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Snopes.com Editor on Fake News: Social Media Is Not the Problem (backchannel.com) 624

"Honestly, most of the fake news is incredibly easy to debunk because it's such obvious bullshit..." says Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of the fact-checking at Snopes.com. "It's not social media that's the problem. People are looking for somebody to pick on." mirandakatz shared this article from Backchannel: The problem, Binkowski believes, is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly -- therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer. The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly. "When you're on your fifth story of the day and there's no editor because the editor's been fired and there's no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don't have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up," she says.
I found this article confusing. Snopes seemed to be trying to steer the conversation back to erroneous stories from "legitimate publications," which erode the public trust in all mainstream outlets. (Which I guess then over time hypothetically makes people more susceptible to fake news stories on Facebook.) But her earlier remarks suggest it's not really credibility that's lacking there -- it's the absence of someone convenient to pick on. So what is the problem? Is it the news media's lack of credibility? Algorithms that disproportionately reward alarming stories? A human tendency to seek information that confirms our pre-existing biases? What do Slashdot readers think is causing what this article describes as "our epidemic of misinformation"?
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Snopes.com Editor on Fake News: Social Media Is Not the Problem

Comments Filter:
  • Fake News? (Score:5, Funny)

    by LarryRiedel ( 141315 ) <Larry@Riedel.org> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @04:44AM (#53325303)
    Sorry, is this a real news story about snopes, or a fake news story?
  • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @04:46AM (#53325309)
    Notice how many news sites (like CNN) now interleave fake story links with their real stories? And we wonder why the general populous is confused. If the news organizations want to regain lost trust they need to do away with such tactics. As it stands, the news sites are basically endorsing these sites.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Do not try and bend the news. That's impossible. Instead... only try to
      realize the truth. ... There is no news.

    • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:11AM (#53325363)

      I think there's some false information often interleaved with news stories in general. For example, about a year ago a muslim dude and his family had their visa to the US canceled, (they were going on a trip to Disneyland) and one of the major cable news channels I saw it aired on (I believe it was NBC) painted a narrative that it was because of Trump, even though Trump hadn't even been the republican nominee yet, and to this day still holds no political office.

      Even for those outlets that didn't paint such a narrative, I suspect the story wouldn't have made news at all if Trump hadn't said anything. It turns out the guy had links on his facebook account to taliban and al-qaeda websites, and his cousin attended mosque with a known terrorist. That triggered a red flag that got his visa canceled. So why was this even in the news at all?

    • by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:19AM (#53325381) Journal

      The point the author of the article WANTED to make, I believe, is that the quality of news is slipping on legitimate news sites (due to whatever., blah blah) and THAT is causing people to either seek out alternate news sources, or give those otherwise dubious sources credibility since they appear to be spewing the same BS as the legitimate sources are.

      • by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:31AM (#53325419)

        I wish it was just slipping.

        Over the course of the past five years or so I've seen every major newspaper in my country (Denmark) turn into tabloids, with extremely clickbaity article names, misinformation, mistranslations, butchered grammar, lack of understanding of the subject matter or even the metaphors they try to use ...

        It's pretty much as the article summary says - they are forced to crank out so much content with so little oversight, assistance or perhaps even education that it ends up a complete and untrustworthy mess.

        Here are some quick translations of the top stories on the websites for each of the three biggest newspapers:

        Ekstra-Bladet:
        Trump raging after boos: Ole Henriksen refuses to apologize! (Because an entire theater was booing at Mike Pence, but this one guy gets singled out because he's originally from Denmark)
        Fitnessbabe shares completely honest picture: This is what my body really looks like (Front page material right there)

        BT:
        Friday is when it happens: Black Friday will beat all records (Why is Black Friday even a thing outside the US, let alone front page material a week in advance?)
        Famous Danes losing money: They have million dollar villas for sale - but no one wants to pay the price (Oh hey, we're still feeling a recession)

        Berlingske Tidende:
        Check it yourself: Your part of the country reveals your taste in music
        And a special one just for subscribers: Men: "We want to do everything. So do our wives."

        How are people supposed to take these newspapers seriously? How are we supposed to believe anything we read there?

        • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:55AM (#53325745) Homepage
          Well, the hobby of the entire nation of Denmark is watching what the Americans are doing that day and then recoiling in horror. Seriously, what did you people do before us?
        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:01AM (#53325761) Homepage Journal

          I wish it was just slipping.
          Over the course of the past five years or so I've seen every major newspaper in my country (Denmark) turn into tabloids,

          75% of the media in the world is owned by three conservative media conglomerates. This has always been a problem but Bill Clinton signing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is the precise moment at which it truly all went to shit.

    • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:24AM (#53325397)
      This single story sums up CNN: Math is racist. [cnn.com]

      With that single story a national of deplorables can trivially take CNN off the credible list. But that isn't the only story. Its been a barrage of bullshit for years and years now.

      You can easily find complete bullshit stories like this coming out of every single major news outlet, be it FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC, RT, and even PBS and NPR.

      Thats it. They have taken credibility off the table so all thats left is pushing paid-for narratives and personal biases. Its really as simple as that w.r.t. the media.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ( 4475953 )

        US TV channels have never been credible news sources. If you want good information, read at least the Washington Post or New York Times. The International New York Tribune is also very good if you have less time, and then there are several good non-US journals and newspapers to choose from. You can read them online, no need to get them in paper.

        Also: If you read a good newspaper and have a brain of your own, then bias is not important at all.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:05AM (#53325771) Homepage

        Apart from the click-bait headline, I think the actual content is valid. If you gave me ten guys from a random selection in a line-up and asked who's here the ex-con, the best guess would probably be the black guy. Not because I'm racist, but because of the makeup of the US prison population compared to the general population. On the other hand, many politically correct people could easily accuse me of being racist because in their minds the moment I see his mug I jump to the conclusion that it must be the black guy. So the politically correct answer is to say you can't say anything from a person's mug shot, to intentionally be color blind.

        Big data and algorithms refuse to be color blind, if there's a pattern to it they'll assign it a weight. Live in a black neighborhood? Dinged on the score. Have a "black" sounding name? Dinged on the score. Only extremely rarely is there a fuss about it, like when those black kids were making funny faces and Google's algorithm guessed it was monkeys in the picture. Even then it's like it's only an algorithm, it can't be racist... but you know it wouldn't mistake white kids for monkeys. Basically it's about demanding equal treatment and in many cases they get it when humans are involved, but let a computer do it and you can get away with weights that would otherwise be considered racist.

        • by Jiro ( 131519 )

          Apart from the click-bait headline, I think the actual content is valid.

          Yes, and if the fake news had been in the first three sentences, you could have said "apart from the first three sentences, the actual content is valid". The headline was still posted by CNN, supposedly as part of a news article. They're not blameless just because the fakery is in the headline, especially since the headline is the part that the most people will see. A month later people won't remember exactly where they read that ma

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:10AM (#53325779) Homepage

        Great example of rejecting information that contradicts your established opinion. The headline is a bit over the top but the story is completely reasonable, based on genuine studies and data about how the use of big data can create racial bias.

        This is post factual thinking at its worst. Because you don't want to hear that big data can result in systemic racism, you reject not only the story but the entire media outlet that printed it.

      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @08:35AM (#53325839) Homepage

        With that single story a national of deplorables can trivially take CNN off the credible list.

        Can you explain why? Obviously the title is controversial, implying that mat *itself* is racist, but that's not what the story seems to be about if you actually read/watch it. The little video associated is mostly showing that some statistics that show continued disparity between whites and blacks. The written article is arguing that the increasing use of mathematical predictive models create an unfair slant against the poor and disadvantaged, which has a disproportionate effect on black people. It does acknowledge that there is some value in these models, but reports that Cathy O'Neil argues that they're being used badly

        It doesn't even seem to me that the article is claiming that Cathy O'Neil is objectively correct. It clear that the article is reporting, "This is what Cathy O'Neil claims," rather than, "This is the case." I'm not seeing the problem, but maybe you're picking up on something that I'm glossing over. What's wrong with it?

      • I think that CNN story was overly reliant on the oh-so-clever title 'Weapons of Math Destruction'. Har-har, effing hilarious.

        Everything in the "news" today is all about the headline and the fleeting image / impression that the "news consumer" retains about the subject matter, which is all to often politically-agendized.
    • Notice how many news sites (like CNN) now interleave fake story links with their real stories?

      What I notice is that everything from CNN is bullshit. I was reading an article on Trump's likely impact on MMJ and they called THC a "psychotic". WTF?

  • by Pikoro ( 844299 ) <init@[ ]t.sh ['ini' in gap]> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @04:49AM (#53325317) Homepage Journal

    What do Slashdot readers think is causing what this article describes as "our epidemic of misinformation"?

    Gullible Idiots and confirmation bias.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The erosion of trust has to do with the channels of communication broadening.

      The same old people considered "professionals" in journalism do the same things they always have, but the talkback of all of us is much louder. You can read what Mark Twain said of journalists to see that it's always been a crooked biased business.

      "Fake News" is just a new meme as the journalist community tries to claw back some credibility.

      Sorry, guys, the brown stuff on your face from how deep you nestled into certain politicians

    • That, and simple laziness. Too lazy to load a real news app? Just scan Facebook. Too lazy to fact check what you hear? Hey, if it sounds right to me, it must be correct - who wants to bother with all that Googling, anyway?

      Hard to tell which is greater - the laziness or the gullibility. Occam's razor doesn't seem to help here!

    • Fake news is much more interesting than real news.

      Most of us like a good story, and it hardly matters whether the story is true. "Fantastic Beasts" is a great story that people are willing to pay good money for: it's got a more-or-less coherent plot, the motivations of all parties are clearly laid out, and it resolves to a recognizable end. Hillary's emails? Donald's cabinet? Not so much. Fake stories involving real people, like Kardashian nude tweets, is the best of both worlds.

    • Gullible Idiots and confirmation bias.

      The more interesting question is, "What is it about those in ascendant power that makes them benefit so much from misinformation?"

    • by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:42AM (#53326063)

      What do Slashdot readers think is causing what this article describes as "our epidemic of misinformation"?

      Gullible Idiots and confirmation bias.

      I'd say money. I mean, really, news outlets are almost all for-profit, and the ones that aren't still need money to operate. How do they get money? By selling ads. They get more money per ad if they can show that it is viewed by more people, so they run articles with racy headlines (clickbait). It doesn't really matter after that if the article is well researched or not, but it's cheaper to run it without reasonable edits and fact checking so that happens a lot more than we'd like to admit.

      The people in our nation are almost 100% focused on making money and it's actually really hard to claim that our media outlets are a problem in this regard because it's true of nearly EVERYONE in the nation, in every field. Yes, including many 'non-profits' and churches.

      So, when it comes down to it, you get what you pay for and because these news outlets are essentially free to you, the reader, then you need to realize you're not their customer -- the advertisers are. It's been said many many times on Slashdot before and it is still true -- you are actually their product.

  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @04:49AM (#53325319)

    That free speech thing is a bitch to deal with...

    If everyone gets to say what they want interpreting what they say becomes harder.

    But that's just tough shit. It's the work you have to put in to live in a free country.

    People who want rules and laws to "stop fake news" can just go to hell.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:26AM (#53325403)

      What people seem to slowly realize is that just because news outlets can tell you the truth due to freedom of speech disallowing government from keeping them doesn't mean that they are by any means required to do so.

      We used to equate the freedom of the press with the press telling how it really is because, hey, nobody keeps them from doing just that. In fact, though, the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that the lies the press tell you differ from the lies the politicians tell you, not that they tell you no lies.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      You're free to say whatever you want.
      But if you want to sell the truth, you should put truth to sale, otherwise the consumer will catch on to it and won't buy it anymore which is pretty much whats happening.
      The product got bad, people don't want it anymore.

  • epidemic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @04:55AM (#53325333)

    What do Slashdot readers think is causing what this article describes as "our epidemic of misinformation"?

    Nothing is causing it. Fake news has been around forever, just look around your supermarket checkout line.

    We're having a "national dialog" about this "issue" because the political establishment is pissed that their candidates didn't get elected and they are trying to figure out how to regain control of the electorate.

    • I think it's much more than the political establishment that's pissed off:

      http://www.usatoday.com/videos... [usatoday.com]

      And on a side note, I can't see any reason for this other than they are protesting democracy? Either way I have to admit I did laugh when one of them got thunked by a car driving at high speed; likely that protester end up with a costly hospital bill, but a criminal record (in many cases it's a felony trespass to enter a freeway on foot if it has a center divider, and all cases where it's not a felony

    • We knew fake news more easily though. Weekly World News, completely fake, but everyone knew it. It mostly focused on irrelevant stuff, like celebrity affairs and Bat Boy. Today's fake news is political, and often intended to reinforce the echo chamber or create astroturfing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here's what we know beyond a shadow of a doubt at this point from Wikileaks and multiple other sources:

      Most of the major media colluded with the DNC. They had stories vetted. They discussed strategy. They performed requested "edits". And they strategically portrayed the opposition in a negative light.

      That, by any definition, is "fake news". It's not reporting. It's news which has been meticulously crafted to produce a desired opinion.

      It's propaganda, to use another generation's term.

      Take a look at this list

    • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:13AM (#53325971)

      The problem isn't fake news on social media. The problem is that major news sites gave up being subtle with their bias and went on an all out attack against Trump.

      Everyone expects that kind of reporting from places like Huff Post, USAToday, MSNBC, and Drudge Report. But this time sites like the Washington Post, NYT, and CNN stopped pretending to report facts and published nothing but attacks; the worse their "reporting" got the more frustrated they became as readers increasingly ignored what was obvious BS. They're trying to blame the BS that was circulating on Facebook for influencing people, but their real problem is that their own voices faded away.

    • Re:epidemic (Score:4, Funny)

      by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:16AM (#53326197)

      We're having a "national dialog" about this "issue" because the political establishment is pissed that their candidates didn't get elected and they are trying to figure out how to regain control of the electorate.

      Had the Left won, hard to imagine their extremist supporters racing around in Priuses, flying rainbow flags, yelling 'Death to Whitey!' at every Caucasian they meet, and burning down the occasional Cabelas.

  • In a nutshelll, what doubles as news today is opinion pieces spiced with sensationalism. Everything is breaking news that will blow my mind. Blah.

    When has anyone ever seen a simple, plain facts article in the recent past that wasn't already oversaturated with "information" on how to interpret it and what to think about it?

  • by zapadnik ( 2965889 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:29AM (#53325409)

    This is fascinating to watch. The 'fake news' meme itself is the disinformation (which has a specific definition, see the book "Disinformation" by Lt Gen Ion Mihao Pacepa - http://www.amazon.com/Disinfor... [amazon.com]).

    The US mainstream/legacy media disgraced itself with the recent coverage of the Presidential race. Their polls were way off because they oversampled members of one party (they oversampled Democrats by +8% and Hillary is up by +4% as a result, it told you who was actually ahead - and with high betting odds it was possible to win big), their suppression of the information about corruption and subversion of the DNC primary process, and their spinning of every situation to match their own particular worldview (instead of doing 'journalism' and presenting both sides objectively and trusting the reader to make their own conclusions).

    Because the mainstream media did so poorly (with the exception of the LA Times whose polling was much more accurate than CNN, MSNC, Fox etc etc) and an overwhelming majority of people distrust them, they need a way to combat the alternative media sources that have sprung up 'Uber-like' to provide more accurate coverage. Hence, the mainstream media folks who propagate the actual 'fake news' coverage have only one card to play, and that is to accuse the less biased 'alternative media' as being the fake news sources. This 'fake news' meme is pure disinformation - and they think that Slashdotters are not smart enough to see straight through it ! But we can.

    The mainstream media are doubling down on their smear tactics. They will do *anything* except do actual journalism and objectively tell all sides of a story. They will do anything except tell the truth - all the while smearing the alternative media who actually report much closer to the truth. No wonder smart people have stopped watching the mainstream media in droves and their revenue is plummeting as a result. To stop the slide they need to stop pushing their Narrative and start reporting objectively, but they will not. Hence, like all dinosaurs they will die under the evolutionary pressure of the democratization of information (amateurs who are more dedicated to the unvarnished truth than the legacy media are).

  • Education stupid (Score:4, Interesting)

    by justcauseisjustthat ( 1150803 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:35AM (#53325433)
    It's the lack of proper education and the ability of individuals to reason things out logically.
    Secondly, desire to believe. In this US election you had Christians and Southerns voting for a New Yorker that lied and was unChristian constantly and is part of the establishment, they wanted to find reasons to believe him or hate Clinton.
  • I think fragmentation is the biggest cause of fake news. When there were only a few viable news sources, they had to cater to everyone so stores were less biases and fact checking more rigorous. But if you can be a viable news source that only targets to a fraction of people who are predisposed to be less critical of you, you leave the door wide open to fake stories because the penalty for a fake story is nearly non-existent (you will be likely forgiven by your audience).

    Basically you can be viable news s

    • I think fragmentation is the biggest cause of fake news. When there were only a few viable news sources, they had to cater to everyone so stores were less biases and fact checking more rigorous.

      Unfortunately, you have that completely ass-backwards. Conglomeration is the biggest cause of fake news. When Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 he opened the door for media consolidation which removes the alternative outlets which once kept the major media corporations in check. They simply buy out the competition that would point out the flaws in their reporting. With nothing to keep them honest, the major media conglomerates can report essentially anything they like. As their credibility falls, the fake news seems more credible by comparison.

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:43AM (#53325447)

    Sure, these fake news stories exist, and are sometimes highly visible, and apparently get enough clicks to make a profit for the bullshitters...
    But does anyone actually believe these stories? Could people just be Liking/retweeting them because they're amusing, in a "ha ha, look at this tabloid article about Bigfoot having Prince Harry's baby!" kind of way? Surely a lot of readers WILL realize that what they're reading is bullshit, or do fact-checking on their own.

    'Fake' news is ubiquitous and always has been, in any news source. Look at how many peer-reviewed scientific journal articles are later redacted or found faulty, and what portion of published research is later found to be fabricated, or is disproved later on or unreproduceable. Now think about how many news articles are written for laypersons summarizing scientific developments, that are misleading or dead wrong. Now think about how many PR department press releases are copied verbatim into 'news stories' without any critical thinking or fact checking. Ok, maybe your news department was downsized and you don't have an editor anymore, and noone will tell you "you can't put that shit in our publication", but critical thinking doesn't take a dedicated salaried position, any writer can exercise it.

    Binkowski gives a free pass to the news industry, going with an 'incompetence/insufficient budget' excuse, completely ignoring intentional malevolence/profit motive reasons.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @05:44AM (#53325453)

    People seem to be increasingly siloed when it comes to their "news" sources. Stephen Colbert wasn't just making a joke when he talked about "truthiness" - people will hear the same thing from a couple different sources, legitimate or not, and pretty soon you've got a room full of imbeciles claiming as fact that Dearborn Michigan has instituted Sharia Law.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @06:26AM (#53325541) Homepage

    The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly. "When you're on your fifth story of the day and there's no editor because the editor's been fired and there's no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don't have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up," she says.

    So, this is it. Journalism is too tough because the business of news is too tough. Seriously? Soul-searching and THIS is the best they could come up with? I thought after the shock election result, the Left was supposed to wander in the desert and seek answers? They STILL don't get it?

    An explanation that does not include the fact that the media dropped its last pretense at truth-telling and wholeheartedly backed the worst political candidate since Edwin Edwards is NOT truth-telling! Jesus Christ! The first step in fixing a problem is admitting that there is a problem! Even the New York Times came out and said that after the election they had to rededicate themselves to journalism. Why would they need to do that unless they lost their dedication in the first place?

    The Emperor has no clothes. The whole world saw it. Yeah, if you don't read international news from non-European sources, it was obvious to everyone worldwide that the US media were totally supporting Hillary. They're used to detecting this kind of bullshit after all, but they're just not allowed to report it when it concerns their own corrupt elites. The US media are bankrupt, deplorable, and irredeemably biased. Cancel your paying subscription today and help them into the grave. Cancel your ad buys. Tell the reporters you don't trust them when they want to cover your daughter's softball championship win. It's the only way we can progress as a society.

  • The problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Allsup ( 987 ) <doctor.inna.hous ... o ['sup' in gap]> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @06:49AM (#53325583) Homepage Journal

    It is similar to the way fundamentalist sects work.

    1. (Confirmation bias) people prefer to be told what they like to hear, to have their beliefs and wishes confirmed.
    2. (Intellectual laziness) people don't tend to waste effort scrutinising what they already agree with.
    3. (Complexity of debunking) to give a convincing reason why fake news is wrong, you have to go into details, and this turns off many readers, especially the intelligent readers with cerebral jobs whose brains are tired from their day jobs.
    4. (Effort of debunking) it is often easier to knock out a fake story sufficiently plausible to those who already agree with it, than to put out a carefully thought through article debunking fake news.

    The problem is one of quality vs quantity: once you have the right psychological conditions (charismatic leader or group saying what some want to hear, frustrated audience that want change), fake news in support of something can be churned out, and circulated via media, social or traditional, on an industrial scale, cheaply and largely decentralised. Proper journalism and proper rebuttals simply can't be produced on a comparable scale. So to the naive, it can can appear clear that the balance favours the fake news.

    (The comparison with fundamentalism can be seen if you peruse some of the religious apologetics literature, or books pushing creationism or similar.)

    Reason and scrutiny are intellectually expensive, and cheap and cheerful bullshit is not.

  • by Edis Krad ( 1003934 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @06:53AM (#53325595)

    The problems is free news. Or more correctly, people not wanting to pay for news.

    For some strange reason, people expect to get their news for free on the internet. Which is kind of strange, when most people would gladly pay for a video or music subscription, or even buy digital content like games, they throw a hissy fit when they hear of a news paywall.

    The problem is that news, reliable news, is not free. Research, fact checking and editing is a time and money consuming task. So when people demand their news for free, either two things can happen. 1) shut down operations (which has been the case for a few newspapers so far) or 2) pursue an ad-revenue model.

    Now I don't have to tell you what the problem with 2) is. Boring stories, however important they may be, generate no traffic. Misleading headlines, half-truths and sensationalism on the other hand generates a lot of clicks and therefore is more profitable to post fake news, hearsay and rumors than do some actual journalistic work.

    Social platforms exacerbate the problem. Media outlets, in an effort to reach as many people as possible (more revenue) use social networks to push their unchecked, half-baked articles. Echo chambers quickly form, and like in a very twisted version of the Telephone Game, the story mutates, getting worse as it goes along.

    Want the problem to stop? It's easy: Stop getting your news from facebook (I'd personally recommend stop using facebook altogether) Stop complaining about the damn paywall and pay a subscription to a couple of trusted news outlets.

    The real problem is us.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      While I agree this is a major problem, don't underestimate the politicians. It happened in the UK, and it happened in the US. Politicians who know what we know that lie constantly, and just concentrate on feelings and emotions instead. I mean, if they all lie, lying makes them no worse than anyone else.

      Politicians have a huge credibility problem. If one actually made specific promises and delivered them it would be a revolution.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @09:29AM (#53326019) Homepage

      For some strange reason, people expect to get their news for free on the internet.

      I really think the problem is, there's not yet a good model for paying for news. People get their news from various sites, one story at a time. They don't want to pay an expensive subscription for the whole site to read one story that they found a link to. Just as big a problem: even if the price was right, people don't want to set up and manage 50 different subscriptions, giving their credit card info to 50 different sites, not knowing whether 40 of those sites are competent enough to safeguard your info.

      I don't know what the solution is, but I suspect part of the answer is some kind of paid aggregation/curation, with standardized payout to the content provider. Something like (though not quite the same as) a Spotify for news. Imagine maybe if you paid for a subscription to Slashdot, and Slashdot has to pay (according to some allocation of the subscription funds) to the sites that it links to. Slashdot would then need to hire real editors who could vet the news source and story in order to make sure the stories on their site are reputable and accurately presented. Something like this would have the benefit of paying news sources. Also, if people are paying, maybe it will decrease the need for, or get rid of, advertising and all the problems that come along with that.

      Of course, there are some problems with that model. For one, while it would allow us to pay for news, it doesn't really prevent the fake news problem, since people can just as easily look at fake news articles from Facebook or crappy news aggregation. It also doesn't fix the "bubble" phenomenon where people only see news that agrees with their current opinion. There would still be partisan "Spotify for news" aggregation sites, and people would tend to subscribe to the crappy aggregation site of their choosing.

      The biggest problem, however, would just be formulating an arrangement among these "Spotify for news" sites and all the various news sources. It may not be as hopeless as it seems. Apple, for example, has a news aggregation app for iOS, which links to various news sites. Among those sources is the New York Times, which also has an app offered for iOS, which includes an in-app purchase for a digital subscription to the times. So Apple is already offering articles in an aggregation, processing subscriptions for those sources, taking a cut and passing the rest on. It's not unthinkable that Apple could offer a reduced-rate subscription to the same sources through their own app-- a subscription that didn't offer access to the whole periodical, but just the articles that show up in the app. They could turn their app into a sort of virtual newspaper, with stories syndicated and curated from other sources.

  • Confusing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:14AM (#53325635) Homepage Journal

    I found this article confusing.

    That much is clear.

    Snopes seemed to be trying to steer the conversation back to erroneous stories from "legitimate publications," which erode the public trust in all mainstream outlets. [...] But her earlier remarks suggest it's not really credibility that's lacking there -- it's the absence of someone convenient to pick on.

    Sigh, no. Reading comprehension? You fail it! "It's not social media that's the problem. People are looking for somebody to pick on." That does not mean that the problem is that people are looking for somebody to pick on. It means that the problem is not social media, nothing more. And the problem, as TFS says (you got it right there in the quote!) is that "the public has lost faith in the media broadly". See how that works? The problem is not blame-placing. The problem is media in which it is not reasonable to have faith, which is a problem which has always been with us but which reached a head when Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

    Seriously, you can't even read, and you have an editor job? This is why we can't have nice things. Millions of unemployed in this country, and people are hiring people who can't even fucking read to be editors.

  • by skam240 ( 789197 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:21AM (#53325659)

    I couldn't disagree more

    I think the real problem is that people are increasingly looking for news sources that reinforce what they want to hear rather than what is actually going on so that everyone can pretend to be a victim. Listen to the alt-right groups long enough and you'd think white males were being forced to drink out of different water fountains then everyone else while we are still clearly doing very well for ourselves. Likewise the far Left whines about any perceived injustice in society they can find (or think they've found). A close friend of mine's co-workers wife just recently scolded him for saying they should "go straight" at an intersection because it was offensive to gays.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:44AM (#53325713)

    "Honestly, most of the fake news is incredibly easy to debunk because it's such obvious bullshit..." says...Snopes.

    Well, that's a rather stupid and ignorant statement coming from a company that exists because it's obviously not so easy to spot obvious bullshit, and therefore the public needs sites like Snopes and Politifact.

    Perhaps this was a kind, politically correct way of saying people are dumber and more gullible than ever, which is perhaps the real issue.

    Trolling is a paid profession now. That says a lot about mass ignorance.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @07:46AM (#53325719)

    It's an accident of history.

    Newspapers have always had a tabloid tendency and were in many ways worse in the 1920s and 1930s, the era of the Hearst newspaper empire and Hearst's many political agendas which he used his newspaper empire to push. The mass media had characters like Father Coughlin and his Breitbart levels of populism and antisemitism.

    It's only after WW II that the newspapers become something of a serious and more neutral force, but even then they were glossing over some facts, such as ignoring Presidential affairs. By the early 1970s, we have the dawn of the crusading liberal in the form of Woodward and Bernstein, taking Nixon down with their Watergate reporting and the NY Times with the Pentagon Papers.

    In spite of this, I think in this era the media was taking its role as the Fourth Estate seriously and with an academic level of introspection and attempted neutrality.

    I think it began taking a further turn for the worse when CNN and the 24 hour cable news network came around. Not only did it help hollow out newspaper publishing as a business, but it inaugurated the relentless news cycle where fresh content had to be sourced every few hours, leading the press to spend its time not developing good stories, but searching for the next quote, the next nugget or the next angle.

    The Internet made the 24 hour news cycle worse. Where CNN made new TV news every few hours, now newspapers were expected to have something new every time the page was reloaded. Social media and clickbait made it worse, making it harder for the consumer to sift news from hype.

    With all of this, I don't think the major news outlets have made it better. I've subscribed to the NY Times for 20-odd years and I think it's journalistic neutrality has been seriously in question for years now. In this election cycle, the bias for Hillary has been palpable. Their article choices and language always made it harder for Sanders to appear serious, and Hillary was given every pass and very positive coverage. Once Trump became the leading Republican candidate, they were writing "analysis" headlines questioning their obligation to neutrality. To me it seemed fairly clear that journalism itself was operating in a demographic bubble of like-thinking liberals bought into the Hillary agenda.

    • Once Trump became the leading Republican candidate, they were writing "analysis" headlines questioning their obligation to neutrality.

      No they weren't. They were questioning the reporting style they had used for decades - the one where give the appearance of fairness by treating statements from both sides with the same respect. So when Trump said "If I will get rid of Obama care", they gave that the same weight as Clinton saying "I will keep Obama care". And they treat Trump's claim that "Obama wasn't born in the US", as they give to Clinton's view that "Obama was born in the US".

      The practice of giving both sides equal weight has always been questionable. I am left scratching my head when I see a reputable news outlets give the same weight to and anit-vaxer's claims as they do to a professor of virology, and later defend it in the name of fairness. Nonetheless, they seemed to be firm believers in the process - until Trump came along. He made it utterly untenable to treat the pronouncements of both candidates identically.

  • As I see it, the issue of trustworthy sources really isn't the issue. In my opinion, the real issue is that many simply don't believe even trustworthy sources if the news they report is disagreeable to the person consuming it.

    In other words, many now reject any reality that they do not wish to believe. This is tantamount to insanity.

    An example is the recent election. If one supported President Elect Trump, then all the reports of his personal and business conduct were "liberal media". If one was a supporter

  • Watch how stories develop now with folks reporting HAPPENING LIVE!! (it just happened 30 minutes ago) then instead of doing things like get facts straight everybody gets caught on reporting on the reporters and reactions.

    Its Max Headroom style reporting without wanting to risk doing the legwork or losing the Hype Train

  • Stupid people on social media are.

  • I don't mean Slashdot per se, but quite simply it's the empowerment of the internet that fuels this. When I was a kid, you had very clearly defined vectors of dissemination - newspaper, books, tv...if I had an outlandish opinion about NASA faking the moon landings I would literally have to get a book published. Or better yet, have a Hollywood producer read my book and think "I can make a movie out of this - say, I wonder if Jim Brolin is available?" Bang - instant commonly known conspiracy theory.
    Now, who n

  • At least in the sense, Facebook is sucking all the oxygen, i.e. online ad revenue, out of the room, making billions on news without hiring a single reporter or opening a single news bureau. Even the largest legitimate news organizations, NYTimes, Wall Street Journal, are struggling to make a business model in the online world, because people don't need to subscribe to them or look at their ads in order to get news. Instead they get it from Facebook, which selectively feeds readers only the news they want
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @10:53AM (#53326371) Homepage

    This whole fake news is a made up controversy by the mainstream news sources to give the people something else to blame and try to overshadow the real debate. The real problem as I see it is the proliferation of fake experts. What really caused the news media to go over the deep end this election cycle is fake fact checkers. Snopes is far from perfect and is biased, but Polifact just makes shit up (1 [politifact.com])(2 [politifact.com]). They literally have different people saying the same things, and they award one a rating of "Mostly False" (its way off, 1/3 of the quoted number) and the other "Mostly True".

    With access to these fake experts the news can say anything it wants, and provide sources and experts to back up their news. The media creates these "experts" by giving them credibility, while in turn these "fact checkers" lend credibility to the media. It's a cycle of both self delusion and self promotion.

  • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @11:13AM (#53326489)
    I'm old enough to remember something called journalistic integrity and it was a big thing that people used to pay their news sources for. It is a sad aspect of today's world that we no longer consider an investment in a truth that is back checked worthwhile. Instead we have turned our backs on all "traditional" media which had journalistic integrity as a fundamental tenet and we just read anything that falls in front of our face.
  • by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @11:34AM (#53326573)

    It's a little bit of all theories, it's not new, and it has been amplified by current events.

    First of all, there's no epidemic of misinformation. What happens is that there has always been an epidemic of lack of critical reasoning.
    Tabloid journalism is as old as journalism itself, and too many people have favored it since ancient times.

    In fact, none of the stuff mentioned is new. Confirmation bias? Sensationalism? Lack of credibility coming from tabloid journalism? These are all stuff that have always been out there.

    It could be argued that this blaming of specific social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) is also part of tabloid journalism.
    There are definitely some people trying to blame them for stuff that they don't particularly like themselves, like the results of a democratic election of an US president. Because it's easy to take a company as scapegoat while ignoring that none of the fake news and none of the people who believe it are part of the company itself.

    The fact is that US citizens elected Trump whether you like it or not. And Facebook or Twitter didn't vote for him. In fact, if anything these companies' CEOs and employees were probably against him becoming president.

    Blogs like Gizmodo who keeps posting these idiotic whinning posts trying to blame Facebook for Trump being elected are just like kids in denial... they simply don't want to admit living in a country that is not aligned with their own personal political views.

    We're currently at a transitional period from traditional journalism to Internet portals and blogs, so there will be some confusion regarding the new media. It certainly allows fake news to spread in an easier way, but it also allows a broader range of news in general, different perspectives, and coverage overall.

    Personally, I don't see it as a bad thing. Journalism just has a new dimension... it became a tool for information that has more potential and that is more powerful, for the good and bad. It is not controlled or limited by a handful of huge news corporations anymore. If we as a society is letting it take a turn for the bad, we only have ourselves to blame. The way journalism and information spreads in society is just a reflection of it.

    It's up to us to learn how to use it. We can't expect to be babysitted everytime something defies our ability to use critical reasoning. If people are being fooled by something as trivial as fake news, and cannot be bothered with something as basic as fact checking, we get the results we deserve. That's not a problem with how news work, that's a problem with education and culture.

    Traditional journalism has always been swayed by popularity. You really don't have to go too far into history to see it. It's a huge mistake to think we always had impartial coverage in the past, or that the results of elections would be different if it wasn't for social networks and whatnot.

  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @12:04PM (#53326697)

    A major issue is that everyone is talking about "the" problem. There is no "the" problem...there's an entire ecosystem that includes entities that are wont to do bad things, economic and social drivers that incentivize them to do these bad things, and technological functionality that empowers them to do these bad things. Social media sites and apps...in their current incarnation (including the entire ecosystem of supporting back-end processes, business arrangements, etc.)...fall into the latter. Social media is a valid place to go after the problem, even though it's not the only one; like most significant problems, what works best is a multi-pronged effort to address as much of the end-to-end chain as possible.

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @02:56PM (#53327599)

    When you alter you contradict your own fact checking to include partisan interpretations and equivocation to bolster an agenda, you lose credibility.

    Snopes is no longer a credible source for fact checking when they don't stick to facts as stated BY SNOPES. Now I have to suspect every analysis on editorializing. Snopes provides their own custom narrative on judgement re: http://www.snopes.com/hillary-... [snopes.com] - she did laugh, she did plea bargain him out, etc. Don't say false when it's true, but you are trying to meet your own overall conclusion. It really soured me. Yes, the story is basically false, but the fact checking there is factually incorrect. Her behavior isn't all that strange among defense attorneys.

    That being said, the idea of "fake news" is tricky subject when real news can be spun so hard. Facts get blurred when put together in unexpected ways to form a new headline which is almost always to meet some agenda. On the other hand, a news story always starts with a perceived context, so which is more correct? The more factually correct or the more coherent narrative?

  • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Sunday November 20, 2016 @04:00PM (#53327881)
    I saw Stephen Colbert and John Oliver doing an "interview" last night, at a benefit for the Montclair Film Festival. (It was originally planned as an election recap, but that would have been too sore a subject ...) In response to an audience question about "fake news", Colbert said (not claiming a precise quote here) that the term is being misused: "it's not fake news, it's just lying". "The Daily Show", Jon Stewart, SNL, and many other comedians beforehand have categorized "fake news" - topical humor on current events, and more recently on the news media itself - for years. The current discussion is about so-called news items that are simply false, or contain simple falsehoods because the real person being quoted said something simply false. At best people are woefully misinformed; at worst, they know better and are deliberately lying.

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