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.