The Untrustworthy Way Facebook Will Rank “Trustworthy” News Outlets
BAILEY T. STEEN | SUNDAY, MAY 1, 2018
WITH this being the era of ill-defined “fake news” and mass surveillance against millions of unsuspecting users, the powerful elites that control Silicon Valley still believe only self-regulation can hold the establishment to account. According to a new report from BuzzFeed News, however, it was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that admitted the company is once again harvesting data — this time to editorialise their supposedly “neutral” public forum through ranking news organisations based on “trustworthiness”.
On Tuesday, during his speech to media executives at the company’s F8 developer conference, Facebook’s scandal-ridden poster boy admitted their site has already implemented a ranking system for informative news content before our very eyes. Zuckerberg told the audience the company harvests users data, interprets whether the majority of users believe a story to be trustworthy, then, based on this, somehow make a judgement call on whether to promote or suppress content based on the feelings of their users.
“We put [that data] into the system, and it is acting as a boost or a suppression, and we’re going to dial up the intensity of that over time,” Zuckerberg declared. “We feel like we have a responsibility to further [break] down polarization and find common ground.”
According to BuzzFeed’s reigning Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith, the meeting included several establishment media publications such as: CNN, The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, Univision, Recode, NBC, Quartz, among others.
Now, dear readers, what’s the bet that these approved mainstream media outlets are having a wonderful time under the Facebook system?
A recent study from The Outline showed recent changes to Facebook’s algorithms significantly hurt the traffic surrounding highly popular right-wing rags like Breitbart and Fox News, while the engagements for their left-wing establishment alternatives CNN and The New York Times have reluctantly risen over the past few months.
Journalists in attendance must have been overjoyed to hear more welfare cheques through redistributionist tactics are sure to come their way.
The New York Times
While the CEO failed to clarify how the company judges “trustworthiness” through their secret data process, another example of the company’s lack of informative transparency, Zuckerberg claimed there’s already “billions” of dollars set to be invested in artificial intelligence and tens of thousands of employed moderators who will take editorial reign over fake news content — “especially during elections”.
“We’re essentially going to be losing money on doing political ads,” Zuckerberg told the crowd. It’s clear the man is listening to the pressure from Capitol Hill calling on tech giants to regulate news media based on the unspecified role “Russian propaganda” played during the 2016 presidential election.
This means rather than acting as a neutral forum, removing themselves from the journalistic ethics other publications must follow, Facebook are acting like editorialists in moderators clothing. There is no current mention of inaccuracy as being a violation of the site’s terms of service /content policies, yet here they are ready to cut stories for primetime news feed engagement.
Users should demand under what ethics will Facebook editorialise.
Will It Be Mob Rule? Surely an outlet like CNN would be considered unethical to claim stories are factual just because most of their audience said so, right? Who are the journalists and who’s the uninformed public, after all?
Will It Be Robot Rule? I mean, how much can we trust Silicon Valley-based machine products to decide what’s factual in the human world? Do they hold principles, understand philosophical values and know anything outside what’s dictated on their computer screens? What argument is there for A.I. to decide what information is true in the world when they don’t even have manifest bodies to explore it? Too under-qualified, I say.
Or Will It Be Facebook’s Rule? This is the most obvious choice, of course, and perhaps the most sinister. Consider every authoritarian structure, be it the left-wing socialism of Stalin to the right-wing national-socialism of Hitler, and know their power was based on the control of the media. Corporate entities are no different. Their CEO is their ruler, giving obedient workers the orders to take down any information that may hurt the cause — be it ideology or simple profit desires. Facebook are known for their vested interest in certain political candidates, their market monopolisation and unethical practices reported here on a weekly basis. There’s simply too much power there to trust one company to govern the news for two billion users.
Facebook talk of transparency enough to admit their editorialisation, but their actions leave something to the desired. They make it look like they’re serious about bias against the right-wing, enlisting laws firms to conduct these investigations, without telling their users those firms like Covington and Burling are headed by Barack Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder. While at the same time they threaten comedians with demonetisation because fact-checkers like Snopes go after anti-Democrat satire articles. We must ask ourselves what is Facebook’s role going forward? Is it social media company, a new media company, or a partisan attack dog for the powerful? Or can it be all of them?
It was Adrienne LaFrance, editor of The Atlantic, who asked Zuckerberg at the meeting if Facebook was a media company. He answered with a chuckle. “That’s a real question,” LaFrance insisted. Zuckerberg, now the most powerful editor in the world, simply laughed again.
Thanks for reading!
Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppet™ on occasion.
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