Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Facebook Employees Meeting In Secret In Hopes of Busting FB B.S.

Description: A hand making a thumbs-down gesture next to the word hoax as a
parody of Facebook's thumbs-up next to the word Like icon. 
Facebook is used by over 150 million Americans. According to a Pew Research Center for Journalism & Media report, two thirds of Facebook's users get their news via that platform. Unfortunately it's been plagued with a flood of flat out hoax news articles. While late last year, Facebook announced it was rolling out new tools for users to report hoax news sites and articles, it's been unclear how effective it's been in action-- and management isn't releasing any details.

Earlier this year amid accusations of Facebook's Trending Topics team in charge of the way the Facebook News Feed worked having a bias towards liberal sites, the entire trending topics team was fired and replaced with an algorithm. The trending topics news feed was then immediately flooded with hoaxes, parody articles presented as fact and puff-piece press releases.

In the wake of an increasingly loud debate across the country over fake news online in general, and on social media in particular, top management have dismissed the idea of having any culpability in leading to the recent election of Donal Trump-- CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling the notion a "crazy idea". Not surprisingly, a number of outlets disagree with him-- including his own employees. Buzz feed reports that they have learned of a group of Facebook employees that are meeting in secret to try and figure out ways to combat the flood of fake news plaguing the social media platform:

“One employee said “more than dozens” of employees were involved, and that they had met twice in the last six days. At the moment, they are meeting in secret, to allow members of the group to speak freely and without fear of condemnation from senior management... Another Facebook employee said while the task force remained small, “hundreds” of Facebook employees had expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s stance on fake news in private online chats, and wanted to support efforts to challenge that position...
'If someone is right-wing, and all their friends are right-wing, and that is the news they share on Facebook, then that is the bubble they have created for themselves and that is their right,' said the longtime Facebook engineer. 'But to highlight fake news articles in the [news] feed, to promote them so they get millions of shares by people who think they are real, that’s not something we should allow to happen. Facebook is getting played by people using us to spread their bullshit.'”
Those sentiments have been echoed by former Facebook designer Booby Goodlatte, who said in a November 8th post:
"News Feed optimizes for engagement. As we've learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging. These outlets, and Donald Trump, have no concern for the truth, and really only care for engagement. A bias towards truth isn't an impossible goal. Wikipedia, for instance, still bends towards the truth despite a massive audience. But it's now clear that democracy suffers if our news environment incentivizes bullshit."

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