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Propaganda

Facebook and Google promoted false news about Las Vegas

“Social media: The internet version of the supermarket tabloid. Written by the mindless for the mindless.” Unfortunately it is picked up by mainstream media and is swallowed and regurgitated by a good percentage of the 65% of Americans who get their “news” from social media. The article also points up to a failure in machine learning (AI) algorithms in use by the Facebook, Google and their ilk.

Quote

Facebook and Google promoted false news stories claiming that the shooter who killed more than 50 people in Las Vegas was a Democrat who opposed Donald Trump. The misidentification spread rapidly from dark corners of the internet to mainstream platforms just hours after hundreds were injured at a festival near the Mandalay Bay casino, the latest example of fake news polluting social media amid a breaking news story.

The flow of misinformation on Monday illustrated a particularly grim trend that has increasingly dominated viral online propaganda during US mass shootings – hyper-partisan trolls battling to blame the tragedy on opposing political ideologies. …

Despite the fact that the claims were unproven and coming from non-credible sources, Facebook’s “Safety Check” page, which is supposed to help people connect with loved ones during the crisis, ended up briefly promoting a story that said the shooter had “Trump-hating” views, along with links to a number of other hoaxes and scams, according to screenshots. At the same time, Google users who searched Geary Danley’s name were at one point directed to the 4chan thread filled with false claims.
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False content can quickly move from social media to legitimate news sources, she added: “People are putting out crap information on purpose … It’s really easy to get shit into the news cycle by being on Twitter.”

A YouTube user also pushed an unsubstantiated rumor that the suspect was a Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a Facebook Alternative

Over the weekend I was at a family event. There were a lot of folk snapping pictures and I (once again) asked that no one post and pictures to social media, especially not on Facebook. (Followers of this blog, if any, will know my opinion on Facebook). In the ensuing discussion, I floated an idea of a non-profit Facebook like site that was not supported by advertising, was invite only as a default, did not track/sell/mine user data, had real unfiltered non propaganda injected news feeds, and several other items that are opposite Facebook’s (and other similiar social media sites) modus operandi. It did not get too far. The business “minds” did not like the non profit public/private contribution funding model. The Facebook drones just dismissed it as a rant.

My idea is not to eradicate Facebook and their ilk, but provide an alternative and educate by establishing a platform that has both the social media aspects that people enjoy, e.g., ease of staying connected and sharing social info, coupled with news feeds that are not filtered and not based on a readers likes/dislikes and not injected by propaganda outlets of dubious sources.

I think articles and online training on critical thinking and how to evaluate the medias manipulation of emotion and other tricks would be an additional good feature. Such training works as IREX Learn to Discern Program which …”helps citizens detect and decode misinformation and propaganda.” are a good model.

At the moment 45% of Americans get their news from Facebook. News from all social media categories is even higher (source Pew Research Center News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017.  With the Facebook allowing targeted news feeds, targeted fake advertising, direct propaganda feeds, all based on user data mining, these statistics should stand as a loud wake-up call.

Facebook and their ilk are in business to make money. Civic responsibility is simply not in their financial interest. They offer services for free to attract their prey. The only way to counter them to is offer alternative “attractions” that are free from the Venus flytrap profit motivators of these companies.