Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The fake news problem

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  • B Jones,

    I'm pessimistic that even if Facebook do succeed in some quality control, they just get filed by the peddlers of misinformation as The Man, in the same way as I heard someone dismiss Snopes as in the pocket of Hillary or something recently. The real loonies love implying they've been censored. But perhaps the volume on their megaphone can be turned down a bit.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 974 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And that sexism coloured every story about her and the election.

    Overt sexism is still more socially acceptable than overt racism, I think, which suggests that implicit sexism will last longer than implicit racism. It's a bit frightening the extent to which overt racism has roared back into acceptability in the US, but it's also pretty damn alarming the number of lefty guys currently stroking their beards and wondering whether the US will ever be ready for a female leader, or locally, whether female politicians should be promoted in case someone thinks they might be getting special treatment.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 974 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    In the case of tech journalism, and going back to the print era, I would put it at over 50%, whether it’s driven by lack of understanding, sources with an agenda (selling something, often) or desire to create a good story where none exists. I’d say tech is probably about average.

    Fair enough, that’s your reckon. I reckon a careful analysis would find a far lower percentage of stories with any factual errors – and even with those stories, there might be errors, but the overall thrust of the story would be more-or-less accurate.
    If you’ve worked as a journalist and made mistakes, you probably get a better sense of how this plays out. People don’t just roll over and shut up …
    That’s not in any way dismissing the extent journalism is under pressure. Re-cycling press releases is one major consequence. There’s been so much more money (and, increasingly, numbers of jobs) in PR/’Comms’ than in journalism for so long. We’re losing the battle.
    You need decent general knowledge and a sceptical nose to read the news – sort out what’s real, important, valuable, trivia, trash – but then you probably always did. Dismissing the whole enterprise is no way forward.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2084 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Short answer is, Americans, particularly those democrats who chose not to vote, were making the choice to not elect a woman.

    I think it was a perfect storm. The rise of white nationalism, the economic downturn, the overt misogyny from Trump and many others who should know better. In conjunction with the growing influence of a well funded and dishonest alternative media, Putin and Wikileaks. Plus the unfortunate timing of the FBI letters which was the final nail in the coffin.

    Since Nov 2016 • 263 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to B Jones,

    I’m pessimistic that even if Facebook do succeed in some quality control, they just get filed by the peddlers of misinformation as The Man, in the same way as I heard someone dismiss Snopes as in the pocket of Hillary or something recently. The real loonies love implying they’ve been censored. But perhaps the volume on their megaphone can be turned down a bit.

    That actually happened already.

    Part of the reason Facebook switched to non-human moderation was a chorus of (poorly-founded, naturally) claims that Facebook was mandating political bias in its "trending topics".

    What was actually happening was that human editors weeded out stories that were clearly garbage. Facebook panicked and assured Conservatives that it would never prevent them seeing what they wanted to see, even if it was hateful garbage. And even though there was no evidence of actual topics being suppressed.

    Snopes? Yeah, I encountered so many idiots who responded to being referred to anything on Snopes by alleging that Snopes was "biased". People literally don't want the truth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That actually happened already.

    That actually gives me more confidence. I was talking more about epistemic closure - if Conservative loonies are prepared to fight Facebook rather that working around them to create ConservaBook or whatever, that says a common platform is still worthwhile keeping and fighting for.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 974 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Snopes? Yeah, I encountered so many idiots who responded to being referred to anything on Snopes by alleging that Snopes was “biased”. People literally don’t want the truth.

    Yeah. One that got me in particular in the last couple of weeks was someone on my FB page, who wouldn't even accept the original source documents. Like, actual court transcripts from the actual day in court. Gobsmacking.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    This for instance. A trillion dollars lost in 'cyber-attacks'. Where's it come from, where's it gone?

    It's hard to factually disprove this because it's based on no facts, just conjecture from (of course) people with stuff to sell (in this case McAfee, a serial offender).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Attachment

    This Breitbart story is currently spreading like wildfire on Facebook, I gather. The map is fake and the story is intended to mislead.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Short answer is, Americans, particularly those democrats who chose not to vote, were making the choice to not elect a woman.

    And you know this how?

    It's a secret ballot. You don't know who voted, why they voted, how they voted.

    If you did an experiment, and the primary result was out of kilter with reality, would you continue using anything else you measured and couldn't check?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I had to laugh at this piece of logrolling:

    Priebus defended Bannon on Monday (Tuesday NZT), calling him a wise and well-educated former naval officer and saying he had not encountered the sort of extremist or racist views that critics are assailing.
    "He was a force for good on the campaign," Priebus said on Fox News....

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/us-election-2016/86459690/us-election-donald-trumps-pick-of-rightwing-firebrand-for-white-house-job-sparks-outrage

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7771 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Easily fixed .
    Ban them. And anyone who posts there .. . including those who troll there. Ban linking to them
    And Zero Hedge too, including those who oppose the ZH views . . everyone. Yep everyone outside the bubble. I should do the same to those outside of my bubble.
    Hegelian dialectic is just so last millenium, and Sue Bradford needs to be told this.

    I’ll get my blanket.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 757 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    And you know this how?

    Because word analysis of comments made during interviews show massive gender bias against women.

    Yes it's correlation. Such word analyses have proven to be pretty damn reliable.

    But by all means keep looking for more complex answers that ignore the deep sexism that exists.

    Oh and asking for impossible experiments is a boring argument tactic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • EE,

    Russel said "It was a Google algorithm, not an editor, that made a wholly false claim about the popular vote the "top" story in its rankings."

    The Google algorithm seems to be working perfectly.
    The more the original story is critcised, the more it is linked to, the higher it is ranked
    (probably weighted greater when linked by the Washington Post).
    Google users shouldn't interpret the first result as being the most truthful (usually they're ads).
    It would be like saying Shortie or Coro St is the best TV drama because it rates highest.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Reliable journalism, tells a more racist if anything reason. That’s clearly got an economic foundation.

    Many here also complain that poverty and crime are growing. As Macomb helped assure Mr. Trump’s victory on Election Day, it also played a major role in the defeat of a local ballot initiative that would have taxed its residents, and those of four neighboring counties, to build a public transportation system connecting Detroit and its suburbs.

    Part of that mean spirited atatude about the suburbs is becouse the federal government left a vacuum by abdicated its responceabilys – leaving the home loan Billionaire to set the stage. Another realyable news agent

    Detroiters who are worried about ceding local power to Michigan’s Republican governor shouldn’t forget the ways in which power has already been ceded to an unelected oligarchy, whose members might, no matter how ostensibly well intentioned, possess questionable ideas about urban renewal.

    All three of these tragicomic attempts to stanch the bleeding highlight the obvious: Detroit needs money. While the salvation of the auto companies remains a signature achievement of President Obama’s first term, his inability to deal with the entrenched problems of cities like Detroit remains an enormous failure. When New York teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in the 1970s, it was famously told, in the headline of The Daily News, to “Drop Dead.” But then President Gerald R. Ford extended the city $2.3 billion in federal loans. That’s 1975 billions! An impossible sum to imagine in our current age of austerity.

    Here’s hoping the libertarian billionaires turn out to be benign sovereigns.

    It’s complex!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4046 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to EE,

    The Google algorithm seems to be working perfectly.
    The more the original story is critcised, the more it is linked to, the higher it is ranked
    (probably weighted greater when linked by the Washington Post).
    Google users shouldn't interpret the first result as being the most truthful

    Eh, but why did they implement that algorithm? On the assumption that incoming links were a sign og relevance and quality. And that is the belief that most people have about result ranking, and that belief isn't going to change.

    Using quantitative measures as a proxy for qualitative ones is problematic and we can't get away from this. As we are discovering in so many areas at the moment where machine learning and stats are producing results we find unpleasant or surprising.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Such word analyses have proven to be pretty damn reliable.

    Source? Interviews with whom? How selected? Reliable at doing what?

    If you word analyse interviews with NZers or British people (both states who have had two female prime ministers) do you get substantially different results?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I’ve commented before on this, but in the late 1980s Allan Bell did a series of studies into accuracy of news reporting in New Zealand, looking at (i) international news stories and (ii) science reporting on topics such as ozone depletion and global warming. The results were not encouraging. Only about 1/3 of the science stories were rated, by the individuals cited as expert sources, as fully accurate. Meanwhile, stories from regions with which journalists were less familiar (South America or Africa in particular) had on average one serious factual error per story.

    And this was back when there was subediting.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1834 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    Using quantitative measures as a proxy for qualitative ones is problematic and we can’t get away from this. As we are discovering in so many areas at the moment where machine learning and stats are producing results we find unpleasant or surprising.

    Bravo Stephen. Also worth noting that the Google algorithms can and do change from time to time. And the Pariser effect. Just because we see something on Google don't assume that everyone else sees the same view of google. Google is not immutable there are a truckload of filters being deployed between us and the news.

    I also wonder at the ultimate result of ignoring content we don't agree with. There has to be a way of hearing the dissenting views and not just filtering them out entirely. Of course that is what editors / curators do.

    There was a post over on the Conversation I’m right, you’re wrong, and here’s a link to prove it: how social media shapes public debate

    I prefer twitter to FB as it is much more transparent to see where news content comes from and in that sense I am my own curator. I seek out and follow people who are in key roles around subject matter that I'm interested in.

    The fake news thing is real. Social media generally allows for amplification of everything. But not all social media is the same.

    I know some schools teach media studies and I hope that is what I think it is. Hopefully we have enough people taking an interest in media generally to be able to filter some of the propaganda out because that is what fake news is - mostly propaganda.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 360 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp, in reply to linger,

    And also back before Science Media Centre Science Media Centre which is a responsible way to lift the game

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 360 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Here’s another one currently going huge with Trumpers. The theory is that a photo a mum out for a walk got with Clinton, who was doing the same, was “staged”.

    The claims made in this almost unwatchable exercise in blather (you keep wondering when he’s going to get to his “evidence”) are:

    - The photo was “staged”
    - The woman is in fact a “top Democratic operative in New York”
    - She knows Clinton and in fact staged a fundraiser for her
    - Her removal of the picture from her Facebook page is a conclusive “admission of guilt”

    Reality:

    - Margot Gerstner has met Clinton, once, 15 years ago when she was in high school. When her mother held a fundraiser for Clinton’s first Senate campaign.
    - She is not a “top Democratic operative” and there’s no evidence she was involved with the Clinton campaign at all
    - And making her Facebook account private wasn’t “an admission of guilt”, but a wholly understandable response to being deluged with abuse and death threats. She probably didn’t feel great about having her family photos stolen from her Facebook account and abused in this twisted narrative.

    As another fake news cesspit claims:

    Perhaps Gerster was having regrets about this really bad idea to act like meeting Hillary on a hike was all a coincidence, since she deleted her post from Facebook and made her account private. Fortunately, political whistleblower Jack Posobiec caught screenshots of other pictures Gerster has with Hillary before that happened, proving the two know each other since they are seen having dinner together before this “chance” meeting in the woods. CNN didn’t seem to care about that detail since they are still shilling for Hillary and reporting lies on her behalf to help her look good in the aftermath of the election she lost.

    That site’s claim that Gerstner is a “democratic operative” is sourced from this site, which literally made it up.

    Are these people too deranged to notice that Gerstner is a child in her earlier picture? Do they just not care?

    And the Daily fucking Mail reported it as news.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And the Daily fucking Mail reported it as news.

    Of course The Mail did -- they were doing "fake news" before it became trendy. This is far from a comprehensive list, and while a couple of these are so damn stupid they're funny others aren't even slightly amusing. .

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Sjorn,

    I wonder is the understandable fretting about truth and balance only being done by those on the left side of the political spectrum? Or are the humans who count themselves as right or Trumpers or whatever also just as concerned about the apparent deluge of misinformation. If it's only one side that cares then I think that might be also a significant issue in resolving this.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2013 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    this almost unwatchable exercise in blather

    Which is dressed up in the clothes (scrolling bottom third, picture in picture, moving background, etc etc) of a real news organisation. On the one hand, it's pretty cheap and relatively easy to do that stuff nowdays. OTOH, 'next news network' are selling ads but almost certainly have some other $$$ k-ching behind them.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2084 posts Report Reply

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