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Microsoft's mobile Edge browser begins issuing fake news warnings (engadget.com)
105 points by jmsflknr 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 133 comments

NewsGuard gives a red mark for Wikileaks, but a green tick for Fox News. I think we're done here.


On NewsGuard's advisory board, 5 of the 7 slots are taken by people who have held high level posts in US Intelligence and other state affairs.

If NewsGuard was just being rolled out to the USA, I'd still consider it horribly biased, but its a complete joke to make it on by default for the entire world.

Slanted though it may be, Fox's reporting is generally about as on the level as their contemporaries, and their written articles are a notable step up from their tv coverage.

They've even received some praise from Sy Hearsh for having what he saw as one of the most promising investigative teams in the industry (I'll have to find the interview later today and update the comment with a link).

I do question the wikileaks rating, but wikileaks isn't a news site, and everything they publish ought to be a matter of 'buyer beware'.

I also question Microsoft's decision to include the plugin at all. I'd rather not have an arbiter of truth looking over my shoulders, reminding me what i should or shouldn't read.

> is generally about as on the level as their contemporaries

This points to another pretty obvious problem with NewsGuard, though: flagging happens at the site level instead of the article level. It's obvious why that's necessary, but the result is a complete failure to deal with any source where quality varies widely. Fox's written reporting is sometimes quite good, but Glenn Beck's old videos are still posted under the same domain. The result is that NewsGuard happily puts a big green checkmark above a video declaring that the US is the only country in the world with birthright citizenship.

In the same sense that labels like "no added sugar" can actively mislead by giving the appearance of health, I worry that NewsGuard is going to warn people away from Onion articles while encouraging them to accept outright lies without due diligence.

Interesting idea, Truth as a Service. You don't have to use your own critical thinking, just take what the machine says! /s

I mean, that's what Certificate Authorities are.

...Though, that being said, the original idea behind X.509 certificates was quite different: you [the domain sysop] would use your critical thinking to pick a root CA you trust, and configure your machines to only use that single root CA; and then that root CA would either directly sign [code, server, client] certs they trust, or would cross-sign other CAs' root certs to indicate that they trust them to delegate to them. Essentially, a domain (like a corporation or university) would have a business relationship with a particular CA, who would "do their critical thinking for them" (and would also be legally liable if they failed to do that critical thinking.)

For X.509, we pretty much immediately moved away from that world, though, to a world where each application (e.g. OS HTTP API, third-party web browser, etc.) is acting as a root CA, you endorse that root CA by installing/using the app, and then the app devs make decisions on what to trust/delegate trust to.

Which is kind of what's happening here: you use your critical thinking to install an app/OS, whose devs are then your "truth source." Sadly, though, this isn't a business relationship where they can be sued for failure to deliver quality content through that channel. (For contrast, where a customer is paying a business for "truth", see: investment newsletters.)

Well, right now a lot of people use pundits for this already, so it's not really that new to people. It's hard to gather and interpret all the evidence and make a reasoned opinion. Given all the things we form an opinion on daily, it's actually probably impossible. Much easier to defer to an expert for most things. Unfortunately, "expert" is a loaded term here, and people aren't always getting what they think as the people we've deferred our reasoning to have their own agendas, or try to extend their reach to items they are not experts on. Then they're just pundits that have an opinion about everything, because their job is no longer to be as correct as possible on what they can, but to have an opinion on everything.

Journalistic institutions themselves already employ vast fact-checking tools and services internally to verify articles and information, and you already indirectly rely on them. This is only sensible, critical thinking is helpful but is not the same as checking factual statements.

And it's a good thing that fact checking exists as a service (now apparently also in independent fashion), because nobody has the time, knowledge or capacity to literally dig through every piece of journalism they read, on every topic.

> I also question Microsoft's decision to include the plugin at all. I'd rather not have an arbiter of truth looking over my shoulders, reminding me what i should or shouldn't read

This is such a tricky point. On the one hand I almost agree with you in the sense that it could have a dangerous outcome: ceding control to an entity who essentially influences what content users should read.

On the other hand, the amount of misleading information on the web is having a very real, very serious impact on the world. If used responsibly this might influence positive change.

> the amount of misleading information on the web is having a very real, very serious impact on the world

I'm not convinced this is true. I'm more convinced many really want it to be true to explain results they otherwise can't. And as expected, they have convinced others this is true. It's just another in the long line of bogeymen.

Considering I have caught my mother on more than one occasion sharing fake information from groups that fit the Russia propaganda angle to a tee (whether or not they actually are Russian ops), I would say it is in fact having a very real impact.

And for reference, the group was called 'American Warrior Revolution', so you too can take a peek into the insanity I'm referring to.

No offense, but what your mother shares does not determine what is a very real impact. Also, whether something is shared does not mean it is impactful.

> whether something is shared does not mean it is impactful

Actually, I think whether something is shared and how prevalent that sharing is among the populace is a better indication of impact than many others.

For example, one (fairly binary) way of measuring individual impact might be whether it's viewed as worth spreading to other people. Things not worth sharing may or may not be impactful, but things worth sharing almost definitely are.

Scaled up, if a high enough percentage of people in a group view something as worth sharing, then it is impactful.

> Scaled up, if a high enough percentage of people in a group view something as worth sharing, then it is impactful.

Disagree, but impactful can be seen as an overloaded term. We need to accept in modern situations that the ease of sharing something might be more of a reason it is shared than whether the sharer/recipient is impacted by it. Or there might be many other reasons. The important thing is accepting that we don't know what is impactful and not running to the heavy-hand of the law/censors assuming we do.

What "Russia propaganda angle"? Almost everything published about Russia in western media is wrong or outright fraudulent. Go read Glenn Greenwald's articles on the Intercept for many very clear examples.

Maybe your mother is sharing fake information, or maybe your own information is fake and the problem is the inverse (or maybe you're both wrong in different ways).

You're objectively wrong, and the information she shared from that group was the very definition of fake. Here's the exact comment that was shared from that group:

"R.I.P. Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23, and Sheldon Tate 27.... All are Marines who gave their lives this week for you. There's no media for them... not even a mention of their names. We’re too busy talking about trying to get “Baby It’s Cold Outside” off of the radio. Please honor them by copying and pasting this post."

Except obviously, they didn't die last week as of that post. They died seven years ago. Now why would a large group share literally fake information like that? And why would you immediately jump in and attempt to discredit my argument given that I even gave you the name of the group? Take a cursory glance at them and their actions.

I may be missing something fundamental here, but I'm not sure what that post has to do with Russia or propaganda. You say it's obvious they didn't die last week, but it wasn't obvious to me upon reading - perhaps because I'm not American. But if there's no date in the text, maybe your mum just didn't remember the original event, thought some soldiers had died, and she would be honouring them with some copypasta?

I guess I don't see a need for a conspiracy, Russian or otherwise, to get people re-sharing posts on Facebook that explicitly say "if you don't reshare this you're a bad person".

That's true to a degree, though I still feel like a good portion of the stories are missing details. Their bias really comes out with the stores that they are (and aren't covering).

> Their bias really comes out with the stores that they are (and aren't covering).

Which, in my experience, "is generally about as on the level as their contemporaries", just concerning different stories and the way they're spun.

I agree with you there, but I don't think you can say much better about any other news source, unfortunately. They just lack a lot of the 'subtlety' publications like CNN have. They'll never be a paper of record like the NYT, byt they're pretty par for the course. Just right leaning.

Which is the real problem with mainstream media today IMO, not fringe outlets like infowars or whatever.

It's not just that, though. Fox uses one domain, foxnews.com, for all their stuff. So NewsGuard is putting the same happy checkmark above good articles (biased topic choice or not) and absolute nonsense from their TV shows which they repost online.

See: Manufacturing Concent.

Prehaps especially if we're talking fox news and not fox and friends which is held to a lower standard. They're still certainly not as reliable or credible of a source as wikileaks. The worst that has been alleged of wikileaks is selective leaking. They're more reliable and credible than ANY mainstream US source.

The Fox News channel’s opinion programming concerns me more than their news coverage.

Wikileaks gets green checks on:

• (1) Does not repeatedly publish false content

• (5) Avoids deceptive headlines

• (8) Reveals who's in charge, including and possible conflicts of interest

It gets red marks on:

• (2) Gathers and presents information responsibly

• (3) Regularly corrects of clarifies errors

• (4) Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly

• (6) Website discloses ownership and financing

• (9) The site provides names of content creators, along with either contact or biographical information

On "Clearly labels advertising" it gets N/A. The parenthetical numbers are the order of the importance of the various criteria.

So, red on 1, 5, 8, green on 2, 3, 4, 6, and 9, and 7 is not applicable.

Foxnews.com gets green on 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9, and red on 3, 6, and 8.

I would hope that the opposite condition (a green tick for a source you personally trust and a red mark for one you personally do not) would give you similar pause.

This sort of thing strikes me as a type of modern-day Star Chamber. Even if initially implemented by the right people with the right intentions, it wields enough power that inevitably it will be compromised in some fashion that makes it a threat to a free and open society.

People are still unwinding the damage from that popular Twitter block list that, whoops, just happened to have a lot of trans women on it.

I'm more concerned about this looking like it's a whole site thing instead of a link-by-link sort of thing. makes easy for green sites to sneak one or two hit/propaganda piece and amplify their effect.

More to the point, how many people who are caught up by fake news actually read the original article? The pattern is to: (1) Publish a fake article on a propaganda site (2) Tweet it out from a sockpuppet account (3) Use paid promotion or hacking to get it retweeted by a few influencers (4) The unassuming masses amplify the message by repeating the headline in the tweet. By the time anyone notices that the source of the misinformation is a fake news site the story has already traveled around the world two-and-a-half times. NewsGuard may as well flag twitter.com in that case.

Here's what you should really be worried about: the propaganda that goes straight out of CNN into your brain and you don't question it.

Legitimate stories can be abused by retweet misinformation as well. A blogger or tweet posts "NYT says" with an out-of-context quote from the article. This gets repeated until someone points out "Actually that's not true." All the people who saw the retweet think that newspaper was caught spreading false information. But because they never read the actual article, only the selectively edited version of it, they don't notice that the New York Times was reporting it in a balanced and responsible way.

It would be a huge privacy/tracking violation to send every URL you visit to the arbiter to find out if it's fake news.

What they could do is have a "fake news?" button that you press to find out if a particular article is bs, with a panel showing pro and con views so you can make up your own mind based on real information.

Why are they wrong in giving a red mark to Wikileaks?

While it could be argued that WikiLeaks has acted as a useful fool, or that it has withheld publishing information for questionable reasons, it could not be said that they have published much false information.

The veracity of the information they do publish is certainly more reliable than what you'll get from Fox.

> that it has withheld publishing information for questionable reasons

This is echoed quite a bit lately, I have not seen any evidence to support it. Is there any documented case where WikiLeaks withheld information? Is the criticism about the fact that they have a release schedule rather than always immediately publishing? They're a journalism group at the end of the day, don't they have a right to publish stories in a way that maximizes impact?

Those are all the same story, just repeated. The entirety of the claim comes from Daily Dot, who claims to have an anonymous source that sent them sealed court documents, and then goes further to insinuate that because Wikileaks did not publish that exact document, that it's evidence that they selectively withheld information, presumably because they must have received that document.

None of that makes any sense to me, and it lacks credibility.

1. Daily dot has not published any evidence of actually having this document. It could be entirely made up.

2. Even if such a document exists, there's no guarantee that Wikileaks' source was the same source that somehow ended up in the hands of US courts.

3. Why the hell would wikileaks publish so many other juicy files in the Syria Files, but selectively withhold this one minor document about a money transfer between two allies at a time of war? Yes, it's a large sum that's claimed to have been transferred, but in the midst of the Syrian Civil War in 2011? A few billion is peanuts.

I don't buy it.

edit: The BBC story is about Jared Kushner and is not really about Wikileaks.

edit2: 4. Considering that Daily Dot names the group that is behind the attack, why haven't the hackers who allegedly sent the documents to Wikileaks said anything about this situation? They have the power to tarnish their reputation or confirm that it wasn't sent.

Which is a good example of the problem. So the Washington Examiner is publishing false stories about Wikileaks (as has CNN, the Guardian, etc). Which one gets the ticks and the crosses? The one the US government doesn't like gets marked as fake news despite being real news, and the ones lying about them get marked as good.

I don't know who at Microsoft thought this was a good idea but they're clearly insane. I had nothing in particular against Edge and even use it sometimes, but after this there's no way I'm going to use it. The last thing I need is some delusional crazies who probably believe Assange works for Putin telling me what is and isn't real.

Well, they also withhold information in their insurance files. Maybe for a good reason. This story is crap though.

Can you link a fake news example from WL?

The problem is that "fake news" is undefined. It could be

     pure lies
     partial truth / known lies
     partial truth / unprovable assertions
     conjecture passed as news
     limited snippets biasing intended viewpoint
     commentary (Fox "news")
     Disagree with assertions
     Propaganda by state actor

And those are what I could think of in a few minutes. Worse yet, who's to be the arbiter of "truth"? What credentials do they have? And why would we believe them to be transparent with truthiness ratings? They will have bias - will we be able to discern? Doubtful.

The underlying thing, is that when things are bought to light, the truth surfaces. Yet now, the attack is on the very definition of "truth", playing the ultimate word definition game.

Of those, only the first two qualify as "fake news", i.e. false news. To claim that "real news" do not contain the rest is ludicrous.

You made my point, that the definition of "fake news" is undefined. Pretty much anything can be pointed at and yelled "Fake News". And that's what we're seeing.

Fake news is news that is fake -- aka entirely fabricated with no basis in reality. "13 Obama supporters arrested for terrorist plot"-- boom, just made that up. That's fake news. Anything with a basis in reality is not.

It's always hard to agree on a definition of fake news, but their tweets are well documented to be extremely biased these days - even the tweet linked above uses loaded language like 'neocon'.

That's so strange as far as I know wikileaks has a perfect 100% track record of sharing real information. Why would they give CNN/Fox green checks and not Wikileaks?

It's not strange. These organisations have always existed to push mass media. It doesn't matter to them whether it's false information or not, but they are scared of not being able to control the information.

Who decides which sites have "real" news and which sites have "fake" news?

A big thing missing from these discussions is the history of propaganda. I think a lot of people who are worried about "fake news" need to research that term.

Propaganda is still very prevalent especially as far as war goes. Do people really think that CNN tells them the real reasons for going to war? They will say whatever the Pentagon tells them. Why? Because no one is going to risk their lives and kill other people for some technical, strategic reason or just as part of a larger military campaign. People risk their lives to fight the "bad guys" who are "evil". They need to believe its a moral cause.

Don't let some giant company (or a small one) dictate what source your information comes from. If I used a Microsoft browser I would uninstall that plugin. Assuming that's an option.

It's all so disappointing because there are straightforward, objective rules that could dismiss a lot of these sites. Inform readers if the site was registered in the last 3 months, or claims to be Colorado-based but has a Bulgarian IP address, or plagiarized a bunch of articles from a different source.

It may not shut down all forms of manipulated information, but it can stymie the flow of procedurally-generated blogs that are triggering so much confusion.

>Who decides which sites have "real" news and which sites have "fake" news?


a list of names provides not real context to "who" decides. For the most part people will dismiss them quickly when the outcome does not match their personal views. so both sides will simply find examples to further their beliefs.

for the most part these services are both circle the wagon and circle jerk in nature. circle the wagon because journalist of the same beliefs want to protect each other and circle jerk because their choices will simply be beneficial to those they already agree with. the public as I mentioned before will just dismiss it as more of the same. the internet is good at holding them to account and they don't like it.

RT ran an interesting peice on NewsGuard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkY9fMK26dE

Well, not that I love being this glib, but, I guess now I know what the Russian government wants me to think about NewsGuard. Also: because WaPo and NYT have issued corrections about Deripaska stories, they're "repeat offenders" who "publish lies" (their citation: Fox News). Also, according to the chyron, I should be really scared of Islam.

It's a reasonable criticism of RT, but it's amusing how thoroughly it cuts both ways: we now know what the Russian government wants us to think about NewsGuard, and also what a team of former US government officials want us to think about RT.

That's not to say RT is a usable source, I'm not particularly interested in their coverage here. But I'm also not very interested in hearing what news Michael Hayden wants me to listen to.

I don't as much need to care what the US government thinks, because the US government doesn't fund any of its best known media companies. As you can pretty clearly see, most of the US news media market works in opposition to the current US administration.

It doesn't matter if us.gov funds media or not if third-parties are nudging people to only trust sources acting in the US interest.

Sure they might oppose the sitting President but would they publish something which would undermine stated US diplomatic policy?

> Also, according to the chyron, I should be really scared of Islam.

Citation needed. It almost seems that you invented something just as an attempt to demotivate people from taking a look. Normally I don't watch videos, but this time I got curious, and I've seen only "Belgian Imam embroiled in the scandal" in the chyron.

But while checking that, I've found out that the video has some real points:

- Co-founder of the NewsGuard: former columnist of the Wall Street Journal, for which EFF wrote that he "repeatedly gets his facts wrong about the NSA surveillance."

- In Advisory Board: Michael Hayden, former NSA and CIA director, Tom Ridge, former First secretary of Homeland Security, Richard Stengel, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy

You should also read the RT pieces on how Crimea liberated itself, and how Putin won every election fair and square

> how Putin won every election fair and square

Maybe there was some tampering here and there but I got the impression when I lived there that most people thought he was good and supported him.

there was some tampering here and there

Systematically and violently suppressing any political opposition is a lot more than 'some tampering here and there'.

Some people in the west are shocked when they find out people can also be happy when they don't live in liberal democracies, like Russia, China or SK.

Since they are a team, they are already destined to fail. A team tends to gravitate to a particular position.

So they will fail not only because nobody uses Edge.

Does this organization have a published definition of "Fake News?"

I suspect not, because in general, nobody can agree on a definition of it.

Just because the public can't come to a definition, doesn't mean that a small group can't come to consensus about what it is with regard to what they can police. It may not match your definition, but it could be well defined.

That said, I have no idea if they have done so.

I think people tend to categorize obvious exaggerations as fake news but in reality fake news is much more subtle than that.

If you look at the criteria they’re using, “fake news” isn’t one of them.

Apparently, "former" NSA agents.

Why do you say that? Is there some evidence? Edit: I see. One of the advisory board is the former director of the NSA.

They also have a political analyst for NBC on their board. So I'm sure they are objective about NBC.


Given that microsoft has itself a long history of propaganda, I'm extra suspicious.

Check the Daily Mail, which apparently runs afoul of this plugin, and compare it to the NYT, or Economist.

If you can‘t immediately spot the difference, you may be a late victim of post-modern relativism.

They also have transparent documentation of their ratings. Example: https://www.newsguardtech.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/rt....

>If you can‘t immediately spot the difference, you may be a late victim of post-modern relativism.

The claim is not that all news is equally true; that would be ridiculous. The claim is that lists of trusted sources are ripe for abuse by the list-makers.

Consider this evil plan: suppose that I put a grassroots issue blog on the same list as 100 fake publications. Everyone will believe me, because, look: I was right one hundred times! That problem can even arise without intentional evil on the part of the list makers, just look at the history of spam blacklists. People, even teams of people, are not one hundred percent just one hundred percent of the time.

(I just called something evil, and you can't get any less postmodernist than that! ;)

> suppose that I put a grassroots issue blog on the same list as 100 fake publications

Worth noting that PropOrNot already exists, and got a lot of positive coverage before people started to get suspicious. Its model was almost precisely what you describe: providing extensive lists of clearly Russia-affiliated sources like Sputnik News, then including a handful of high-quality domestic gadflies like Naked Capitalism without any justification.

This isn't just a hypothetical risk of such tools, its already an active problem on these exact topics.

The problem is if you don't have Russian propaganda then there is nothing to counteract the American propaganda.

Unfortunately most people in the US are not going to be able to believe that American propaganda exists.

Two falsehoods do not make a truth.

It's good to know both sides of the story.

The problem with that approach is that even the Daily Mail occasionally publishes something decent - e.g. this article on Clement Attlee:


If a clock's broken and thus is right only twice a day, is it a clock worth keeping? The Daily Mail made its bed and it should have to lie in it.

Sure, but every other major news source has also published something verifiably false. Pick your poison.

How about this metaphor: There are two burger joints. One consistently gets poor health code reviews, vermin in the preparation areas/mouse feces on the cutting board, etc. while another has a mostly clean rap sheet, only marred by a "missing a hair net" violation once every few years. Which one do you go to? Certainly they're not equivalent, right?

So two sources One is 95% truth, 5% they get wrong and apologise One is 95% lies, and 5% they get it right

Which do you read?

It depends on the impact of the lies. The Guardian's Mark Duggan headline was the subject of a PCC complaint awarded against them, see https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/feb/23/pcc-guardian-m... This could have easily led to more violence. This week The Washington Post recently published the false narrative against a 16 year old boy approached by a native man at a protest (saying that he'd approached and threatened the man), resulting in thousands of violent threats against a child.

'Proper' journalism doesn't exist. Maybe it never did, it's just more obvious now. It's news entertainment.

Thorough documentation like that is key to a plugin like this maintaining trustworthiness. I think they should go even further and provide explicit examples highlighting the reasons behind a certain rating, as the more explicit, the harder for people to dismiss this as some kind of leftist filter.

I think the main problem with these sorts of measures is two fold:

a) who gets to decide what constitutes "fake news," would the BuzzFeed story that the Special Council discredited be considered "fake news?" If not, why? How would that story be different than any other that's fake?

b) The idea of labeling "fake news" often emboldens believers of fake news to think of some grand conspiracy to hide the truth.

Another thing is that the "fake news" scare is largely a farce. A recent study showed that people that share fake news are largely older...well, that's what the headlines highlighted. However, in the actual study they found sharing of fake news to be incredibly low and not really even terribly common.

I think the thing I most fear in media, is not obvious fake news sites, it's actual journalists rushing to judgement or being told by and editor they need click/engagement numbers up (this happens, I've worked in multiple news rooms.)

What I call "outrage culture" is largely a corporate creation to drive clicks/viewership and social engagement, because current media models need this sort of thing. If you ever go through media training for cable news (I have) they will tell you to play things up. They also often don't go after level headed people, they want conflict. Conflict gets viewers and viewers get ad dollars.

That to me, is a far bigger threat...not only because it divides us, but because it discredits the media itself in the minds of many, on actual important stories. So in those cases, people do turn to alternative (or overtly partisan) media sources...and that's where "fake news" often breeds and feeds off of.

I think if we really want to battle "fake news" we need to be reevaluating business models of media companies. News should not be something people "hate watch" or "hate click" because what they are watching is so divisive or nonsensical. The media is really its own worst enemy here.

would the BuzzFeed story that the Special Council discredited be considered "fake news?"

For better or worse, this product judges sources, not individual stories. FWIW, Buzzfeed News lets their readers know, right in the lede, that this particular story is disputed by Mueller. As others have mentioned in this thread, a hard definition for "fake news" is hard to pinpoint, but disreputable sources certainly don't own up to mistakes like this.

There’s also the problem of people sharing meme content ontaining obviously misleading information, like in big anti-vax groups. I don’t think you can run a NewsGuard for badly compressed JPEGs.

More to the point, I think the issue goes beyond media and into culture. People want to be outraged and the media is happy to oblige. Something in that equation needs to change.

> The idea of labeling "fake news" often emboldens believers of fake news to think of some grand conspiracy to hide the truth.

Well that's what it is - an attempt to bully media into self-censorship, or provide a fig leaf for actual censorship.

Both a) and b) are good points. I would like to see how Newsguard defines 'fakes news'. It seems to be a nuanced term that will have different views and definitions depending on who you ask. "Fake news" the term may be newly popularized, but it's not a new concept.

It seems implicitly difficult to judge 'news' because news is not always first-hand, so there is no way of exactly chronicling what happened without directly experiencing the source of the news. There's an inherent perception/reality dilemma based on our own cognition and processing of events.

Fake news could be established in different ways, and gets harder to judge the more nuanced it gets, partially when the events are being reported and re-reported using secondary or tertiary sources.

Anything like this is essentially trying to set up a 'ministry of truth' which is a propaganda operation itself.

The kind of structures and thinking you would need to create this challenge fundamental ideas of dissent, free speech and democracy at which point you should stop and question your objectives, but of course if its not in good faith that won't bother you.

This is very interesting. We are seeing a shift of browsers from being neutral tools to actively influencing the content that users see.

* Firefox about:newtab pocket links

* Brave browser replacing ads

* Edge shipping NewsGuard

With this content curation going on, will there be one day a Fox news browser and a CNN browser?

The thing that people don't realize is that Fox and CNN are two sides of the same coin. Both are controlled by the establishment when it comes to certain lines. For example, reporting about war on those channels is war propaganda not real information.

What you are going to have is a 'normal' internet with government-controlled and sanctioned information on one hand. Then the real 'free' internet will run on an entirely different set of distributed technologies. China is the leader in controlling media and the real inspiration for technologies like NewsGuard.

I wouldn't include Firefox in this just yet, a lot of people still trust Mozilla (who nevertheless still have to be very careful not to lose that trust)

Call me when they actually start caring about end users and ship ublock origin by default and stop their ad 'experiments'. And I am a Firefox user. Since 2006. But because they are the least bad browser (by far). Not because they are good.

My point wasn't about trusting or not trusting. It was about browsers adding/influencing content as a default setting, and this being a new thing. I don't know whether this is bad or good in general.

s/(Fox News|CNN) browser/$1 app/

I wonder if this system would have flagged evidence of Iraq WMD's as fake news? Or is it something primitive that just asserts that anything != CNN et. al. is fake news?

It just gives blanket credence to everything CNN publishes. That is because CNN is a controlled media. The media is actually an important part of warfare. WMD was the official propaganda for the Iraq war.

Which the media reported was exageration

Maybe we should start thinking for ourselves what is "fake" or not by, you know, independently thinking. Not relying on some "truth-o-meter" feeded to us by the browser by a bunch of people who we know little about.

This is not a good move and it's not the job of the web browser, as others have pointed out.

This really isn't the job of a web browser.

ITT: a lot of criticism toward NewsGuard. Though it does seem that it has some pretty glaring flaws.

I'm curious what ideas people have to combat the problem more effectively? Solutions like "people should just l2thinkcritically" don't seem practical to me.

I think crowdsourced approaches will just degenerate into partisan feuds. Relying on a central authority just paves the way for the nation-states/illuminati/"globalists"/evil-sentient-penguins to manipulate public opinion on a grand scale. So, what else is there?

The fairness doctrine by the FCC had a lot of issues but simply removing it with no replacement sowed the seeds for blatant manipulation of people via media and "news".

There are a scant few independent non-profits I'd consider trusting with determining "fairness" or fact. The US government certainly isn't qualified anymore with how corrupted and disconnected from the people it is, corporations by definition are amoral, and power corrupts. Giving anyone the determination of what is "fake" makes them a vector for exploitation and abuse.

The answer should be you need a new, legitimately representative and democratic government, to oversee regulation on those who claim to be news in order to more closely guarantee honesty. Thats a bit bigger of a problem to approach than the mass-deception and manipulation of a society by monied interests, though.

  The answer should be you need a new, legitimately representative and democratic government
We went from “how do we improve the media situation?” to “we need revolution” awfully fast!

Jokes aside, you might be right. If you are though, it probably means we won’t make any meaningful strides towards a better system for quite a while.

Its why anything political, which ends up being just about everything, feels like a distraction. All these problems fundamentally trace back to a lack of representation and influence in government by the commoner, and that requires radical alterations to the government to give them their voice/back. Everything else is just speculative hearsay about what ifs and could bes.

Your first task is to prove there's a problem at all. Kodablah (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18980290) is not the only one with serious doubts that there's any such thing as a problem that needs to be combatted.

Let's review a quick timeline.

The term "fake news" was hardly used until recently:


The huge spike corresponds exactly with the election of Trump and Britain voting for Brexit. Suddenly, fake news was supposedly everywhere and the problem of the moment. Before mid 2016 though, nobody talked about it.

To any outside observer it's very clear what has happened here. Several problems have intersected.

Firstly, a huge chunk of the left wing population doesn't really understand conservatism - not why people think like that, or even what they think at all. This isn't some idle speculation, it's actually been studied at scale:


Conservatives understand liberals at scale but not the other way around - Republicans may as well be an alien race, as far as many Democrats are concerned. So of course they look for explanations of why people can hold such obviously 'wrong' set of beliefs. And they find it in the belief that the population is as easily programmable as your TV set.

Rewind the clock a few years and you can find a lot of rhetoric about campaign spending. Citizens United and Obama saying there should be a constitutional amendment. The belief was simple - whoever spends the most on advertising wins over the weak minded and wins the election. Huge swathes of voters don't think for themselves, they simply vote for whoever they saw advertised the most. Because conservatives were backed by big business, allowing businesses to spend money on political advertising would doom the correct way of thinking to oblivion.

2016 rendered that idea completely untenable. In America Clinton outspent Trump 2:1 and in the UK the Remain campaign obliterated the Leave campaign in terms of resources and spending. Remain spent more on a single leaflet campaign than the entire Leave campaign combined. Yet both sides lost.

So now the money=winning line is proven false, what can be the explanation? There has to be something else brainwashing the weak minded population other than obvious political advertising. The conundrum was solved with the idea of "fake news" and the Russian bogeyman, who used ... Twitter ... to have an even bigger impact than political advertising. The fervour that was previously directed at the idea of unlimited ad spend was now turned on the idea of news sources that didn't cooperate and support Clinton (like Wikileaks).

The problem with this worldview is that it's as wrong as the previous belief. At least political advertising had a concrete definition which allowed it to be studied, and found to have little impact once people became informed about an election and who the candidates are:


"We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in gen- eral elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact 10-fold. These exper- iments’ average effect is also zero."

But nobody can quite identify what fake news really means, hence the arguments over what is and isn't fake. It's probably the case that if Clinton and Remain had won, nobody would be talking about fake news or Russia at all.

You’ve raised a lot of points here and it’s kinda hard to tackle them all. I’ll try to keep my response terse.

For one, the search trend for “fake news” means absolutely nothing to me. That term only entered the zeitgeist when it was popularised during the 2016 elections. I truly believe that even the organisations with the most integrity can be accused of blatant partisan bias. And as far as I can tell from my (albeit limited) investigations, it’s been that way since mass media was born. You don’t have to fabricate news. You can omit certain facts, or frame the story a certain way to drive the narrative you want.

I agree the money expenditure during a campaign isn’t the ultimate measure of impact. Remember the Leave slogan on the side of the bus during Brexit? I doubt that cost much. Outright lies aren’t terribly expensive, most of the time.

TL;DR - I strongly disagree with the idea that there isn’t a problem at all. People are curating their own echo chambers every day, and our existing establishments and platforms are encouraging them to do so.

Business Insider has a nice article that simply shows the summary for a whole bunch of common sites (NYT, Fox, WP, Guardian, WSJ, National Review, NY Post, Daily News, Federalist, Economist, Breitbart, Daily Kos, RT, Times of Israel, BI, Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed, MSNBC, AP, Daily Beast, TMZ, Splinter, Vice News, Forbes, LA Times, Time, and BBC)


Looking over the results for those sites, it seems reasonably fair as far as left vs. right goes. I see both liberal and conservative sites covered, and in both groups see sites with perfect ratings and sites with terrible ratings and site in between.

Edit: Implementation wise, this thing is really well done. I installed the Firefox version, and when I visit a site that it has info on, the green/red summary shows up, and clicking that gives details, as would be expected, and that was all I expected.

What I didn't expect is that when I'm in Google news, it puts the indicator beside the source name on each story. It also does this on Google search results. It's also working with Bing search results.

Found this reply to the wikileaks twitter post*

"So let's educate people that the green tick means fake news and red means trustworthy"

This is what we're dealing with folks - people who push conspiracy theories to the detriment of society. It makes sense coming from the wikileaks crowd but it's infecting the entire culture.

See also those that oppose/reject the Polio vaccine.


It feels like the time is right for a snopes.com for daily news, but it would need trustworthy gatekeepers and a big budget.

I think wikitribune.com is doing something interesting: providing permanence to news stories. Most media cover "breaking news" as quickly as possible, with whatever facts are available, but have no time or space for follow-up or analysis. (Hey, remember that big story from last year (whatever it was)? What happened to those people?)

The issue is likely speed; it takes much longer to debunk a fake or incorrect story than to publish the story to begin with. And in a world where social media is seen as a primary news source (unfortunately), a story is basically seen as 'settled' approximately X hours after being published, if that.

You would need an absolute ton of resources, and even that probably wouldn't be enough to fact check the entire online media in anything close to real time.

Not sure that I agree.. I think a news aggregator that works with snopes could be great though. In the end, I don't think that a single news entity will cover things as well as multiple news sites. Some are better with political coverage, others better for given localities, others still outside given localities, etc. In the end, no news source is perfect and those that are better still have a LOT of bias.

A related item is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18977365 , on NewsGuard's "nutrition label" for the Daily Mail.

Twitter is full of endless fraud phishing ads. I report and report but they pop up back again.

If we can detect fake news, why can't Twitter detect fraudulent ads?

They can't detect fake news. Its just a way to put a rubber stamp on government-controlled (when it comes to certain stories) media sites and suppress sites that are not.

This could actually have a big impact as the ones who believe fake news are likely the ones using Edge.

What's to stop powerful or wealthy people from pressuring, or subverting this?

How surprising NewsGuard runs fingerprinting scripts on their homepage.

Very trustable.

You can't just "enforce correct news" because people will just accuse it of being part of the left-wing media conspiracy (which is, largely but not completely, a fallacy).

EDIT: Not sure why downvotes (currently at -4). Here is what typically happens when I try to point to "facts" (linked assertions) that invalidate someone's point:

1) Person says bullshit

2) I show person link from credible source that seems to invalidate the bullshit

At this point one of 5 things invariably happens: A) The source I linked to is not read, wasting my time B) The goalposts are now moved to some OTHER bullshit assertion C) The source is accused of being "bought and paid for" (this literally happened to me when I was blocked by someone on Facebook for using factcheck and politifact links). D) "Wikipedia is editable by anyone!" E) "That's just MSM conspiracy talk!" https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFalla...

We have a situation where the far-left and the far-right (but mostly the far-right) are basically being gaslighted by their sources of media.

Maybe the solution is not to enforce The One And True Source Of Facts, but to teach people how to fucking lose an argument gracefully. Or at least, to "compete" on rational/empirical grounds. And gracefully win or lose on those grounds, and not just on "what I believe".

And, for the record (and to my point), regarding the "news is slightly left-wing-biased" claim, third-party media bias reviewers have all rated the major news sources, at least in the U.S. (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN) as left-leaning, save for Faux News of course.

https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/nbc-news/ https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/abc-news/ https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/cbs-news/ https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/cnn/

I was happy when the Fake News stuff started to take off. Then I saw politicians use it anytime they wanted to discredit something, especially legitimate criticism.

Thats how I feel about russia-gate. "Criticizing the corporate democrats and exposing their records? You must be a russian shill!"

Unfortunately you’re right.

This plugin triggers on daily mail which should start the crazies off pretty sharpish.

I have heard a lot of bad things about Daily Mail but the fact that you are describing people who have a different worldivew than you as "crazy" is very problematic.

Go read the comments on the articles and make your own judgement.

Here’s a starter https://m.imgur.com/80iDatZ

DM comments section is the cesspit of humanity.

Obviously suggesting that people be murdered is completely out of line. However I have seen that type of comment made by both the left and the right. I still think you are mainly identifying that people have a very different worldview and devaluing them mostly because of that. Comments that are completely out of line are just reinforcing an existing hatred of this other group.

There's a point where bending over backwards for "world views" crosses the line. Where that might be is hard to say, but Im going to venture that advocating (mass) murder is definitely on the wrong side of things.

There is such a thing as a wrong opinion.

That’s a relatively mild example of what goes on. The problem is that DM bait extremist views to bolster their own readership. This isn’t an interest specified readership but a relatively hardcore propaganda machine. Check the backers as well.

People on Twitter aren't exactly better: https://web.archive.org/web/20190120213520/https:/twitter.co...

Oh I totally agree there as well. Any anonymous or semi anonymous public opinion seems to being the extreme views.

But they aren’t a news provider. The entire of Twitter is an opinion piece.

That's true, but not the core problem.

Truth is not a well-defined concept, nor is it _definable_.

For example, multiple well-designed studies on drugs are required because different studies produce different results. The idea that all good studies produce all good results on all good drugs is simply not true. It is true to say that someone has been given autism by a vaccine - is publishing that true story and enciting antivax movements fake news? Is it right to suppress all antivax news as fake?

IMO, it seems that journalistic integrity is at an all time low (an existence created by a reactionary and unthoughtful public). I think starting censorship programs on an already sickly media can be nothing short of a catastrophe.

Good thing is that we also have pruth. It is similar to truth. It consists of the most accurate description of reality that can be known.

> Is it right to suppress all antivax news as fake?

pruth requires any intrinsic context, so it would be fake if you look at the rate of occurrences.

I agree with you statement about journalism but don't see any reactionaries as guilty. To me, it is a story about money. Can't say if that is the pruth though. And no, more censorship wouldn't be good since the pruth will come out eventually and any trust would be further eradicated.

I am terrified of Microsoft going this route, since they make my OS of choice. I could expect Google doing this kind of stuff, like deciding what sites I can visit or what people I can contact using Gmail (examples that have yet to happen, but wouldn't surprise me), but Microsoft? They've always been uninterested in politics, or so it seemed. What if they decide to push this kind of political stuff in their OS?

The biggest problem with any large corporation being a arbitrator of truth, is the only truth they truly believe in is they should always make more profit at the end of the day. With whatever technical and political means they have, they will make that happen. With the massive amount of data collected at an individual level they have a large amount of potential power when it comes to influencing others towards their will.

I share your feelings and not just because this is political and thru have no business but because my browsing is my business and not theirs, political or not

> I am terrified of Microsoft going this route, since they make my OS of choice

So change your OS. There are dozens, hundereds even, of options, or you can roll your own.

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