What one believes may or may not have any connection to what is true.
Might as well wrap the flag on Facebook’s latest patriotic gesture: combatting hoaxes and “fake news”. We’ll celebrate individualism while preventing it. Call out your sources as thought crime.
Amid the continuing frenzy over the non-issue of “fake news”, Facebook unveiled it’s threatened response: rat out those who aren’t singing a “verified” line. Let the mob decide what is true and not:
We believe providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share. We’ve started a program to work with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. We’ll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed.”
Sounds so good and well-intentioned. Who would be opposed to independent verification?
Independent fact checkers are on it. Who, might you ask, are these independent verifiers? Top. Men. That’s all you need to know.
The experts will get to the bottom of this, and your story, according to the mob, is fake. Why, Facebook can’t tell you who reported it, and Facebook can’t tell you the standards by which “offensive content” can now “allowed” on Facebook. There might be a backlash, but hey, controlling the backlash is part of the game. And that means only reputable brands telling the story. All of which means the approved brands get the press, and any alternative treatment can be viewed as suspicious and subject to down voting by those who already believe in the official, approved narratives.
I’m certainly sympathetic to Facebook trying to manage what they perceive their users (whose eyeballs they sell to their true customers, the advertisers) want. Give the users tools to say “this is not what I want to see” — and most importantly, why (and not merely a product manager’s preconceived notion on what is offensive and not).
But now, all Facebook users get to be McCarthy — that guy is telling a lie, and his message should be blocked from anyone who wants to see it, or at least flagged as dubious! Call out the truth verifiers, who certainly have no agenda! The US government, of course, can’t do that directly, that would be a violation of the First Amendment. But they can certainly reach out to their partners. Leak juicy stories to “reputable” sources (high confidence, the unnamed CIA people say). Getting your political cronies to submit their stories for official blessing. Strongarm technology companies because of national security interests.
Completing the yellow journalism propaganda cycle: Get trusted partners like Facebook and Google to have opinions with which they disagree blocked and prevent dissenters from being able to monetize content.
Disagree with the “experts” on climate change? Denier! Third party experts say BS! Don’t think Keynesism works! That’s not why Top Economists say! Oppose mandatory vaccination on consent grounds! Science Denier! Hell, think Saturated Fat isn’t the demon the government says? Maybe you should be barred from giving nutritional advice.
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In other words, this is a movement designed to stop dissent from blessed narratives. OK, maybe there is a right-wing blessed narrative and a left-wing one. You know, like “we have to fight the war on terrorism, but not Their way. Social media already has the power for the masses to weigh in on what is accurate and what is not (why not just give in a give the users a dislike button?). Clamping down just plays into Big Brother’s hand. Dissension is anti-patriotic. Ignorance is strength.