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‘Fake News’ – Facebook Censorship

December 16, 2016

Facebook has added new tools to allow prevention of sharing of websites that are not approved of; at least that is claimed at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-15/facebook-rolls-out-tools-curb-fake-news. The stated intention is to block out fake news which may mislead innocent readers. However such tools can, and I am sure will, be used to censor sites that try to tell the truth that ‘white listed’ mainstream sources avoid telling.

But is the zero hedge article itself a lie? One clue is that when last night (15 Dec 2016) I tried to share it on Facebook I was told it was not trusted and when I tried again I got in such a tangle that I had to get out of Facebook. So at least some of the tools that zero hedge allege exist, do in fact exist.

I reproduce the text of the zero hedge article below without warranting that it is true, but if it is it seems that Facebook itself will no longer be trusted for the dissemination of genuine news.

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“One month after Facebook revealed a seven point plan to eradicate “fake news”, Mark Zuckerberg has made good on his promise to strip Facebook of fake news stories, starting with a tool that allows users to flag anything they consider a hoax, as well as features that tweak Facebook’s news algorithm and provide more restrictions on advertising.

Facebook’s 1.8 billion users will now be able to click the upper right-hand corner of the post to flag content as fake news.

The first problem, however, immediately emerges because as NBC notes, “legitimate news outlets won’t be able to be flagged”, which then begs the question who or what is considered “legitimate news outlets”, does it include the likes of NYTs and the WaPos, which during the runup to the election declared on a daily basis, that Trump has no chance of winning, which have since posted defamatory stories about so-called “Russian propaganda news sites”, admitting subsequently that their source data was incorrect, and which many consider to be the source of “fake news”.

Also, just who makes the determination what is considered “legitimate news outlets.”

In any case, flagged stories – which really means any story that a readers disagrees with – will then be reviewed by Facebook researchers and sent on to third-party fact-checking organizations for further verification — or marked as fake.

Here too, one wonders how much good will checking will take place considering that these “researchers” will be bombarded with tens of thousands of flagged articles daily, until it ultimately become a rote move to simply delete anything flagged as flase by enough disgruntled readers, before moving on to the next article, while in the process not touching the narrative spun by the liberal “legitimate news outlets”, the ones who would jump at the opportunity to have dinner with Podesta in hopes of becoming Hillary Clinton’s public relations arm.

“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we’re approaching this problem carefully,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of News Feed, said in a blog post. So, what Facebook will do, is give the voice to all those others who praise any article they agree with, and slam and flag as “fake news” antyhing they disagree with. At least no book burning will be involved.

The Facebook VP promised that “we’ve focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.”

Not only that, but Facebook’s algorithm that decides what gets the most prominence in News Feed, will also be tweaked, one would assume to give more prominence to the abovementioned “legitimate news oulets”… such as WaPo and the NYT.

How will the algo determine if a story is potentially fake? If a story is being read but not shared, Mosseri said that may be a sign it’s misleading. Which in turn means that clickbait articles are about to explode at the expense of deep-though, long-read pieces which the current generation of Facebook readers has no time for.

“We’re going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it,” he said.

It gets better: the next step in Facebook’s plan to rid the site of fake news involves sending flagged stories to third-party fact-checking organizations, which include Snopes, Politifact, and Factcheck.org, which as the recent election showed, are just as biased as the so-called “fake news” sites, however they cover their partiality under the cloak of being objective, which they conflate with being “factual.”

A group of Facebook researchers will initially have the responsibility of sifting through flagged stories and determining which ones to send to the fact-checking organizations. If it’s determined to be fake, the story will be flagged as disputed and include a link explaining why.

Then the punishment: flagged stories can still be shared, but readers will be warned in advance, and they’ll be more likely to appear lower in News Feed. These stories also won’t be able to be promoted or turned into advertisements.

* * *

Facebook’s bottom-line argument for engaging in soft censorship? Money.

While Facebook hopes these tools will be helpful, they’re also aiming to hit purveyors of fake news where it hurts — the pocketbook.

“Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads,” Mosseri said.

“On the buying side we’ve eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary,” he said.

As a reminder, the Fake News theme reached a boiling point days after the election, when Zuckerberg said it was “pretty crazy” to think fake news could have influenced the election and warned Facebook “must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth.” Less than two weeks later, with the issue still simmering, Zuckerberg shared a more detailed account of projects he said were already underway to thwart the spread of misinformation.

While the narrative has since shifted to fake news following the disastrous WaPo report on “Russian Propaganda” outlets, which ultimately crushed the credibility of its author, and has been replaced with the “Putin hacked the election” narrative, the quiet push to silence non-compliant voices continues.

Amusingly, the team at Facebook has made it clear they don’t want censorship on the site and that these new tools are just part of the evolving process of combating misinformation. And yet, crowdsourced censorship is precisely what Facebook has just unrolled.

Ultimately, what will end up happening is that One half of Facebook users will flag what they read by one half the media as fake, and vice versa, while millions of users will simply leave the now censorship endorsing social network out of disgust.

Because, while we admire Zuckerberg’s initiative, there is one tried and true way to avoid the all the “fake news” on Facebook:…”

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