Should we consider fake news another form of (not particularly effective) political persuasion — or something more dangerous?

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.

“Most forms of political persuasion seem to have little effect at all.” Dartmouth’s Brendan Nyhan writes in The New York Times that it isn’t that easy to change people’s votes in an election, in an Upshot post titled “Fake news and bots may be worrisome, but their political power is overblown.” When we’re trying to evaluate “claims about vast persuasion effects from dubious online content,” Nyhan writes, we should actually be looking at three things: 1) How many people actually saw the material; 2) Whether the people exposed are persuadable/swing voters; and 3) the percentage of bogus news as a percentage of all news viewed.

The far-right sharing fake news — or conservatives sharing conservative journalism?

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.

Who shares the most “junk news”? (But “junk news” ≠ fake news.) Trump supporters and the far right: That’s according to a report out this week from the Computational Propaganda Project at the University of Oxford. But be careful of definitions here! Over three months leading up to Trump’s State of the Union Address this past January, Oxford researchers looked at “the distribution of posts and comments on public pages that contain links to junk news sources, across the political spectrum in the U.S. We then map the influence of central sources of junk political news and information that regularly publish content on hot-button issues in the U.S.” Note the use Continue reading "The far-right sharing fake news — or conservatives sharing conservative journalism?"

Antonio Sabato Jr. Compares Being Blackballed By Hollywood To Holocaust: ‘It’s Happening to Me’

Antonio Sabato Jr., probably best known for being a early Donald Trump supporter — rather than for his acting career — is running for Congress, and he said some pretty crazy stuff on The View Thursday morning. Sabato explained that he’s an Italian Jew and compared his experience of being shunned by people in Hollywood for his support of Trump to the widespread discrimination and lack of opportunity for Jews during the Holocaust. “My mother escaped the Russians, and my grandmother escaped the Holocaust and Auschwitz and my family died there. So we understand how that works and I got it. When I got back to Los Angeles, I was like, ‘it’s happening to me.'” The panel of The View later brought up that Sabato called President Barack Obama a Muslim, and Sabato doubled down on the obvious falsehood in a totally bizarre way. “It was never an Continue reading "Antonio Sabato Jr. Compares Being Blackballed By Hollywood To Holocaust: ‘It’s Happening to Me’"

How Facebook Could Really Fix Itself

This article was originally published on The Conversation here. Facebook has a world of problems. Beyond charges of Russian manipulation and promoting fake news, the company’s signature social media platform is under fire for being addictive, causing anxiety and depression, and even instigating human rights abuses. Company founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he wants to win back users’ trust. But his company’s efforts so far have ignored the root causes of the problems they intend to fix, and even risk making matters worse. Specifically, they ignore the fact that personal interaction isn’t always meaningful or benign, leave out the needs of users in the developing world, and seem to compete with the company’s own business model. Based on The Digital Planet, a multi-year global study of how digital technologies spread and how much people trust them, which I lead at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, I
The Conversation
The Conversation
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Crowdsourcing trusted news sources can work — but not the way Facebook says it’ll do it

On January 19, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained how the company planned to decide which news sources it would prioritize in the (now with less news!) News Feed. “We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective,” he wrote. This plan — in which users would be asked two questions: Whether they were familiar with a given news source, and how much they trusted it — was largely greeted with skepticism. “A reporter emailed me, like, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ and I started with a list of all the reasons that it seemed like a pretty terrible idea,” said David Rand, associate professor of psychology at Yale and the coauthor, with Gordon Pennycook, of much of the most-discussed research into fake news that’s been released in the past year or so. “Then I realized this
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In Italy, at least, Facebook will let fact-checkers “go hunting” for fake news

“Familiar and vaguely credible.” Here’s another reason Facebook’s “trust survey” may not work: People tend to believe that professional-sounding names are trustworthy sources even when they’re not. Bernhard Clemm, a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence, wrote for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog this week about some of his research that suggests why this crowdsourcing won’t work, and offers a possible solution:
If Facebook’s goal is to take account of the trustworthiness of news media sources, then research suggests its trusted sources metric may not actually be able to do so. In the current form, it is likely to lead to overrating of anyone who manages to find a credible name and let those with partisan interests bias scores. How could Facebook correct for this? By adjusting for the absolute level of familiarity. Looking back at my study, the trust averages of ‘Deutschlandfunk’ Continue reading "In Italy, at least, Facebook will let fact-checkers “go hunting” for fake news"

News organizations, not blogs or commentary sites, are Twitter users’ most-shared sources (at least on one issue), Pew finds

Fake news and distrust in the media may be on the rise, but content from news outlets — particularly legacy ones — is still getting shared plenty on Twitter. In an effort to determine what kinds of information sources people encounter on Twitter when reading about big policy issues, Pew Research analyzed 9.7 million immigration-focused tweets sent in the month following Donald Trump’s inauguration last year that linked to top news sources. Pew’s findings, which were published on Monday, suggest that news outlets — not commentary blogs, advocacy organizations, government sites, or fake news sites — are winning out when it comes to what’s most often shared when people talk about policy on Twitter. One big finding: Out of the 1,030 most linked-to sites whose content was shared in immigration-related tweets, 42 percent were news organizations. (Pew defined news organizations as sites that “showed evidence of original reporting
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