Is there really data that heavy Facebook use caused…erm, is correlated with…erm, is linked to real-life hate crimes?

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

Study says heavy Facebook use is linked to more hate crimes against asylum seekers in Germany. Wait, is that what it says? The New York Times on Monday published a story, datelined from a “pro-refugee” German town, exploring the terrifying trajectory of actual German Facebook superusers who become radicalized through their intense activity in anti-refugee bubbles on social media, and commit real-life acts of violence. The piece, by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher of the Interpreter column, leaned on a previously covered working paper from researchers at the University of Warwick, and described the paper’s key finding as follows:

Towns where Facebook use was higher than average, like Altena, reliably experienced more attacks
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Facebook Takes Down Political Influence Campaigns Operating in Russia, Iran Before Midterms

Facebook has foiled political interference campaigns originating in Iran and Russia, according to an announcement by the company’s head of cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher on Tuesday. The social media company was first notified by a security firm of activity by a network of Facebook pages called “Liberty Front Press.” As a result of the investigation, 652 pages, groups and accounts were removed. Many of the pages were posing as news or other cause-based organizations targeting U.S. based users. Gleicher addressed the issue in a blog post, writing, “We are able to link this network to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins.” Gleicher also made it clear the investigation is not over yet.
“We’re still investigating, and we have shared what we know with the US and UK governments. Continue reading "Facebook Takes Down Political Influence Campaigns Operating in Russia, Iran Before Midterms"

Facebook Apologizes for Removing Conservative Site’s Posts

Facebook has issued an apology after it removed content from Prager University’s Facebook page, prompting the organization to claim “we’re being heavily censored.” “We mistakenly removed these videos and have restored them because they don’t break our standards,” Facebook wrote on Twitter on Friday. Facebook added: “This will reverse any reduction in content distribution you’ve experienced. We’re very sorry and are continuing to look into what happened with your Page.” The posts removed talked about Israel’s right to exist and posited that the Paris Climate Accord doesn’t help the earth. PragerU responded to Facebook’s apology by asking, “Does anyone really believe this was Continue reading "Facebook Apologizes for Removing Conservative Site’s Posts"

Goodbye, Facebook traffic. Welcome back, SEO, we missed you?

“We are not interested in talking to you about your traffic and referrals any more. That is the old world and there is no going back.” That, allegedly, was Campbell Brown, Facebook’s global head of news partnerships, last week. The comments align with what she said in part at a Recode conference in February: “My job is not to make publishers happy.” As news publishers’ Facebook referral traffic continues to fall, what are they supposed to do? Well, they could always try search engine optimization, which saw a mini-renaissance in coverage this past week. “Prior to Facebook, the best way to reliably obtain traffic was through search-engine optimization, formatting web content so that it would rank highly within search engines,” Brian Feldman wrote for New York Magazine’s Select All this week.
Socially optimized content was about getting a rise out of people, tapping into some part Continue reading "Goodbye, Facebook traffic. Welcome back, SEO, we missed you?"

Does your Google News change based on whether you’re conservative or liberal?

How much do algorithms encourage echo chambers? We know that the information people receive can be very different depending on the terms they Google — and that can lead to fears about people with different political leanings receiving very different news. A small study that will be published in Computers in Human Behavior, however, provides some reassuring news. Efrat Nechushtai (Columbia) and Seth Lewis (University of Oregon) asked 168 people with different political backgrounds to search Google News for articles about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In this instance, at least, there was “a very high degree of homogeneity and concentration in the news recommendations:
— The top recommendations were consistently identical for conservatives and liberals
— 41 publishers (99.9 percent of recommendations) reached both conservatives and liberals
— On average, 69 percent of all recommendations were to five news organizations
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GOP Senate Candidate Corey Stewart Got Very Racist About NFL Players at 2017 Event

Corey Stewart is currently the Republican nominee for Senate from Virginia. Yet, just last year during a campaign event he was spouting racist stereotypes about NFL players while at a campaign event. “A lot of these guys, I mean, they’re thugs, they are beating up their girlfriends and their wives,” Stewart said in September 2017, according to CNN. “You know, they’ve got, you know, children all over the place that they don’t pay attention to, don’t father, with many different women, they are womanizers. These are not people that we should have our sons, or any of our children look up to. We need to have our children look up to real role models.” The event was entirely centered around talk of protesting football players and was broadcast on Facebook Live. During the same event where one participant dubbed the NFL the “National Felon League”, Stewart also said Continue reading "GOP Senate Candidate Corey Stewart Got Very Racist About NFL Players at 2017 Event"

Major internet companies might want to push their own point of view, but can they also take care of misinformation please and thank you

So we all heard Facebook’s view on the role that major companies play in deciding who gets what news. (Really, no need to say it twice.) But what does your average Mark or Campbell think? According to a new survey by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, American adults feel negatively about major Internet companies tailoring information to them individually, acting as content arbitrators that enhances bias, and not being transparent about their methods. (Note: Knight has provided support to Nieman Lab in the past.) Those major internet companies in this context are Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter (surprise). Of the 1,203 U.S. adults interviewed earlier this summer, most got their news from Google (53 percent daily/a few times a week) or Facebook (51 percent), with only 23 percent coming from Yahoo and 19 percent from Twitter. The survey’s authors kindly broke out the percentages we’ll highlight
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