“Something has changed”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German Parliament last year. “Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago. Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them”, and “we must confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.”

Leading up to our important discussion on Fake News on Wednesday – for which we’re all full up – I thought I’d put together a list of things to read, to understand the environment around Fake News better, since it is becoming incredibly important from societal, media, political and geo-political perspective.  This is by no means a comprehensive list on this issue, but it is what I’m reading to prepare. If you’d like to suggest things that we ought to look at, please feel free to suggest links in the comments, or to me on twitter (I’m @nixxin on Twitter):

– In Wired, Samanth Subramanian talks to a Macedonian who ran Fake News websites, and looks at the economic environment in Macedonia which made this such a compelling career:
“He posted the link on Facebook, seeding it within various groups devoted to American politics; to his astonish­ment, it was shared around 800 times. That month—February 2016—Boris made more than $150 off the Google ads on his website. Considering this to be the best possible use of his time, he stopped going to high school.”

Read it here.

***

– Buzzfeed’s Pranav Dixit gives a comprehensive overview of India’s own Fake News crisis: Whatsapp forwards:
“Soon a video purporting to show one of these GPS notes being tracked on Google Maps went viral on WhatsApp, and then Facebook. And  less than 24 hours after the rumor started ,  Zee News, a leading Hindi television news channel, ran a 90-second report about the high-tech note, leading the country’s reserve bank to finally debunk it.”

Read it here.

***

– Fake News outperforms real news on Facebook:

“During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.”

Read it here

***

Fake News isn’t just a “Right of center” phenomenon, reports the Atlantic
“There’s a lot of confusion, and people are profiting from the confusion on all sides of the continuum,”

Read it here.

***

– Buzzfeed survey: Those who read Fake News believe it.

“Roughly 84% of the time, Republicans rated fake news headlines as accurate (among those they recognized), compared to a rate of 71% among Democrats. The survey also found that Trump voters are more likely to rate familiar fake news headlines as accurate than Clinton voters.”

Read it here

***

– News’ Platform problem:
“There is more good information than at any point in humanity, but it’s harder than ever to find and trust. Almost every trend cited here is getting worse, not better. And so much of the power to change it rests in the hands of the few, mainly Facebook but also Google, Twitter and Snapchat.”

Read it here.

***

“If businesses, public intellectuals, and academics want to start addressing the problem, they are going to have to start thinking in political terms, just as climate scientists have had to get politicized to engage in the debates over global warming. If Facebook and other companies are going to act effectively against fake news, they need to take a directly political stance, explicitly acknowledging that they have a responsibility to prevent the spread of obvious falsehoods…” writes Henry Farrell, associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

Read his column here.

***

Mark Zuckerberg, whose platform Facebook is in the thick of the Fake News controversy, is caught between a rock and a hard place. If you remember, Facebook was criticised for censoring an iconic photo because of nudity, and is now expected to effectively monitor and censor Fake News. He writes:

“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically. We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible. We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or to mistakenly restrict accurate content. We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”

More on it here, where he also outlines the projects Facebook has underway to address Fake News and misinformation.

***

It’s not easy, and not everyone trusts Facebook and its algorithms, writes David Kaye:

“And even if we are comfortable handing over that kind of censorship – for that’s what it is – to a private company, how will this magic algorithm tell the difference between the awful garbage of Breitbart and the hilarious garbage of The Onion? Who creates the software that distinguishes purposeful lies from public interest satire?”

Read it here.

 

We need new tools and community involvement to distinguish fake news from real news, writes Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

“In this messy age, we need new tools to distinguish truth from falsehood across the digital sprawl. Many social and digital platforms are trying to address the problem by creating algorithms that can identify fake sources, but what’s missing from this solution is the human element.”

Read it here.

***

– Niemanlab explains how the r/world community gets users to check suspicious news

“Our results here showed that many of the issues we care about, such as the spread of fake news, are shaped by a combination of human and algorithmic factors, and that we can influence algorithms by persuading people to shift their behavior, even if we don’t control those algorithmic systems”

Read it here.

***

‘Fact checking is not for one team:’ How France’s newspaper Liberation is tackling false information

‘…Libération in November launched a vertical, L’Oeil sur le Front (Eye on the Front), focused on France’s right-wing party, The National Front. It’s run by a team of five journalists and like Désintox, publishes articles and information on the party. It accounts for 4 percent of Libération’s overall traffic.

Libération is also working on a searchable database of fake-news stories that can be accessed by staff and readers alike. “The whole idea is to be able to find all the false news regarding a given topic or a given personality”‘

Read it here.

Google News is marking news articles as Fact Checked

‘Google News determines whether an article might contain fact checks in part by looking for the schema.org ClaimReview markup. We also look for sites that follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks. Publishers who create fact-checks and would like to see it appear with the “Fact check” tag should use that markup in fact-check articles.’

Read it here

**

BK Birla and Shammas Oliyath are running Check4Spam.com, a website that focuses on fact-checking and busting viral hoaxes, urban myths, and political propaganda that are spreading on WhatsApp. Buzzfeed’s Pranav Dixit talks to the founders, about how tough it is to deal with this.

Read it here.

***

what happens when you subject the telling of true stories to certain conditions of capitalism. There is often a tension in this process, as capitalism may make “news” (and therefore full participation in democracy) available to more people, but to popularize that news, businesses do things that taint the elite’s idealized notion of what true story telling in a democracy should be. Furthermore, at no moment in history I’m aware of has there been a true “open” market for news. It is always limited by the scarcity of outlets and bandwidth, by laws, by media ownership patterns, and by the historically contingent bottle-necks that dictate what kind of news may be delivered most profitably. One reason I loathe the term “fake news” is because its users think the answer lies in non-elite consumers or in producers and not in the marketplace itself, a marketplace created in and largely still benefitting the US. If “fake news” is a problem, then it’s a condemnation of the marketplace of ideas largely created by the US and elites in the US need to attend to that.”

Read it here.

Lastly, two attempts at crowdsourcing ideas: