Facebook, fake news, internet bubbles, and the sins of web 2.0

Our new post-apocalyptic 2016 hellscape has seen a lot of ink spilled over the spread of fake news on social media. I'm not sure I have much of substance to add to the conversation, but I think it's worthwhile to point out some good writing on the topic.

Ars Technica has, perhaps, the most comprehensive take on the issue and the background.

Facebook wants to have it both ways, both ethically and legally. The company wants to be seen as a source of news. The company offers media outlets a chance to use Facebook Instant, because having native content from the New York Times enhances Facebook’s credibility. And yet it also wants to retreat into the safe harbor of being a mere intermediary that does not distinguish between Uncle Tommy’s rants and a Washington Post investigation. That’s why Zuckerberg has responded to criticisms of fake news by saying Facebook’s job is not to determine what’s true.

The Wall Street Journal has a great infographic showing how issues look on Facebook on either side of the political divide. That's not an issue of fake news so much as spun news but it's related none the less.

Melissa Zimdars, a professor at Merrimack College, has created a Google Doc listing "news" sites that distribute false or misleading information.

The Washington Post has an interview with someone who created a lot of the fake news over the past few months. It's interesting if depressing. Side note: satire needs to be recognizable as such. You're not speaking truth to power if people don't recognize it as such.

Buzzfeed showed that fake news outperformed real news on Facebook. Propaganda has never been easier it looks like.

At some point we're going to need to have a discussion about just what a media company is in the digital age because like it or not it's looking more and more like Facebook.

Over on Medium, Geoff Lewis has an interesting take on reality TV, the social media bubble and where we are today.

Finally, I'll toss out one random thought of my own; the rise of fake news is a consequence of the democratization of media that we heralded with web 2.0. The fact that anyone can become a media outlet means that anyone can become a media outlet. By tearing down the barriers to publishing we also tore down the protections (and some would argue corruption) those barriers provided. That's not inherently good or bad. It just is.

We need to be better consumers of media. New media companies (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc.) seem to be terrified of appearing anything but neutral. Even when that means that they have to decidedly favour one side to maintain that appearance. We can't and shouldn't depend on them.

Election Lightning Round

We're, thankfully, just about two weeks out from the end of the US election. Over the course of the election I've saved a lot of links about digital initiatives from the campaigns that have been interesting but not enough to motivate me to write a post. Now seems as good a time as any to do a hot (room temperature?) take lightning round.

There's some speculation out there that Trump originally started his presidential campaign as a way to generate interest for a news channel. If that is the case he forgot to grab the domain Trump.TV. Right now it points to an anti-Trump, Trump.org, which he also failed to register. Always register the domain for any idea you're thinking of. It's like $10 - via The Hill

In the last debate Trump called Hillary a "nasty woman." That was a mistake. Not just because of the casual misogyny but because it's a badge that Clinton can wear proudly (see the NYT). Think about the way that other epithets have been reclaimed to lend strength. "Nasty women" get shit done and Clinton can use that to highlight her accomplishments. If you visit nastywomengetshitdone.com you'll be taken to the Clinton campaign website.

There's a lot of Twitter bots adding white noise. A third of pro-Trump tweets are from bots compared to  about a fifth for Clinton - via CNN

The Clinton campaign has gamified grassroots participation with a new app that rewards people for volunteering. Do enough activities and you can get physical rewards such as autographs. I'm interested to find out what the post-mortems say about this - via The Verge

I love single idea sites. Trump-Clock.com tracks how long it's been since Trump threatened to sue someone.

A solid argument can be made that Trump's biggest enemy is himself. Clinton came up with a bot that tweets out Trump quotes - via The Verge

In that same vein, they've also created a tool to highlight Trump's lack of political experience. You type in a year and then the site shows, side-by-side, what each of them were up to via Business Insider 

This was pretty one-sided. I wonder how much of that is due to the Trump campaign's lack of organization or if I'm just in an echo chamber.