Importance of Natural Resources

Calling Bullshit 9.3: The Ecology of Fake News


[MUSIC PLAYING] JEVIN WEST: All right,
so we talked a little bit about fake news. Now let’s talk about
the environments, the ecology that drives the
spreading of this fake news. So we now live in
a world that’s– well, we live in our digital
worlds through social media, through our search engine,
through our devices, through our photo sharing apps,
through all the different ways that we interact with
content and with each other. There has been some nice
work looking at the ecology of sharing of fake news. Jonathan Albright has some
nice posts on medium.com where is he’s done some analysis
looking at this ecology. Basically, you’re looking
here at the major players that receive links
from fake news sites. The size of the
node represents– it represents the amount
of links coming in from these fake news sites. The color represents
the political leaning. If it’s green, it’s neutral. The blue and red indicate the
political different parties where this news is
coming into in linking. So you see Breitbart
News is blue. You have YouTube is blue. Wikipedia, blue. You see these different things. This kind of thing,
again, is not new. I’ll keep saying. Before, there was the real
spurt of this fake news back in the late 1800s
during the Gilded Age, and that was, again,
for similar reasons. It became cheaper and cheaper
to become a publisher. Before that time, it
was expensive to put up a new newspaper and run
these kinds of things. Now it was something that
almost anyone could do. One of the more famous spreading
of fake news in the 1800s though was back in 1835,
the great moon hoax. The great moon hoax
was based on a article that was written in The Sun. That was the name
of the newspaper at the time in New York. And the title of it was “Great
Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir
John Herschel,” who was one of the more famous
astronomers at that time. The claim was that
this astronomer had built a big enough telescope
that this individual could see to the moon. And at the moon, they
were finding unicorns. They were finding these
bat-like humanoids. They were finding beavers,
I think, that could talk. I don’t know how they
could with talks either, but maybe they were
moving their lips. There are all sorts of really– I mean, that would be kind of
cool if the moon was like that. But it really took off. There was about six articles
that were written about this. This captured the imagination
of citizens at the time. There was lots of
discussions of what they saw, what the environment
was like on the moon. But as you know, this
doesn’t really exist there. What happened to this after it
was debunked, many years later debunked, officially debunked? What happened to this
particular newspaper? Not just at the time
of the articles. Of course, it got bigger and
received a lot of attention for this particular hoax. But what happened
even after it ended? It increased circulation. Even after it was debunked,
that didn’t stop it from selling more newspapers. There’s this term that’s used
in communication in journalism, something called
yellow journalism. Yellow journalism is
the kind of reporting, kind of journalism that
reports sensational topics, that reports tabloid-like– I mean, tabloidism
and yellow journalism, there are some slight
subtle differences. I’m sure our colleagues from
journalism and communication can help differentiate These. But it’s this similar
kind of reporting of news. You see this kind of stuff
even in our grocery lines when we’re looking. This is a real thing
from The Weekly News that Abraham
Lincoln was a woman. CARL BERGSTORM: It’s not
real that he was a woman. It’s real that it’s
from The Weekly News. JEVIN WEST: Yeah. I’m glad you clarified that. Yeah. Well, there’s also a shocking
pic in White House basement of this kind of information. Yes, so this kind of
stuff, again– even though I keep referring to
our digital environments, this stuff has been
around, but I just don’t think it’s had
quite the impact. It’s not engulfing
our everyday lives. You can go to the grocery store
and ignore it and look and get some gum and whatever
else is on the aisle next to the payment system. The perfect storm is the
environment we have now. We have a very
partisan world now, at least in the United States. And we have this social
media environment that’s spreading this. So we are seeing
this perfect storm. The echo chambers idea I think
is something that is not– I would like to think that
it’s going to get better some time soon, but I see it’ll
be a continued problem going forward. We have to figure out how
these environments, how we can break some of
these echo chambers that confirm our biases. It’s also just simply just
too easy to share information. And on places like Facebook,
you don’t have that third party, that paid journalism or
traditional subscription based journalism. You used to expect that
whatever newspaper you were paying a subscription
fee to were going to do– they’re going to have a
third party look at it. They’re going to have multiple
individuals fact check. Now there is no fact check. It’s just pass it along. In fact, there’s more of– this non-traditional
journalism is being created that you can
pass through so much easier and getting to more eyes than
the mass media information. Now this is a real problem too. Both Democrats and
Republicans over time have less trust in
mainstream media. You see the Democrats
here going down, the Republicans going
down, really sinking over the last couple of years
according to this survey. This is them together
with this lack of trust for mainstream media. There is this movement
over to social media. This is the other big problem. The other big problem is this
is the feeling thermometer toward other political parties. So if you asked a random
Democrat or Republican what they feel, what their trust
meter is for the other party, this is it. I don’t know if it’s
at all time lows but this is really
depressing as a society. Certainly, I’m more
of an optimist. I don’t think we have
as many differences as these kinds of
figures are showing. I think there are
more similarities than we give credit for. The other real bad issue, just
like the article we mentioned, the Russians are
involved– every country, the United States is
involved in this kind of information warfare too. But just know that the
bots, the bot problem is a real big problem. Bots are used to sell items. It’s used to sell propaganda. It’s used to– I mean, you can buy
for about $100 bucks– I’ve played around a little
bit with it– for $100, you can get 5,000 bots that
retweets everything you ever say, makes you really look like
you’re an expert on Twitter. So the other thing is that these
bots are duping our recommender systems. The one thing that is clear,
if I send a whole bunch of bots and get something retweeted
enough times, the recommender systems in Twitter
or Google will then surface those things
based on the weightings of those algorithms. And that’s something that
I think they will work on. And then the other
thing is, the thing that concerns me more
than changing recommender systems for the movies I watch
or the products I buy, I mean, those are some minor
inconveniences, but it’s this
information warfare that we’re talking about. [MUSIC PLAYING]


Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *