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Title:BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis
Description:The media pundit's pundit. Written by NYC insider Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine covers news, media, journalism, and politics.
BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis
The media pundit #039;s pundit. Written by NYC insider Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine covers news, media, journalism, and politics.
Our problem isn #8217;t #8216;fake news. #8217; Our problems are trust and manipulation.
June 12, 2017 by Jeff Jarvis
fake news, manipulation, nii, propaganda, russia
Comments raquo;
鈥淧ropaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government.鈥
鈥斺奅dward Bernays, Propaganda (1928)
鈥淔ake news鈥 is merely a symptom of greater social ills. Our real problems: trust and manipulation. Our untrusted鈥娾斺奱nd untrustworthy鈥娾斺奿nstitutions are vulnerable to manipulation by a slough of bad guys, from trolls and ideologues to Russians and terrorists, all operating under varying motives but similar methods.
Trust is the longer-term problem鈥娾斺奷ecades- or even a century-long. But if we don鈥檛 grapple with the immediate and urgent problem of manipulation, those institutions may not live to reinvent themselves and earn the public鈥檚 trust back with greater inclusion, equity, transparency, responsiveness, and honesty. At the News Integrity Initiative, we will begin to address both needs.
Here I want to examine the emergency of manipulation with a series of suggestions about the defenses needed by many sectors鈥娾斺妌ot just news and media but also platforms, technology companies, brands, marketing, government, politics, education. These include:
Awareness. As Storyful asks, 鈥淲ho鈥檚 your 4chan correspondent?鈥 If we do not understand how we are being manipulated, we become the manipulators鈥 agents.
Starving the manipulators of money but more importantly of attention, exposing their methods without giving unwarranted attention to their messages.
Learning from the success of the manipulators鈥 methods and co-opting them to bring facts, journalism, and truth to the public conversation where it occurs.
Bringing greater transparency and accountability to our institutions. In journalism鈥檚 case, this means showing our work, recognizing the danger of speed (a game the manipulators will always win), and learning to listen to the public to reflect and serve communities鈥 distinct needs. In the platforms鈥 case, it means accounting for quality in algorithmic decisions and helping users better judge the sources of information. In the ad industry鈥檚 case, it means bringing tools to bear so we can hold brands, agencies, and networks responsible for what they choose to support.
I will explore these suggestions in greater detail after first examining the mechanisms and motives of manipulation. I claim no expertise in this; I鈥檓 just sharing my learning as it occurs.
I became convinced that manipulation is the immediate emergency thanks to danah boyd of Data amp; Society, which recently issued an excellent report by Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis, 鈥淢edia Manipulation and Disinformation Online.鈥 They catalog who is trying to manipulate media鈥娾斺妕rolls, ideologues, hate groups, conspiracy theorists, gamergaters; where and how they do it鈥娾斺妚ia blogs, sites, message boards, and social media; and why they do it鈥娾斺奻or money, for hate, for power, to cause polarization, to disrupt institutions, or for the lulz.
In discussing manipulation, it is important to also examine Russian means and methods. For that, I recommend two provocative reports: the NATO Defense College鈥檚 鈥淗andbook of Russian Information Warfare鈥 by Keir Giles and the RAND Corporation鈥檚 鈥淭he Russian 鈥楩irehose of Falsehood鈥 Propaganda Model鈥 by Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews.
Says danah: 鈥淥ur media, our tools, and our politics are being leveraged to help breed polarization by countless actors who can leverage these systems for personal, economic, and ideological gain. Sometimes, it鈥檚 for the lulz. Sometimes, the goals are much more disturbing.鈥
In short: We are being used.
Russian manipulation
I found the NATO manual particularly worrying, for in examining what Russia has done to manipulate information in Ukraine and elsewhere, we see the script for much of what is happening now in the United States. I鈥檓 not suggesting Russia is behind this all but instead that all the manipulators learn from each other while we in media do not.
NATO emphasizes that Russia does not think of this as cyber warfare but instead as information warfare. 鈥淩ussia refers to 鈥榠nformation space,鈥欌 Rand says, 鈥渁nd includes in this space both computer and human information processing, in effect the cognitive domain.鈥 Human psychology, that is. Thus, Russia鈥檚 weapons work neatly not only online but also in mainstream media, enabling it to 鈥渟teal, plant, interdict, manipulate, distort or destroy information.鈥
鈥淚nformation,鈥 says the author of a Russian paper NATO cites, 鈥渉as become the same kind of weapon as a missile, a bomb, and so on [but it] allows you to use a very small amount of matter or energy to begin, monitor, and control processes whose matter and energy parameters are many orders of magnitude larger.鈥
Russia has weaponized a new chain reaction in social media. To what end?
鈥淭he main aim of information-psychological conflict is regime change,鈥 says another Russian paper, 鈥渂y means of influence on the mass consciousness of the population鈥娾斺奷irecting people so that the population of the victim country is induced to support the aggressor, acting against its own interests.鈥
Sound familiar? Sound chilling? See, our problem is not just some crappy content containing lies and stupidity. The problem is a powerful strategy to manipulate you.
Our institutions help them. 鈥淩ussia seeks to influence foreign decision-making by supplying polluted information,鈥 NATO says, 鈥渆xploiting the fact that Western elected representatives receive and are sensitive to the same information flows as their voters.鈥 That is, when they play along, the journalism, the open internet, and the free speech we cherish are used against us. 鈥淓ven responsible media reporting can inadvertently lend authority to false Russian arguments.鈥 Therein lies the most insidious danger that danah boyd warns against: playing into their hands by giving them attention and calling it news.
Their goal is polarization鈥娾斺奿nside a nation and among its allies鈥娾斺奱nd getting a country to eat its own institutions. Their tactics, in the words of former NATO press officer Ben Nimmo, aim to 鈥溾榙ismiss, distract, dismay鈥 and can be achieved by exploiting vulnerabilities in the target society, particularly freedom of expression and democratic principles.鈥 They use 鈥溾榤ass information armies鈥 conducting direct dialogue with people on the internet鈥 and describe information weapons as 鈥渕ore dangerous than nuclear ones.鈥 Or as the Russian authors of a paper NATO cites say: 鈥淭he mass media today can stir up chaos and confusion in government and military management of any country and instill ideas of violence, treachery, and immorality and demoralize the public.鈥
Feel demoralized these days? Then it鈥檚 working.
The Russian paper on information-psychological warfare that NATO quotes lists Russia鈥檚 key tactics, which鈥 like their goals and outcomes鈥娾斺妛ill sound eerily familiar:
The primary methods of manipulating information used by the mass media in the interests of information-psychological confrontation objectives are:
Direct lies for the purpose of disinformation鈥.;
Concealing critically important information;
Burying valuable information in a mass of information dross鈥;
Terminological substitution: use of concepts and terms whose meaning is unclear or has undergone qualitative change, which makes it harder to form a true picture of events; [see 鈥渇ake news鈥漖
Introducing taboos on specific forms of information or categories of news鈥; [see 鈥減olitical correctness鈥漖
Providing negative information, which is more readily accepted by the audience than positive.
More tactics: Trolls and bots are used to create a sense of public opinion so it is picked up by media. Journalists are harassed and intimidated, also by trolls and bots. They exploit volume: 鈥淲hen information volume is low,鈥 says RAND, 鈥渞ecipients tend to favor experts, but when information volume is high, recipients tend to favor information from other uses.鈥 And they exploit speed: 鈥淩ussian propaganda has the agility to be first,鈥 Rand observes. 鈥淚t takes less time to make up facts than it does to verify them.鈥 And the first impression sets the agenda.
At the highest level, they attack truth. 鈥淢ultiple untruths, not necessarily consistent, are in part designed to undermine trust in the existence of objective truth, whether from media or from official sources,鈥 says NATO. 鈥淭his contributes to eroding the comparative advantages of liberal democratic societies when seeking to counter disinformation.鈥 [My emphasis]
What do we in journalism do in response? We fact-check. We debunk. We cover them. But that鈥檚 precisely what they want us to do for then we give them attention. Says former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt: 鈥淵ou could spend every hour of every day trying to bat down every lie, to the point where you don鈥檛 achieve anything else. And that鈥檚 exactly what the Kremlin wants.鈥
Western manipulation
Again, I am not saying the Russia is behind all media manipulation. Far from it. But as Hillary Clinton suggested, the Macedonian fake news factory that went after her learned their tricks somewhere. Trolls and manipulators learn from each other and so we must learn about them ourselves.
In their Data amp; Society report, Marwick and Lewis do considerable forensic research into the dissemination of pro-Trump populist messages, which spread (1) 鈥渢hrough memes shared on blogs and Facebook, through Twitter bots, through YouTube channels;鈥 sometimes passing through even (2) the Trump鈥檚 own Twitter account; until they are then (3) 鈥減ropagated by a far-right hyper-partisan press rooted in conspiracy theories and disinformation鈥 (read: Breitbart et al); until (4) 鈥渢hey influenced the agenda of mainstream news sources.鈥 From 4chan and 8chan to Alex Jones to Breitbart to Trump to Fox to CNN to you.
Just as 鈥渇ake news鈥 is a sloppy label, so is 鈥渁lt-right.鈥 Marwick and Lewis dissect that worm into its constituent segments: 鈥渁n amalgam of conspiracy theorists, techno-libertarians, white nationalists, Men鈥檚 Rights advocates, trolls, anti-feminists, anti-immigration activists, and bored young people.鈥 They 鈥渓everage both the techniques of participatory culture and the affordances of social media to spread their various beliefs鈥 and 鈥渢arget vulnerabilities in the news media ecosystem to increase the visibility of and audience for their messages.鈥 What ties them together is some measure of belief鈥娾斺奱nti-establishment, anti-multiculturalism, anti-globalism, anti-feminism, anti-Semitic, anti-political correctness, and nationalist and racist ideologies. But what mostly links them is their techniques. As trolls, they aim for reaction for reaction鈥檚 sake. They mock the 鈥渢ype of tragedy-of-the-week moral panic perpetrated by talk shows and cable news,鈥 as observed by net scholar Whitney Phillips. And they exploit Poe鈥檚 Law, playing 鈥渨ith ambiguity in such a way that the audience is never quite sure whether or not they are serious.鈥
They hack social media, media, and ultimately attention and democracy.
And therein lies the paradoxical vice in which we find ourselves: When we address, check, and attack them, we feed them with attention. Hillary Clinton learned the hard way that 鈥渂y addressing [fringe] ideas, she also gave them new visibility and legitimacy.鈥 She 鈥渋nadvertently cemented their importance.鈥 Say Marwick and Lewis: 鈥淏y getting the media to cover certain stories, even by debunking them, media manipulators are able to influence the public agenda.鈥
And it is only going to get worse. At a World Economic Forum discussion on the topic that I facilitated in San Francisco, I heard a few frightening predictions: First, the bad guys鈥 next targets will be 鈥減illars of society鈥濃娾斺奷octors, pastors, auditors, judges. Second, communities will devolve into 鈥渂elief tribes鈥 where anyone who disagrees with an orthodoxy of opinion will be branded a shill. Third, augmented reality will make it easier to fake not just text and photo but also audio and video and thus identity. And fourth, what I am coming to fear greatly: a coming Luddite rebellion against technology will separate us into 鈥渃onnected and disconnected tribes.鈥
At another WEF discussion, I heard from executives of NGOs, governments, banks, consumer brands, pharma, accounting, and media that they are beginning to recognize the emergency we face. Good.
So WTF do we聽do?
We in media and other institutions must develop new strategies that account for the very new tactics undertaken by our new enemies. We must go far beyond where we are now.
Today, some are tackling falsehoods by fact-checking. Some want to enhance the public鈥檚 critical thinking through so-called news literacy. Some are compiling lists and signals of vice (NII is collaborating with Storyful and Moat in one such effort) and of virtue in sources. Google is seeking to account for the reliability, authority, and quality of sources in its ranking. Facebook is killing the fake accounts used to mimic public conversation. (If only Twitter would get aggressive against malevolent bots and fakes.) I鈥檝e seen no end of (Quixotic, I believe) efforts to rank sites for quality.
These are fine as far as they go, but rather than attacking the facts, sources, and accounts鈥娾斺妋erely tactics鈥娾斺妛e need to go after the real symptom (manipulation) and the real ill (trust). 鈥淭he first step is to recognize that this is a nontrivial challenge,鈥 RAND understates. Some of the suggestions I鈥檓 thinking about:
Build awareness: News media must recognize how and when they are the objects of manipulation. I so like Storyful鈥檚 idea of hiring a 4chan correspondent that we at NII are thinking of underwriting just such a journalist to help news organizations understand what is happening to them, giving them advance notice of the campaigns against them.
I also want to see all the experts I quote above鈥娾斺奱nd others on my growing list鈥娾斺妔chool media and other sectors in how they are being manipulated and what they could do in defense. Without that, they become trolls鈥 toys and Putin鈥檚 playthings.
Share intelligence: Besides 4chan correspondents, major newsrooms should have threat officers whose job it is to recognize manipulation before it affects news coverage and veracity. These threat officers should be communicating with their counterparts in newsrooms elsewhere. At the WEF meetings, I was struck how major brands staff war rooms to deal with disinformation attacks yet they don鈥檛 share information among themselves. So let鈥檚 establish networks of security executives in and across sectors to share intelligence, threat assessments, warnings, best practices, and lessons. To borrow the framing of NII supporter Craig Newmark, these could be NATOs for journalism, media, brands, and so on, established to both inform and protect each other. NII would be eager to help such efforts.
Starve them: There are lots of efforts underway鈥娾斺妔ome linked above鈥娾斺妕o starve manipulators of their economic support through advertising, helping ad networks, agencies, and brands avoid putting their money behind the bad guys (and, I hope, choosing instead to support quality in media). We also need to put the so-called recommendations engines (Revcontent, Adblade, News Max, as well as Taboola and Outbrain) on the spot for supporting and profiting fake news鈥娾斺妉ikewise for the publishers that distribute their dross. Even this takes us only so far.
The tougher challenge鈥娾斺奺specially for news organizations鈥娾斺奿s starving the manipulators of what they crave and feed upon: attention. I can hear journalists object that they have to cover what people are talking about. But what if people aren鈥檛 talking about it; bots are? What if the only reason people end up talking is because a polluted wellspring of manipulation rose from a few fanatics on 4chan to Infowars to Breitbart to Fox to MSM and鈥娾斺妕hanks to the work of a 4chan correspondent鈥娾斺妝ou now know that? I can also hear journalists argue that everything I鈥檝e presented here makes manipulators a story worth covering and telling the public about. Yes, but only to an extent. I鈥檒l argue that journalism should cover the manipulators鈥 methods but not their messages.
Get ahead of them: RAND warns that there is no hope in answering the manipulators, so it is wiser to compete with them. 鈥淒on鈥檛 direct your flow of information directly back at the firehose of falsehood; instead, point your stream at whatever the firehose is aimed at, and try to push that audience in more productive directions鈥. Increase the flow of persuasive information and start to compete.鈥 In other words, if you know鈥娾斺妕hanks to your intelligence network and 4chan correspondent鈥娾斺妕hat the bad guys are going to go after, say, vaccines, than get there first and set the public agenda with journalism and facts about it. Warn the public about how someone will try to manipulate them. Don鈥檛 react later. Inform first.
Learn from them: We in media continue to insist that the world has not changed around us, that citizens must come to us and our fonts of information to be informed. No! We must change how we operate, taking journalism to the public where and when their conversation occurs. We should learn from the bad guys鈥 lessons in spreading disinformation so we can use their techniques to spread information. We also should not assume that all our tried-and-true tools鈥娾斺奱rticles, explainers, fact-checking鈥娾斺奵an counteract manipulators鈥 propaganda. We must experiment and learn what does and does not persuade people to favor facts and rationality.
Rebuild yourself and your trust: Finally, we move from the symptoms to ailments. Our institutions are not trusted for many reasons and we must address those reasons. Media鈥娾斺妌ot just our legacy institutions but also the larger media ecosystem鈥娾斺妋ust become more equitable, inclusive, reflective of, and accountable to many communities. We must become more transparent. We must learn to listen first before creating the product we call content. Brands, government, and politics must also learn to listen first. These are longer-term goals.
Comments raquo;
Fueling a flight to quality
May 2, 2017 by Jeff Jarvis
fake news, journalism, moat, news integrity initiative, nii, storyful
Comments raquo;
Storyful and Moat鈥娾斺妕ogether with CUNY and our new News Integrity Initiative*鈥 have announced a collaboration to help advertisers and platforms avoid associating with and supporting so-called fake news. This, I hope, is a first, small step toward fueling a flight to quality in news and media. Add to this:
A momentous announcement by Ben Gomes, Google鈥檚 VP of engineering for Search, that its algorithms will now favor 鈥渜uality,鈥 鈥渁uthority,鈥 and 鈥渢he most reliable sources鈥濃娾斺妋ore on that below.
The consumer revolts led online by Sleeping Giants and #grabyourwallet鈥檚 Shannon Coulter that kicked Bill O鈥橰eilly off the air and are cutting off the advertising air supply to Breitbart.
The advertiser revolt led by The Guardian, the BBC, and ad agency Havas against offensive content on YouTube, getting Google to quickly respond.
These things鈥娾斺妔mall steps, each鈥娾斺奼ive me a glimmer of hope for supporting news integrity. I will even go so far as to say鈥娾斺奲elow鈥娾斺妕hat I hope this can mark the start of renewing support to challenged institutions鈥娾斺妉ike science and journalism鈥娾斺奱nd rediscovering the market value of facts.
The Storyful-Moat partnership, called the Open Brand Safety framework, first attacks the low-hanging and rotten fruit: the sites that are known to produce the worst fraud, hate, and propaganda. I鈥檝e been talking with both companies for some time because supporting quality is an extension of what they already do. Storyful verifies social content that makes news; its exhaust is knowing which sites can鈥檛 be verified because they lie. Moat tells advertisers when they should not waste money on ads that are not seen or clicked on by humans. Its CTO, Dan Fichter, came to me weeks ago saying they could add a warning about content that is crap (my word)鈥娾斺奿f someone could help them define crap. That is where this partnership comes in.
My hope is that we build a system around many signals of both vice and virtue so that ad agencies, ad networks, advertisers, and platforms can weigh them according to their own standards and goals. In other words, I don鈥檛 want blacklists or whitelists; I don鈥檛 want one company deciding truth for all. I want more data so that the companies that promote and support content鈥娾斺奱nd by extension users鈥娾斺奵an make better decisions.
The hard work will be devising, generating, and using signals of quality and crapness, allowing for many different definitions of each. The best starting point for discussion of a definition is from the First Draft Coalition鈥檚 Claire Wardle:
One set of signals is obvious: sites whose content is consistently debunked as fraudulent. Storyful knows; so do Politifact, Buzzfeed鈥檚 Craig Silverman, and Snopes. There are other signals of caution, for example a site鈥檚 age: An advertiser might want to think twice before placing its brand on a two-week-old Denver Guardian vs the almost-200-years-old Guardian. Facebook and Google have their own signals around suspicious virality.
But even more important, we need to generate positive signals of credibility and quality. The Trust Project endeavors to do that by getting news organizations to display and uphold standards of ethics, fact-checking, diversity, and so on. Media organizations also need to add metadata around original reporting, showing their work.
In talking about all this at an event we held at CUNY to kick off the News Integrity Initiative, I came to see that human effort will be required. Trust cannot be automated. I think there will be a need for auditing of media organizations鈥 compliance with pledges鈥娾斺奱n Audit Bureau of Circulations of good behavior鈥娾斺奱nd for appeal (鈥淚 know we screwed up once but we鈥檙e good now鈥) and review (鈥淵es, we鈥檙e only two weeks old but so was the Washington Post once鈥).
Who will pay for that work? In the end, it will be the advertisers. But it is very much an open question whether they will pay more for the safety of associating with credible sources and for the societal benefit of putting their money behind quality. With the abundance the net creates, advertisers have relished paying ever-lower prices. With the targeting opportunities technology and programmatic ad marketplaces afford, they have put more emphasis on data points about users than the environment in which their ads and brands appear. Will public pressure from the likes of Sleeping Giants and #grabyourwallet change that and make advertisers and their agencies and networks go to the trouble and expense of seeking quality? We don鈥檛 know yet.
I want to emphasize again that I do not want to see single arbiters of trust, quality, authority, or credibility鈥娾斺妌ot the platforms, not journalistic organizations, not any self-appointed judge鈥娾斺妌or single lists of the good and bad. I do want to see more metadata about sources of information so that everyone in the media ecosystem鈥娾斺奻rom creator to advertiser to platform to citizen鈥娾斺奵an make better, more informed decisions about credibility.
With that added metadata in hand, these companies must weigh it according to their own standards and needs in their own judgments and algorithms. That is what Google does every second. That is why Google News creator Krishna Bharat鈥檚 post about how to detect fake news in real-time is so useful. The platforms, he writes, 鈥渁re best positioned to see a disinformation outbreak forming. Their engineering teams have the technical chops to detect it and the knobs needed to to respond to it.鈥
And that is also why I see Ben Gomes鈥 blog post as so important. Google鈥檚 head of Search engineering writes:
Last month, we updated our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag, which can include misleading information, unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and unsupported conspiracy theories鈥.
We combine hundreds of signals to determine which results we show for a given query鈥娾斺奻rom the freshness of the content, to the number of times your search queries appear on the page. We鈥檝e adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content鈥
I count this as a very big deal. Google and Facebook鈥娾斺妉ike news media before them鈥娾斺奵ontend that they are mirrors to the world. Their mirrors might well be straight and true but they must acknowledge that the world is cracked and warped to try to manipulate them. For months now, I have argued to the platforms鈥娾斺奱nd will argue the same to news media鈥娾斺妕hat they must be more transparent about efforts to manipulate them聽鈥 and thus the public.
Example: A few months ago, if you searched on Google for 鈥渃limate change,鈥 you鈥檇 get what I would call good results. But if your query was 鈥渋s climate change real?鈥 you鈥檇 get some dodgy results, in my view. In the latter, Google was at least in part anticipating, as it is wont to do, the desires or expectations of the user under the rubric of relevance (as in, 鈥減eople who asked whether climate change is real clicked on this鈥). But what if a third-grader also asks that question? Search ranking was also influenced by the volume of chatter around that question, without necessarily full regard to whether and how that chatter was manufactured to manipulate鈥娾斺妕hat is, the huge traffic and engagement around climate-change deniers and the skimpy discussion around peer-reviewed scientific papers on the topic. But today, if you try both searches, you鈥檒l find similar good results. That tells me that Google has made a decision to compensate for manufactured controversy and in the end favor the institution of science. That鈥檚 big.
On This Week in Google, Leo Laporte and I had a long discussion about whether Google should play that role. I said that Google, Facebook, et al are left with no choice but to compensate for manipulation and thus decide quality; Leo played the devil鈥檚 advocate, saying no company can make that decision; our cohost Stacey Higginbotham called time at 40 minutes.
Facebook鈥檚 Mark Zuckerberg has made a similar decision to Google鈥檚. He wrote in February: 鈥淚t is our responsibility to amplify the good effects and mitigate the bad鈥娾斺妕o continue increasing diversity while strengthening our common understanding so our community can create the greatest positive impact on the world.鈥 What鈥檚 good or bad, positive or not? As explained in an important white paper on mitigating manipulation, that is a decision Facebook will start to make as it expands it security focus 鈥渇rom traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people.鈥 That includes not just fake news but the fake accounts that amplify it: fake people.
I know there are some who would argue that I鈥檓 giving lie to my frequent contention that Google and Facebook are not media companies and that by defending their need to rule on quality, I am having them make editorial decisions. No, what they鈥檙e really defining is fakery: (1) That which is devised to deceive or manipulate. (2) That which intentionally runs counter to fact and accepted knowledge. Accepted by whom? By science, by academics, by journalism, even by government鈥娾斺妕hat is, by institutions. Thus this requires a bias in favor of institutions at a time when every institution in society is being challenged because鈥娾斺妕hanks to the net鈥娾斺奿t can be. Though I often challenge institutions myself, I don鈥檛 do so in the way Trumpists and Brexiters do, trying to dismantle them for the sake of destruction.
In the process of identifying and disadvantaging fake news, Krishna Bharat urges the platforms to be transparent about 鈥渁ll news that has been identified as false and slowed down or blocked鈥 so there is a check on their authority. He further argues: 鈥淚 would expect them to target fake news narrowly to only encompass factual claims that are demonstrably wrong. They should avoid policing opinion or claims that cannot be checked. Platforms like to avoid controversy and a narrow, crisp definition will keep them out of the woods.鈥
Maybe. In these circumstances, defending credibility, authority, quality, science, journalism, academics, and even expertise鈥娾斺妕hat is, facts鈥娾斺奲ecomes a political act. Politics is precisely where Google and Facebook, advertisers and agencies do not want to be. But they are given little choice. For if they do not reject lies, fraud, propaganda, hate, and terrorism they will end up supporting it with their presence, promotion, and dollars. On the other hand, if they do reject crap, they will end up supporting quality. They each have learned they face an economic necessity to do this: advertisers so they are not shamed by association, platforms so they do not create user experiences that descend into cesspools. Things got so bad, they have to do good. See that glimmer of hope I see?
None of this will be easy. Much of it will be contentious. We who can must help. That means that media should add metadata to content, linking to original sources; showing work so it can be checked; upholding standards of verification; openly collaborating on fact-checking and debunking (as First Draft is doing across newsrooms in France); and enabling independent verification of their work. That means that the advertising industry must recognize its responsibility not only to the reputation of its own brands but to the health of our information and media ecosystem it depends on. That means Facebook, Google鈥娾斺奱nd, yes, Twitter鈥娾斺妔hould stand on the side of sense and civility against manufactured nonsense and manipulated incivility. That means media and platforms should work together to reinvent the advertising industry, moving past the poison of reach and clickbait to a market built on value and quality. And that means that we as citizens and consumers should support those who support quality and must take responsibility for not spreading lies and propaganda, no matter how fun it seems at the time.
What we are really seeing is the need to gather around some consensus of fact, authority, and credibility if not also quality. We used to do that through the processes of education, journalism, and democratic deliberation. If we cannot do that as a society, if we cannot demand that our fellow citizens鈥娾斺妔tarting with the President of the United States鈥 respect fact, then we might as well pack it in on democracy, education, and journalism. I don鈥檛 think we鈥檙e ready for that. Please tell me we鈥檙e not. What ideas do you have?
* Disclosure: The News Integrity Initiative, operated independently at CUNY鈥檚 Tow-Knight Center, which I direct, received funding and support from the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund; Facebook; the Ford, Knight, and Tow foundations; Mozilla; Betaworks; AppNexus; and the Democracy Fund.
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Jimmy Wales #8217; new Wikitribune
April 24, 2017 by Jeff Jarvis
jimmy wales, journalism, news integrity initiative, nii, wiki, wikitribune
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Jimmy Wales changed encyclopedias and news while he was at it. And now he #8217;s at it at it again, announcing a crowdfunding campaign to start聽Wikitribune, a collaborative news platform with #8220;professional journalists and community contributors working side-by-side to produce fact-checked, global news stories.聽The community of contributors will vet the facts, help make sure the language is factual and neutral, and will to the maximum extent possible be transparent about the source of news posting full transcripts, video, and audio of interviews. #8221; The content will be free with monthly patrons providing as much support as possible, advertising as little as possible.
I #8217;m excited about this for a few reasons:
First, I see the need for innovation around new forms of news.
Next, I want some news sites to break the overwhelming and constant flow of news and allow us in the public to pull back and find answers to the question, #8220;What do we know about #8230;? #8221; We already have plenty of streams of news; we also need repositories of knowledge around news topics. As Jimmy explained this to me, it will have the value of a wiki (and Wikipedia) in a new platform built to purpose.
Finally, of course, I am delighted to see news services that respect and collaborate with the public.
I am listed as an adviser, personally. (I am not compensated and have no equity; just helping a good cause.) You can sign up here.
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Real News
April 3, 2017 by Jeff Jarvis
cuny, democracy fund, facebook, fake news, journalism, knight, news literacy, tow, tow-knight
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I鈥檓 proud that we at CUNY鈥檚 Graduate School of Journalism and the Tow-Knight Center just announced the creation of the News Integrity Initiative, charged with finding ways to better inform the public conversation and funded thus far with $14 million by nine foundations and companies, all listed on the press release. Here I want to tell its story.
This began after the election when my good friend Craig Newmark鈥娾斺妛ho has been generously supporting work on trust in news鈥娾斺奵hallenged us to address the problem of mis- and disinformation. There is much good work being done in this arena鈥娾斺奻rom the First Draft Coalition, the Trust Project, Dan Gillmor鈥檚 work at ASU bringing together news literacy efforts, and the list goes on. Is there room for more?
I saw these needs and opportunities:
First, much of the work to date is being done from a media perspective. I want to explore this issue from a public perspective鈥娾斺妌ot just about getting the public to read our news but more about getting media to listen to the public. This is the philosophy behind the Social Journalism program Carrie Brown runs at CUNY, which is guided by Jay Rosen鈥檚 summary of James Carey: 鈥淭he press does not 鈥榠nform鈥 the public. It is 鈥榯he public鈥 that ought to inform the press. The true subject matter of journalism is the conversation the public is having with itself.鈥 We must begin with the public conversation and must better understand it.
Second, I saw that the fake news brouhaha was focusing mainly on media and especially on Facebook鈥娾斺奱s if they caused it and could fix it. I wanted to expand the conversation to include other affected and responsible parties: ad agencies, brands, ad networks, ad technology, PR, politics, civil society.
Third, I wanted to shift the focus of our deliberations from the negative to the positive. In this tempest, I see the potential for a flight to quality鈥娾斺奲y news users, advertisers, platforms, and news organizations. I want to see how we can exploit this moment.
Fourth, because there is so much good work鈥娾斺奱nd there are so many good events (I spent about eight weeks of weekends attending emergency fake news conferences)鈥娾斺妛e at the Tow-Knight Center wanted to offer to convene the many groups attacking this problem so we could help everyone share information, avoid duplication, and collaborate. We don鈥檛 want to compete with any of them, only to help them. At Tow-Knight, under the leadership of GM Hal Straus, we have made the support of professional communities of practice鈥娾斺妔o far around product development, audience development and membership, commerce, and internationalization鈥娾斺妅ey to our work; we want to bring those resources to the fake news fight.
My dean and partner in crime, Sarah Bartlett, and I formulated a proposal for Craig. He quickly and generously approved it with a four-year grant.
And then my phone rang. Or rather, I got a Facebook message from the ever-impressive 脕ine Kerr, who manages journalism partnerships there. Facebook had recently begun working with fact-checking agencies to flag suspect content; it started its Journalism Project; and it held a series of meetings with news organizations to share what it is doing to improve the lot of news on the platform.
脕ine said Facebook was looking to do much more in collaboration with others and that led to a grant to fund research, projects, and convenings under the auspices of what Craig had begun.
Soon, more funders joined: John Borthwick of Betaworks has been a supporter of our work since we collaborated on a call to cooperate against fake news. Mozilla agreed to collaborate on projects. Darren Walker at the Ford Foundation generously offered his support, as did the two funders of the center I direct, the Knight and Tow foundations. Brian O鈥橩elley, founder of AppNexus, and the Democracy Fund joined as well. More than a dozen additional organizations鈥娾斺奱ll listed in the release鈥娾斺妔aid they would participate as well. We plan to work with many more organizations as advisers, funders, and grantees.
Now let me get right to the questions I know you鈥檙e ready to tweet my way, particularly about one funder: Have I sold out to Facebook? Well, in the end, you will be the judge of that. For a few years now, I have been working hard to try to build bridges between the publishers and the platforms and I鈥檝e had the audacity to tell both Facebook and Google what I think they should do for journalism. So when Facebook knocks on the door and says they want to help journalism, who am I to say I won鈥檛 help them help us? When Google started its Digital News Initiative in Europe, I similarly embraced the effort and I have been impressed at the impact it has had on building a productive relationship between Google and publishers.
Sarah and I worked hard in negotiations to assure CUNY鈥檚 and our independence. Facebook鈥娾斺奱nd the other funders and participants present and future鈥娾斺奱re collaborators in this effort. But we designed the governance to assure that neither Facebook nor any other funder would have direct control over grants and to make sure that we would not be put in a position of doing anything we did not want to do. Note also that I am personally receiving no funds from Facebook, just as I鈥檝e never been paid by Google (though I have had travel expenses reimbursed). We hope to also work with multiple platforms in the future; discussions are ongoing. I will continue to criticize and defend them as deserved.
My greatest hope is that this Initiative will provide the opportunity to work with Facebook and other platforms on reimagining news, on supporting innovation, on sharing data to study the public conversation, and on supporting news literacy broadly defined.
The work has already begun. A week and a half ago, we convened a meeting of high-level journalists and representatives from platforms (both Facebook and Google), ad agencies, brands, ad networks, ad tech, PR, politics, researchers, and foundations for a Chatham-House-rule discussion about propaganda and fraud (n茅e 鈥渇ake news鈥). We looked at research that needs to be done and at public education that could help.
The meeting ended with a tangible plan. We will investigate gathering and sharing many sets of signals about both quality and suspicion that publishers, platforms, ad networks, ad agencies, and brands can use鈥娾斺奱ccording to their own formulae鈥娾斺妕o decide not just what sites to avoid but better yet what journalism to support. That鈥檚 the flight to quality I have been hoping to see. I would like us to support this work as a first task of our new Initiative.
We will fund research. I want to start by learning what we already know about the public conversation: what people share, what motivates them to share it, what can have an impact on informing the conversation, and so on. We will reach out to the many researchers working in this field鈥娾斺奷anah boyd (read her latest!) of Data amp; Society, Zeynep Tufekci of UNC, Claire Wardle of First Draft, Duncan Watts and David Rothschild of Microsoft Research, Kate Starbird (who just published an eye-opening paper on alternative narratives of news) of the University of Washington, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen of the Reuters Institute, Charlie Beckett of POLIS-LSE, and others. I would like us to examine what it means to be informed so we can judge the effectiveness of our鈥娾斺奿ndeed, of journalism鈥檚鈥娾斺妛ork.
We will fund projects that bring journalism to the public and the conversation in new ways.
We will examine new ways to achieve news literacy, broadly defined, and investigate the roots of trust and mistrust in news.
And we will help convene meetings to look at solutions鈥娾斺妌o more whining about 鈥渇ake news,鈥 please.
We will work with organizations around the world; you can see a sampling of them in the release and we hope to work with many more: projects, universities, companies, and, of course, newsrooms everywhere.
We plan to be very focused on a few areas where we can have a measurable impact. That said, I hope we also pursue the high ambition to reinvent journalism for this new age.
But we鈥檙e not quite ready. This has all happened very quickly. We are about to start a search for a manager to run this effort with a small staff to help with information sharing and events. As soon as we begin to identify key areas, we will invite proposals. Watch this space.
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Quality over crap
March 22, 2017 by Jeff Jarvis
advertising, fake news, journalism
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We keep looking at the problems of fake news and crap content鈥娾斺奱nd the advertising that feeds them鈥娾斺妕hrough the wrong end of the periscope, staring down into the depths in search of sludge when we could be looking up, gathering quality.
There is a big business opportunity to be had right now in setting definitions and standards for and creating premium networks of quality.
In the last week, the Guardian, ad agency Havas, the UK government, the BBC, and now AT amp;T pulled their advertising from Google and YouTube, complaining about placement next to garbage: racist, terrorist, fake, and otherwise 鈥渋nappropriate鈥 and 鈥渙ffensive鈥 content. Google was summoned to meet UK ministers under the threat they鈥檒l exercise their European regulatory reflex.
Google responded quickly, promising to raise its standards regarding 鈥渉ateful, offensive and derogatory content鈥 and giving advertisers greater control over excluding specific sites.
Well, good. But this seems like a classic case of boiling the (polluted) ocean: taking the entire inventory of ad availabilities and trying to eliminate the bad ones. We鈥檙e doing the same thing with fake news: taking the entire corpus of content online and trying to warn people away from the crap.
So now turn this around.
The better, easier opportunity is to create premium networks built on quality: Not 鈥渨e鈥檒l put your ad anywhere except in that sewer we stumbled over鈥 but instead 鈥渨e found good sites we guarantee you鈥檒l be proud to advertise on.鈥
Of course, this is how advertising used to work. Media brands produced quality products and sold ads there. Media departments at ad agencies chose where to put clients鈥 ads based on a number of factors鈥娾斺妑each, demographic target, cost, and quality environment.
The net ruined this lovely, closed system by replacing media scarcity with online abundance. Google made it better鈥娾斺妎r worse, depending on your end of the periscope鈥娾斺奲y charging on performance and thus sharing risk with the advertisers and establishing the new metric for value: the click. AppNexus and other programmatic networks made it yet better/worse by creating huge and highly competitive marketplaces for advertising inventory, married with data about individual users, which commoditized media adjacency. Thus the advertiser wants to sell boots to you because you once looked at boots on Amazon and it doesn鈥檛 much matter where those boots follow you鈥娾斺奺ven to shite like Breitbart鈥ntil Sleeping Giants comes along and shames the brand for being there.
So why not sell quality? Could happen. There are just a few matters standing in the way:
First, advertisers need to value quality. There has been much attention paid to assuring marketers that their ads are visible to the user and that they are clicked on by a human, not a bot. But what about the quality of the environment and its impact on the brand? In our recent research at CUNY鈥檚 Tow-Knight Center, we found that brands rub off both ways: users judge both media and brands by the company they keep. This is why it is to the Guardian鈥檚 benefit to take a stand against crappy ad adjacencies with Google鈥娾斺奲ecause The Guardian sells quality. But will advertisers buy quality?
Second, there鈥檚 the question of who defines and determines quality. Over the years, I have seen no end of attempts to automate the answer to this question, whether by determining trust in news or quality in media. Impossible. There is no God signal of trust or virtue. The decision in the end is a human one and human decisions cost money. Besides, there is no one-size-fits-all definition and measurement of quality; that should vary by media brand and advertiser and audience. Still, the responsibility for determining quality has to fall somewhere and this is a hot potato nobody鈥娾斺奲rands, agencies, networks, platforms鈥娾斺妛ants because it is an expensive task.
Third, there鈥檚 the matter of price. Media companies, ad agencies, and ad networks will need to convince advertisers of the value of quality and the wisdom of paying for it, returning to an ad market built on a new scarcity. With fewer avails in a quality market鈥娾斺妏lus the cost of monitoring and assuring quality鈥娾斺妕he price will rise. Will advertisers give a damn if they can still sell stuff on shitty but cheap sites? Will the cost of being humiliated for appearing on Breitbart be worth the premium of avoiding that? On the other hand, will the cost of being boycotted by Breitbart when the advertiser pulls ads there be worth the price? This is a business decision.
I always tell my entrepreneurial students that when they see a problem, they should look for the solution, as an engineer would, or the opportunity, as an entrepreneur would. There are many opportunities here: to create premium networks of quality and trustworthy news and content; to create mechanisms to judge and stand by quality; to audit quality聽鈥 and, yes, to create quality.
Our opportunity is not so much to kill bad content and bad advertising placements and to teach people to avoid all that bad stuff but to return to the reason we all got into these businesses: to make good stuff.
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Trump #038; the Press: A Murder-Suicide Pact
February 19, 2017 by Jeff Jarvis
donald trump, fake news, journalism, mass, mass media
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The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
The press will destroy Trump and Trump will destroy the press.
Consider that trust in media began falling in the 鈥70s, coincident with what we believe was our zenith: Watergate. We brought down a President. A Republican President.
Now the press is the nation鈥檚 last, best hope to bring down a compromised, corrupt, bigoted, narcissistic, likely insane, incompetent, and possibly dangerous President. A Republican President. Donald Trump.
If the press does what Congress is so far unwilling to do鈥娾斺奿nvestigate him鈥娾斺妕hen these two Republican presidencies will bookend the beginning of the end and the end of the end of American mass media. Any last, small hope that anyone on the right would ever again trust, listen to, and be informed by the press will disappear. It doesn鈥檛 matter if we are correct or righteous. We won鈥檛 be heard. Mass media dies, as does the notion of the mass.
Therein lies the final Trump paradox: In failing, he would succeed in killing the press. And his final projection: The enemy of the people convinces the people that we are the enemy.
The press that survives, the liberal press, will end up with more prizes and subscriptions, oh joy, but with little hope of guiding or informing the nation鈥檚 conversation. Say The New York Times reaches its audacious dreamof 10 million paying subscribers. So what? That鈥檚 3% of the U.S. population (and some number of those subscribers will be from elsewhere). And they said that blogs were echo chambers. We in liberal media will be speaking to ourselves鈥娾斺妎r, being liberal, more likely arguing with ourselves.
No number of empathetic articles that try to understand and reflect the worldview of the angry core of America will do a damned bit of good getting them to read, trust, and learn from The New York Times. My own dear parents will not read The New York Times. They are left to be lt;cough gt; informed by Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, RT, and worse.
Last week, Jim Rutenberg and David Leonhardt of The Times wrote tough columns about turmoil in Rupert Murdoch鈥檚 Wall Street Journal over journalists鈥 fears that they find themselves working for an agent of Trump. They missed the longer story: What we are living through right now was the brainchild of Rupert Murdoch. It started in 1976 (note the timeline of trust above) when he bought the New York Post to be, in his words, his bully pulpit鈥娾斺奱nd he added new meaning to that phrase. Yes, Rush Limbaugh and his like came along in the next decade to turn American radio into a vehicle for spreading fear, hate, and conspiracy. But it was in the following decade, in 1996, when Murdoch started Fox News, adding new, ironic meaning to another phrase: 鈥渇air and balanced.鈥 He and his henchman, Roger Ailes, used every technique, conceit, and clich茅 of American television news to co-opt the form and forward his worldview, agenda, and war.
Murdoch could have resurrected the ideological diversity that was lost in the American press when broadcast TV culled newspapers in competitive markets and the survivors took on the impossible veil of objectivity. Instead, he made the rest of the press into the enemy: not us 鈥渁nd鈥 them but us 鈥渙r鈥 them; not 鈥渓et us give you another perspective鈥 but 鈥渢heir perspective is bad.鈥
What鈥檚 a liberal journo to do? We are stuck in endless paradoxical loops. If we do our job and catch the President in a lie, we are labeled liars. When we counteract fake news with real news, everything becomes fake news. If I get angry about being attacked by angry white men I end up becoming an angry white man. Liberals tell us to be nice to conservatives to win them over but then they only mock us for being weak. Snowflakes. Cucks. Liberal tears.
I commend to your reading this essay by Dale Beran explaining the ultimate political irony of our day: The alt-right is made up of losers and when we call them losers they win. So we can鈥檛 win. 鈥淭rump is Pepe. Trump is loserdom embraced,鈥 Beran explains. 鈥淭rump supporters voted for the con-man, the labyrinth with no center, because the labyrinth with no center is how they feel, how they feel the world works around them. A labyrinth with no center is a perfect description of their mother鈥檚 basement with a terminal to an endless array of escapist fantasy worlds.鈥
How do you argue with that worldview? How do you inform it? How do you win somebody over when all they want is enemies? (Watch this at your own peril.) You probably can鈥檛. There are some chunks of America that likely need to be written off because they have fenced themselves off from reasonable, fact-based, intellectually honest, civil debate and now wallow in hate. Is that condescending of me to say? No, it鈥檚 pragmatic. Realjournalismus.
So then am I giving up on journalism and democracy? No, damnit, not yet. I am giving up on mass media. The internet wounded it; Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump finally killed it.
So now what? Now we reinvent journalism. Now we learn how to serve communities, listening to them to reflect their worldviews and gain their trust so we can inform them. Now we give up on the belief that we are entitled to act as gatekeeper and to set the agenda as well as the prices of information and advertising. Now we must learn to work well with others. Now we must bring diversity not just to our surviving newsrooms鈥娾斺妛hich we must鈥娾斺奲ut to the larger news ecosystem, building new, sustainable news services and businesses to listen to, understand, empathize with, and meet the needs of many communities.
Our goal is not to herd all the lost sheep back into our fence. I will disagree with those who say that we must grinfuck to Trump voters to woo them to our side of the ballot. No, we must stay angry and incredulous that they鈥娾斺妕he fanatical core of them鈥娾斺奲rought us Trump, and we prove our worth by fixing that. I say there is no hope of convincing frogs and eggs in our Twitter feeds; let鈥檚 not waste our time. Instead, our goal is to bring out the people who regretted their vote; there must be some. Far more important, our goal is to bring out the people who did not vote, who were not sufficiently informed of the risk of their inaction and thus not motivated to act. We can do that. Journalism can. That is why journalism exists, for civic engagement. (This is why starting Social Journalism at CUNY was a revolutionary act.)
Start, for example, with the many communities who are lumped together as Latino Americans. Meet them not as a demographic bucket imagined by Anglo Americans and marketers but as distinct groups of people who have distinct needs and interests. (This is why I am proud that CUNY started a bilingual journalism program.) Do the same with so many other underserved and these days abused communities: immigrants, Muslims, LGBT communities, people who will lose health insurance聽鈥 communities organized not just around identity but also around need.
To be clear, this does not mean that the last mass-media companies can abandon these communities to media ghettos. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN, every newspaper company, and every broadcast company must work much harder to bring diversity into their newsrooms and executive ranks to do their jobs better. (One last plug for CUNY: This is why we work so hard to recruit a diverse student body.) We can improve mass media. But I don鈥檛 think we can fix it as it is鈥娾斺妕hat is, return it to its lost scale. And I don鈥檛 think that mass media can fix the mess we are in.
So I would advise media companies old and new to invent and invest in new services to serve new communities. If I wanted to save a struggling mass-media company鈥娾斺妕hink: Time Inc.鈥娾斺奍 would start scores of new services, building new and valued relationships with new communities.
And, yes, I would start a new service for conservative America. I would hire the best conservative journalists I could find not just to write commentary but to report from a different worldview (if anyone can define conservatism these days). I would underwrite scholarships at journalism schools (I promised to stop plugging mine) to recruit students from towns wracked by unemployment, from evangelical colleges, from the military. I would take advantage of a tremendous business opportunity to fight back against Murdoch鈥檚 and Trump鈥檚 destruction of the American press in the full belief that there are enough people in this nation on the right who want facts, who want to be informed, who will listen to their own uncomfortable truths. I would welcome that diversity, too.
Finally, I would stop listening to the entitled whinging of journalists about the state of their business. Yes, Murdoch fired a first bullet and Trump hammered a last nail but we bear the most responsibility for abandoning large swaths of America and for refusing to change. I disagree with Adrienne LaFrance that Mark Zuckerberg is out to 鈥渄estroy journalism.鈥 His manifestoabout the future of communities and an informed society shows we have much to learn from him. 鈥淥nline communities are a bright spot,鈥 he writes, ever the optimist. 鈥淩esearch suggests the best solutions for improving discourse may come from getting to know each other as whole people instead of just opinions鈥娾斺妔omething Facebook may be uniquely suited to do.鈥
OK, but I will also push him, too. Facebook, Twitter, and all the platforms should invest their considerable intelligence, imagination, and resources in helping reinvent journalism for this age. New tools bring new opportunities and new responsibilities. I would like to see Facebook help news companies understand how to serve communities and how to reimagine how we inform citizens鈥 conversations where they occur. I wish that Facebook would find more ways to introduce us to new people who can tell their stories in safe spaces where we can come to learn about each other. I would like Facebook and media to collaborate convening communities in conflict to informed and productive discourse. I would like to see Twitter finally address its and perhaps society鈥檚 key problem: Can we be open and also civil? I hope Google will be more transparent about those who would manipulate it and thus us. I hope they all help us invent new business models that no longer reward just clickbait and fame, cats and Kardashians, sensationalism and polarization (Zuckerberg鈥檚 words). The platforms should spend less effort trying to help journalism as it is鈥娾斺奺xcept insofar as it buys us time for innovation鈥娾斺奲ut instead support journalism as it can be.
Let Donald Trump kill the mass media that made him President. Let his ego and his hate suck all his attention and hostility from its last dying embers. Let his election be the last gasp, the nadir of this dying institution. Then let the rest of us鈥娾斺奊od willing a comfortable majority in this already-great nation鈥娾斺奻ind a path to resume a civil and informed conversation about our shared future.
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Merry Christmas, Hillary Clinton
December 24, 2016 by Jeff Jarvis
hillary clinton
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I want to say Merry Christmas to Hillary Clinton.p
I am grateful to you for running a campaign on principle, patriotism, decency, honesty, intelligence, optimism, maturity, experience, care, and civility.
I am grateful to you for suffering such abuse from so many quarters for so many years and always coming back fighting #8212; for us. You did it for us.
I cannot imagine the disappointment and, yes, anger and you must feel.
I fear that you might think you disappointed us. But we disappointed you. I wish I had knocked that many more doors in Pennsylvania. I wish I could have been that much more persuasive here, in so-called social media. I wish we could have won it for you.
In any case, I am grateful to you for giving me a gift before Christmas. You gave me my sense of citizenship back. I was a journalist and that separated me from the public we want to serve. In your campaign, I found an urgency, a reason to care, an opportunity to meet and listen to my fellow citizens, and, yes, a cause.
I want to live in your America, in your world. That, tragically, is not where we are now. We will have to learn new skills: how to resist unjust rule, how to protect those who need protection, how to make the unaccountable accountable.
It would be too much to ask you to keep fighting; you have been made to fight for too long. But we do still need your guidance, your leadership, and will be grateful when you can give it.
In the meantime, I pray you enjoy your family, especially your grandchildren, and can begin to see a future through their eyes. I want you to know how much respect, affection, and gratitude I #8212; and I have no doubt millions more #8212; have for you.
So thank you, Madame Secretary. Merry Christmas, Hillary. God bless.span
Comments raquo;
A Call for Cooperation Against Fake News
November 18, 2016 by Jeff Jarvis
facebook, fake news, google, journalism, twitter
Comments raquo;
We鈥娾斺奐ohn Borthwick and Jeff Jarvis鈥娾斺妛ant to offer constructive suggestions for what the platforms鈥娾斺奆acebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat, Apple News, and others鈥娾斺奱s well as publishers and users can do now and in the future to grapple with fake news and build better experiences online and more civil and informed discussion in society.
Key to our suggestions is sharing more information to help users make better-informed decisions in their conversations: signals of credibility and authority from Facebook to users, from media to Facebook, and from users to Facebook. Collaboration between the platforms and publishers is critical. In this post we focus on Facebook, Twitter, and Google search. Two reasons: First simplicity. Second: today these platforms matter the most.
We do not believe that the platforms should be put in the position of judging what is fake or real, true or false as censors for all. We worry about creating blacklists. And we worry that circular discussions about what is fake and what is truth and whose truth is more truthy masks the fact that there are things that can be done today. We start from the view that almost all of what we do online is valuable and enjoyable but there are always things we can do to improve the experience and act more responsibly.
In that spirit, we offer these tangible suggestions for action and seek your ideas.
Make it easier for users to report fake news, hate speech, harassment, and bots. Facebook does allow users to flag fake news but the function is buried so deep in a menu maze that it鈥檚 impossible to find; bring it to the surface. Twitter just added new means to mute harassment but we think it would also be beneficial if users can report false and suspicious accounts and the service can feed back that data in some form to other users (e.g., 鈥20 of your friends have muted this account鈥 or 鈥渢his account tweets 500 times a day鈥). The same would be helpful for Twitter search, Google News, Google search, Bing search, and other platforms and other platforms.
Create a system for media to send metadata about their fact-checking, debunking, confirmation, and reporting on stories and memes to the platforms. It happens now: Mouse over fake news on Facebook and there鈥檚 a chance the related content that pops up below can include a news site or Snopes reporting that the item is false. Please systematize this: Give trusted media sources and fact-checking agencies a path to report their findings so that Facebook and other social platforms can surface this information to users when they read these items and鈥娾斺妋ore importantly鈥娾斺奱s they consider sharing them.聽The Trust Project is working on getting media to generate such signals.聽Thus we can cut off at least some viral lies at the pass. The platforms need to give users better information and media need to help them. Obviously, the platforms can use such data from both users and media to inform their standards, ranking, and other algorithmic decisions in displaying results to users.
Expand systems of verified sources. As we said, we don鈥檛 endorse blacklists or whitelists of sites and sources (though when lists of sites are compiled to support a service鈥娾斺奱s with Google News鈥娾斺妛e urge responsible, informed selection). But it would be good if users could know the creator of a post has been online for only three hours with 35 followers or if this is a site with a known brand and proven track record. Twitter verifies users. We ask whether Twitter, Facebook, Google, et al could consider means to verify sources as well so users know the Denver Post is well-established while the Denver Guardian was just established.
Make the brands of those sources more visible to users. Media have long worried that the net commoditizes their news such that users learn about events 鈥渙n Facebook鈥 or 鈥渙n Twitter鈥 instead of 鈥渇rom the Washington Post.鈥 We urge the platforms, all of them, to more prominently display media brands so users can know and judge the source鈥娾斺奻or good or bad鈥娾斺妛hen they read and share. Obviously, this also helps the publishers as they struggle to be recognized online.
Track back to original sources of news items and memes. We would like to see these technology platforms use their considerable computing power to help track back and find the source of news items, photos and video, and memes. For example, one of us saw an almost-all-blue mapwith 225K likes that was being passed around as evidence that millennials voted for Clinton when, in fact, at its origin the map was labeled as the results of a single, liberal site鈥檚 small online poll. It would not be difficult for any platform to find all instances of that graphic and pinpoint where it began. The source matters! Similarly, when memes are born and bred, it would be useful to know whether one or another started at a site with a certain frog as an avatar. While this is technically complicated its far less complicated than the facial recognition that social platforms have today.
Address the echo-chamber problem with recommendations from outside users鈥 conversational spheres. We understand why Facebook, Twitter, and others surface so-called trending news: not only to display a heat map but also to bring serendipity to users, to show them what their feeds might not. We think there are other, perhaps better, ways to do this. Why not be explicit about the filter-bubble problem and present users with recommended items, accounts, and sources that do *not* usually appear in their feeds, so The Nation reader sees a much-talked-about column from the National Review, so a Clinton voter can begin鈥娾斺妀ust begin鈥娾斺妕o connect with and perhaps better understand the worldview of Trump voter? Users will opt in or out but let鈥檚 give them the chance to choose.
Recognize the role of autocomplete in search requests to spread impressions without substance. Type 鈥淕eorge Soros is鈥︹ into a Google search box and you鈥檙e made to wonder whether he鈥檚 dead. He鈥檚 not. We well understand the bind the platforms are in: They are merely reflecting what people are asking and searching for. Google has been threatened with suits over what that data reveals. We know it is impossible and undesirable to consider editing autocomplete results. However, it would be useful to investigate whether even in autocomplete, more information could be surfaced to the user (e.g., 鈥淕eorge Soros is dead鈥 is followed by an asterisk and a link to its debunking). These are the kinds of constructive discussions we would like to see, rather than just volleys of complaint.
Recognize how the design choices can surface information that might be better left under the rock. We hesitate to suggest doing this, but if you dare to search Google for the Daily Stormer, the extended listing for the site at the moment we write this includes a prominent link to 鈥淛ewish Problem: Jew Jake Tapper Triggered by Mention of Black聽 #8230;鈥 Is that beneficial, revealing the true nature of the site? Or is that deeper information better revealed by getting quicker to the next listing in the search results: Wikipedia explaining that 鈥淭he Daily Stormer is an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist news and commentary website. It is part of the alt-right movement聽鈥︹? These design decisions have consequences.
Create reference sites to enable users to investigate memes and dog whistles. G鈥檅less Snopes; it is the cure for that email your uncle sends that has been forward a hundred times. Bless also Google for making it easy to search to learn the meanings of Pepe the frog and Wikipedia for building entries to explain the origins. We wonder whether it would be useful for one of these services or a media organization to also build a constantly updated directory of ugly memes and dog whistles to help those users鈥娾斺奺ven if few鈥娾斺妛ho will look into what is happening so they can pass it on. Such a resource would also help media and platforms recognize and understand the hidden meanings and secret codes their platforms are being used to spread.
Establish the means to subscribe to and distribute corrections and updates. We would love it if we could edit a mistaken tweet. We understand the difficulty of that, once tweets have flown the nest to apps and firehoses elsewhere. But imagine you share a post you later find out to be false and then imagine if you could at least append a link to the tweet in the archive. Better yet, imagine if you could send a followup message that alerts people who shared your tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram image to the fact that you were mistaken. Ever since the dawn of blogging, we鈥檝e wished for such a means to subscribe to and send updates, corrections, and alerts around what we鈥檝e posted. It is critical that Twitter as well as the other platforms do everything they can to enable responsible users who want to correct their mistakes to do so.
Media must learn and use the lesson of memes to spread facts over lies. Love 鈥檈m or hate 鈥檈m, meme-maker Occupy Democrats racked up 100 to 300 million impressions a week on Facebook, according to its cofounder, by providing users with the social tokens to use in their own conversations, the thing they share because it speaks for them. Traditional media should learn a lesson from this: that they must adapt to their new reality and bring their journalism鈥娾斺妕heir facts, fact-checking, reporting, explanation, and context鈥娾斺妕o the public where the public is, in a form and voice that is appropriate to the context and use of each platform. Media cannot continue to focus only on their old business model, driving traffic back to their websites (that notion sounds more obsolete by the day). So, yes, we will argue that, say, Nick Kristof should take some of his important reporting, facts, arguments, and criticisms and try to communicate them not only in columns (which, yes, he should continue!) but also with memes, videos, photos, and the wealth of new tools we now have to communicate with and inform the public.
Stop funding fake news. Google and Facebook have taken steps in the right direction to pull advertising and thus financial support (and motivation) for fake-news sites. Bing, Apple, and programmatic advertising platforms must follow suit. Publishers, meanwhile, should consider more carefully the consequences of promoting content鈥娾斺奱nd sharing in revenue鈥娾斺奻rom dubious sources distributed by the likes of Taboola and Outbrain.
Support white-hat media hacking. The platforms should open themselves up to help from developers to address the problems we outline here. Look at what a group of students did in the midst of the fake-news brouhaha to meet the key goals we endorse: bringing more information to users about the sources of what they read and share. (Github here.) We urge the platforms to open up APIs and provide other help to developers and we urge funders to support work to improve not only the quality of discourse online but the quality of civic discourse and debate in society.
Hire editors. We strongly urge the platforms to hire high-level journalists inside their organizations not to create content, not to edit, not to compete with the editors outside but instead to bring a sense of public responsibility to their companies and products; to inform and improve those products; to explain journalism to the technologists and technology to the journalists; to enable collaboration with news organizations such as we describe here; and foremost to help improve the experience for users. This is not a business-development function: deal-making. Nor is this a PR function: messaging. This sensibility and experience needs to be embedded in the core function in every one of these platform companies: product.
Collaborate in an organization to support the cause of truth; research and develop solutions; and educate platforms, media companies, and the public. This is ongoing work that won鈥檛 be done with a new feature or option or tweak in an algo. This is important work. We urge that the platforms, media companies, and universities band together to continue it in an organization similar to but distinct from and collaborating with the First Draft Coalition, which concentrates on improving news, and the Trust Project, which seeks to gather more signals of authority around news. Similarly, the Coral Project works on improving comments on news sites. We also see the need to work on improving the quality of conversation where it occurs, on platforms and on the web. This would be an independent center for discussion and work around all that we suggest here. Think of it as the Informed Conversation Project.
We will bring our resources to the task. John Borthwick at Betaworks will help invest in and nurture startups that tackle these problems and opportunities. Jeff Jarvis at CUNY鈥檚 Graduate School of Journalism will play host to meetings where that is helpful and seek support to build the organization we propose above.
We do this mostly to solicit your suggestions to a vital task: better informing our conversations, our elections, and our society. (See another growing list of ideas here.) Pile on. Help out.
Comments raquo;
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