our information environment before it takes control of us. That requires government to do its job—regulation, antitrust action, the full array of tools that democracies have used in the past to rein in the power of corporations. (...)
Tags: #news #fake news #trolls #germany #sri lanka #nigeria #france #burma #myanmar #facebook #twitter #youtube #democracy #elections #manipulation #putin #journalism #journalist #Cambridge Analytica #Russian trolls #yahoo #google #advertising #publisher #alphabet