Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images For two years now, Facebook has faced increasingly furious criticism over the frictionless spread of misinformation across its network. But, according to the New York Times’ 5,000-word, five-byline story about the company’s dysfunctional response to its misinformation crisis, Facebook eventually learned its lesson. Having heard from scores of politicians, activists, academics, and even former employees about the dangerous effects of “fake news” influence campaigns, Facebook finally landed on a solution: Create its own. As they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, hire a Republican opposition-research firm to write blog posts “play[ing] down the impact of Russians’ use of Facebook.” According to the Times, in October 2017 Facebook hired a political consultancy called Definers Public Affairs — whose Silicon Valley branch is run by Tim Miller, a former Jeb Bush staffer … [Read more...] about Fake News Isn’t Just a Problem for Facebook. It’s Also a Solution!
Fake news detector
Photo: John Middlebrook/CSM/REX/Shutterstock On the list of the internet’s worst effects, that it’s turned everyone into a detective has got to be in the top five. Armed with the power of Google, seemingly limitless knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips, and that makes each and every one of us the smartest, most intuitive person on the planet. This is clearly not the actual case, as there are plenty of idiots who use Google every day. Maybe you’re one of them. I don’t know. But the multitude of informational sources online means that there is nobody who isn’t able to confirm their bias somewhere. Every possible thing can be found online, that’s part of its beauty and its terror. That makes it easy for web detectives to uncover supposedly damning clues that others missed; information that makes them more right than the other person, or changes the narrative. Earlier this week, it was reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is … [Read more...] about Jacob Wohl Demonstrates the Limits of the Right-Wing Misinformation System
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Despite the lack of an election campaign, there was probably a small victory party in Menlo Park on Tuesday night: Finally, a major news event had passed in which no one was blaming Facebook. For all the social network’s elaborate preparation — and for all the close fact-checking attention of news organizations — the election had come and gone, and no one seemed prepared to suggest that Facebook, or social media more generally, had played a decisive role, for good or for ill. So far, the close races have come down to the kind of standard modern political campaigns we’re much more used to, not networks of state-sponsored Russian bots or Macedonian teenagers spreading conspiracy theories for money. The idea of anyone writing an article claiming that “Republicans Control the Senate Because of Facebook” seems far-fetched. This is, needless to say, a striking change from 2016, when Facebook was … [Read more...] about Facebook Stopped Russia. Is That Enough?
Photo: Etienne De Malglaive/Getty Images In the days since protesters wearing yellow vests (gilets jaunes) began taking to the streets of France in the hundreds of thousands to voice their opposition to a proposed gas tax hike — and, more broadly, to the deeply unpopular administration of President Macron — English-language media has begun circling around a particular story of causation: This is Facebook’s fault. In Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky writes that “Street riots in Paris are less about a tiny fuel tax hike than the power of social networks to radicalize their users”; on Medium, Frederic Filloux argues that Facebook is “fueling the French populist rage.” Most widely circulated is a lengthy and detailed Buzzfeed article headlined “The ‘Yellow Jackets’ Riots In France Are What Happens When Facebook Gets Involved With Local News.” The general story goes something like this: Earlier this year, Facebook changed the … [Read more...] about Did Facebook Cause Riots in France?
Illustration: Nicolas Ortega Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the first person in human history to draw inspiration from Augustus Caesar, the founder of the Roman Empire, but he’s one of a very few for whom the lessons of Augustus’s reign have a concrete urgency. Both men, after all, built international empires before the age of 33. “Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established 200 years of world peace,” Zuckerberg explained to a New Yorker reporter earlier this year. “What are the trade-offs in that?” Augustus, Zuckerberg explained, “had to do certain things” to ensure the stability of his empire. So too, apparently, does Facebook. A 6,000-word report published in the New York Times last week disclosed in humiliating detail the lengths to which Facebook has gone to protect its dominance and attack its critics. As various interlocking crises concerning hate speech, misinformation, and data privacy widened, top executives … [Read more...] about The Decline and Fall of the Zuckerberg Empire