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Facebook’s fake news problem is dividing the company’s employees (vice.com)
20 points by SonicSoul on Nov 15, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments



I'm all in on repressing fake or made up news (when represented as news). But I can't help but think this sudden newfound religion has a lot to do with not being satisfied with election results, primarily and not necessarily a consequence of simply wanting unbiased news.

If the election had gone the other way, I'm somewhat confident this introspection would not be happening so urgently with such dismay.

People would likely be reveling in the oppositions implosion.

My main issue, is this reaction simply dismisses the concern expressed by the votes. People think his winning was an aberration and that his voters were wrong and to some degree illegitimate (not my president, not my country, etc.)

They fail to see the other side to their own detriment.


if such simple and verifiable facts can be muddled so easily and possibly sway the election, imagine how much of this could be happening in more nuanced areas that are harder to detect but may influence consumer behavior, or policy outcomes. I think this is a serious issue regardless of election outcome and should be addressed


Right wing outlets are typically the ones where you can easily detect bias. It's direct, whereas left wing outlets tend to be nuanced (leading questions, selection bias, omitting valid counterarguments, etc.) They tend to have a more sophisticated psychological approach.

For example, at NPR, contrast the neutral reporting of Greene vs McEvers. Greene remains neutral, McEvers wears her opinions quite visibly albeit subtly, and well delivered.


Maybe it's my history with all but becoming a journalist, but I find NPR's reporting to be really obviously biased, and quite shoddy as well. I think your overall point is spot on, but only holds true for people with similar political leanings as the outlet. The trick is to get your news from outlets that are decent that will link to their sources (assuming it's online).

While Breitbart gets a lot of flak, one of the things I like is that they link to their sources and quote large blocks of text. I frequently disagree with them, but I respect the fact that they make it easy for me to build a case for doing so. I find a lot of other, seemingly more credibly outlets, will make claims or cite data without providing links. This makes me suspicious.

Alternatively, get somebody of an opposing ideological persuasion to read / listen to the same articles you do and then listen to them bitch about how poorly done it was. That would probably serve as a free bias detector. Offer the same service in kind.


It's hard to take your comment seriously. Breitbart might use "words" and "paragraphs" from other sources, but they live in a different, fact-free world. They are generally advocating something, leading you toward that. NPR is not generally ideological. Saying global warming is accepted by virtually all legitimate scientists is not pushing you in a liberal direction, it's simply factual. I just looked at twitter, and breitbart news has a story that quotes "FS1's Whitlock: Dems ignoring working class, fanning flames of racial divide". It's very questionable that dems fanned the flames of racial divide - merely mentioned it exists seems to enrage some people, but it's pretty clear it exists.


|Breitbart might use "words" and "paragraphs" from other sources

I basically read the sources. I prefer primary sources anyway. I rely on the fact that they have a different ideological slant from myself to keep me questioning them.

|NPR is not generally ideological

I'm sorry, but this just isn't true. You can pick a single example where they may not be ideologically biased, but their reporting on a whole, very much is.

|It's very questionable that dems fanned the flames of racial divide

I've seen an awful lot of stories and rhetoric about how America chose racism, sexism, bigotry and whatever else in this most recent election. I don't know what you'd call that, but I'd say their description is fairly accurate.

*edit: Small changes to hopefully provide clarity.


The discussion of media/source bias is becoming an increasingly important one. What measures of bias do you trust? And are those measures biased? Where's the regression end, in particular with respect to sources we can generally agree upon? I've been trying to see what's out there, and I feel like I'm gas lighting myself :)


I don't know of any measures of bias, and as you're kind of indicating, you kind of can't trust those either. Anybody more interested in being informed rather than supporting their ideological tribalism is in a really bad spot right now I think. If I'm being honest, I don't think there's a source that's really any good right now. I pointed at Breitbart, specifically because they link things and tend to include large sections of text for quotes. A lot of their other practices are really bad, but aren't at all unique to them. That's how low the bar has gotten though. I used to point to the New York Times, but they've shit the bed so badly recently that they went so far as to publish a half apology and reaffirm their commitment to radical notions like accurate reporting. If they can pull it together, then there's a chance they'll be worthwhile again. A paper I haven't checked in on in a long time that used to have a sterling reputation was the Christian Science Monitor, so I should probably look at that one again. I know it's got a weird name, but when I was a journalist, for that brief flash, it was regarded as being good.

If that wasn't bad enough, there are all kinds of psychological effects that make us inclined to prefer tribalism, confirmation bias and a sense of righteousness.

If I was going to write a general guide, off the cuff, I guess I'd say something like this:

1. Pick a source that opposes the current authority. Power needs to be held to account. 2. Pick a source that values integrity and transparency. This is why I emphasise their willingness to link to sources so much. If an article on say, The Washington Post, talks about the contents of a Trump or Hillary speech, but don't provide a video, or link to a video, that's unacceptable. 3. Wade out into the shit sometimes and see what counter narratives are out there and investigate some of the more interesting ones. Confirmation bias will cause you to reject them most of the time, but at least they'll be there, nibbling at the edges of your certainty. 4. Avoid editorial content as much as possible, particularly on television. 5. Be prepared to switch.

I could probably write a small book about this stuff. It's a tangled mess that hasn't been helped by the failing business models adopted in news agencies, and it's easy to feel informed without actually being informed. Gas lighting was a good choice of term, as it's probably what's happening. If you live in New England and want to have a tin foil hat arts and crafts session, I'm game.


Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Your guide is in line with what I've been thinking about. I'll admit I wish it were less work (and I don't like what that statement says about me).

As for editorial, I find news analysis pieces useful in putting facts in context, especially for topics I'm unfamiliar with, though that can be problematic, too. Similar to confirmation bias, being aware of the different types of bias can help me build the habit of keeping them in mind while I read.

I noticed in another thread that you're familiar with Jonathan Haidt. I hope to re-read "The Righteous Mind" this week. I found it really mind-opening the first time around, and has shaped how I'm now approaching the news in particular and discourse in general.


My pleasure. Having these kinds of conversations is why I'm here :)

Don't take the difficulty of finding good information as a self criticism. At least in theory, the reason these organizations exist is to to inform you and be useful. It shouldn't be this much work to find a good source of unbiased (relatively!) news. For what it's worth, once you get used to it, it becomes fairly natural to start asking questions. What isn't being said? Why was this the source chosen? Why did this person want to talk to the paper? How reliable is the information really? What actual facts have been presented? Are there any subtle ques that the article is trying to bias me (intentionally or not)?

I'll admit lately I've been thinking of maybe writing something about all of this, partly to clarify and research my own ideas on the matter, and partly to maybe help people who have realized there is a problem here but could use help in critically consuming media. If you haven't seen Slate Star Codex's blog, I'd highly recommend it. He's written some pretty excellent stuff about in-group bias.

As far as Jonathan Haidt goes, I just found out about him and have watched a few of his youtube videos. He seems like a really interesting guy, and I think I'm going to pick up a book or two of his. Someone else I just came across is Jordan Peterson, who puts lecture series up on his Youtube channel, and has a series called Paths Into Meaning that has been really interesting so far. He's also involved in a free speech dustup at the moment, as fair warning.


Stop bringing up good things I should read! I'll never get caught up! :) I picked up Peter Singer's "Ethics in the Real World" the other day to add more grist to the mill in nice, bite-size chunks on a variety of topics. His piece on free speech came to mind when I looked up Jordan Peterson.

I encourage you to put down your thoughts in this area, as I think I'd enjoy reading them, and maybe even up-vote your submission. Guess I'm revealing my bias.


I've been saying this for a while now.

In fact I said this five days ago:

"It is not actually about what they report. It is all about what they don't report. Left wing and right wing propaganda are not the same. Right wing propaganda tells you what you must believe. Left wing propaganda simply leaves out the truth. Either way you have distortion but the methods are very different. NPR is not better than Fox News. Once you realize this, thou shalt be enlightened."


You think pro-Trump articles were the only fake news out there? I consider myself a fairly sophisticated news consumer, reading mostly print publications (e.g. Economist, NY Times, Wall Street Journal) with a glance at Fox News and Breitbart to see what the other side thinks. And yet I still fell for a couple of false news stories that had been circulated over FB to put Trump in a bad light. It's hard to filter out propoganda-like material when you're bombarded with a steady stream of it, and FB, and Twitter, and whoever else is out there should start marking certain sources as dubious.


Of course not. There was fake news from both sides, but it's not my main point.

Mu main point is people are biased and only care about fairness when they perceive something unfair to have affected them only, and are only too happy to look askance if it helps them.

So far I haven't heard much regarding the misinformation Hillary's team sent Bernie's way (or Trumps way). Early on they might have even cheered Trumps ascendance in the primaries thinking his inexperience would prove easy to beat in the general election, compared to a Rubio, for example.


Might have cheered Trump? WikiLeaks has an email attachment with Hillary/DNC's strategy on GOP contenders[1] where they state their strategy of "elevating" certain candidates to push "more established candidates to the right". Additionally they want to make it seem that these more "extreme" candidates represent the mainstream of the Republican Party.

"There are two ways to approach the strategies mentioned above. The first is to use the field as a whole to inflict damage on itself similar to what happened to Mitt Romney in 2012. The variety of candidates is a positive here, and many of the lesser known can serve as a cudgel to move the more established candidates further to the right. In this scenario, we don’t want to marginalize the more extreme candidates, but make them more “Pied Piper” candidates who actually represent the mainstream of the Republican Party. Pied Piper candidates include, but aren’t limited to: • Ted Cruz • Donald Trump • Ben Carson We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to them seriously."

Oops.

[1] https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/1120


If the spread of misinformation was a significant contributor to the election results, I think it's reasonable to feel the results are, to some degree illegitimate.


Right because their candidate didn't win. Same for the winners, they don't see an issue because they won.

Honestly, I don't think it affected the election. With all the anti Trump rhetoric on most media, it's hard to see the argument people for Trump got the better deal, from the media. [OMG his hand on the RED button, he's gonna grope the nation, legal immigrants are in peril]


Again, and with emphasis, GIVEN the spread of misinformation was a significant contributor to the election results... In other words, assuming Trump benefited from misinformation [more than Clinton], then the results are justifiably frustrating.

I'm not claiming whether or not Trump did or did not benefit more from misinformation. But if he did, I think my point is fair.


What do you mean by significant? 1-2% of articles had misinformation, of that percentage a fraction (unknown, reportedly small) were politically related. How do we go from "there were articles containing misinformation" to those articles contributed to the outcome of the election? We simply dont know. We know both sides enjoyed having articles denouncing the other side, but we don't know if they had any effect.

In terms of persuasion, friends family likely had more influence than this small percentage of made up news articles, should we get the pitchforks for misinformed friends too?


This is straight out of Bremoaners Brexit playbook.




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