Friday December 15, 2017
Home Politics The Rise of ‘...

The Rise of ‘Fake News’ in Internet Age: Influencing Election Results, Religious Sentiments and much more

For social media companies like Twitter and the rest, the ability to weed out false information or hate speech can be daunting

0
185
Representational image. VOA

November 30, 2016: A common narrative that emerged during this year’s presidential race was that of a country divided, which experts and pundits say explains the rise – and stunning electoral victory – of Republican Donald Trump over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The other story of 2016 is the rise of so-called “fake news” and its spike on social media outlets. Facebook, in particular, has come under fire, having surpassed Google as the biggest driver of audience on all social media platforms.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

This week, Trump again invited controversy — a move now commonly called a “tweet storm” — by tweeting out a claim of voter fraud during the November election that he says denied him the popular vote without citing any evidence.

The “fake news” phenomenon has rattled the web, not to mention mainstream journalists, scholars and ordinary users of social media, many of whom are tweeting and writing op-ed columns, news stories and guides on how to spot inaccurate news stories and fake news websites.

All this has put unprecedented pressure on Facebook, where, according to an analysis by Buzzfeed News, fake election stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election articles from 19 major news outlets in the final three months of the election campaign.

A screenshot of a Buzzfeed News graph on "fake news" analysis (courtesy of Buzzfeed News) VOA
A screenshot of a Buzzfeed News graph on “fake news” analysis (courtesy of Buzzfeed News) VOA

The heat on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg prompted the company to tweak its algorithm to weed out inaccurate information, and later, as the outcry grew, publicly outline steps the company is taking to reduce what Zuckerberg called “misinformation.”

He prefaced his post with a familiar caveat:

“We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”

There are legitimate sites, journalists and scholars who are paying attention to the prevalence of fake news. Among them: Snopes.com, Columbia Journalism Review, The Poynter Institute and Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack University, who wrote a Google document with tips on how to spot “fake news” sites or inaccurate news stories for her students.

According to these fact-checkers, we must first understand what “fake news” is – and isn’t.

“We classify ‘fake news’ as specifically web sites that publish information that’s entirely fabricated,” said Kim LaCapria, content manager for Snopes.com, a website that tracks misinformation on the web.

“Right now ‘fake news’ is being applied to ‘slanted and/or inaccurate news,’” added LaCapria. “So there’s some conflation.”

And that conflation of what information can accurately be described as fake or misleading or maybe only partially true, coupled with the warp speed of digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter, have created a perfect storm of confusion, said University of Connecticut philosophy professor and author Michael Lynch.

“Confusion and deception is happening…. and mass confusion about the importance of things like truth follow in the wake of that deception,” said Lynch, who wrote a column in The New York Times this week about impact of “fake news” on the health of America’s political system. “And that is absolutely corrosive to democracy.”

LaCapria, like Lynch, also has seen first-hand how branding everything that is verifiably false ‘fake news’ isn’t really what is happening on social media. “One long-circulating rumor held that Hillary Clinton was fired from the Watergate investigation for lying,” LaCapria said.

“If I recall correctly, we rated it mostly false because the claim originated with someone who had changed his story over the years. But in our politics category, the news is not fake per se. It’s often false, mixture, mostly false or unproven.”

LaCapria points out distorted or false information has existed for a long time.

“This is the first real social media election we’ve ever experienced. And we had two social media candidates: [Bernie] Sanders and Trump,” she said.

President-elect Donald Trump gets ready for a question and answer session on Twitter during his campaign for the presidency. (@realdonaldtrump) VOA
President-elect Donald Trump gets ready for a question and answer session on Twitter during his campaign for the presidency. (@realdonaldtrump) VOA

“Now that people are upset about Trump, they’re looking at social media as a culprit. And it may be a mitigating factor, but this has all definitely been affecting politics hugely for many years.”

The Poynter Institute’s Alexios Mantzarlis, who leads the International Fact-Checking Network, agrees that there is a bit too much angst over “fake news.”

“Politicians distorting the truth isn’t a new phenomenon. Voters choosing politicians based on emotions rather than facts is not a new phenomenon,” Mantzarlis said in an email. “Moreover, we know from research that fact-checking can change readers’ minds.”

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

For social media companies like Twitter and the rest, the ability to weed out false information or hate speech can be daunting, no matter how savvy their back-end web engineers may be.

Facebook in essence acknowledged that recoding its algorithm wasn’t enough, when Zuckerberg posted his latest statement about the spreading of misinformation on his platform.

An unidentified person types on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles, Feb. 27, 2013. VOA
An unidentified person types on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles, Feb. 27, 2013. VOA

For Lynch, who wrote “The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data,” a book released earlier this year, there are solutions to help combat the ease of creating “fake news” sites and spreading misinformation across the web.

“There are a lot of smart people working on social media and at universities trying to find algorithmic solutions to misleading content and confusion and deception on the Internet. Right now it’s not working,” he said. But right now I don’t think we should despair about not fixing our technology.”

In terms of fixes, Mantzarlis puts the burden on users.

“For one, headline writers could avoid repeating a baseless claim without any indication that it is unfounded.” Mantzarlis also argues that Facebook will need to hire some human beings to vet content in tandem with creating smarter back-end technology.

“The algorithm itself will have to change … to recognize that ‘fake news,’ and the pages that consistently post them, to get a reduced reach on [the Facebook] News Feed,” he said, adding that this tack will hit “fake news” purveyors where it hurts the most.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“After all, for many the incentive to publish this content is financial and if the reach is reduced, so is their income.”

Most agree that the overwhelming noise of the Internet — and the much-heralded freedom of speech ethos that rules it — will forever include distortions of fact and outright falsehoods. But ultimately the vast majority of web content is created by people. And in Lynch’s mind, that is where the real power to spot and call out misleading information lies.

“I’ve become convinced that as I’ve gone around talking to people, including those in Silicon Valley … is that we as individuals, as people, need to start taking responsibility for what we believe. And for what we share and tweet.” (VOA)

Next Story

Google launches three new apps for photography

The new photography applications are "Storyboard" (available on Android only), "Selfissimo!" (available on iOS and Android) and "Scrubbies" (available on iOS only).

0
13
44th Anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop

San Francisco, Dec 12: Google has introduced three photography apps which are part of a new series that it has dubbed as photography “appsperiments”.

“We’re launching the first installment of a series of photography appsperiments: Usable and useful mobile photography experiences built on experimental technology. Our ‘appsperimental’ approach was inspired in part by ‘Motion Stills’,” the company wrote in a research blog late on Monday.

“‘Motion Stills’ is an app developed by researchers that converts short videos into cinemagraphs and time lapses using experimental stabilisation and rendering technologies,” Google added.

Google apps
Google introduces photography apps

The new photography applications are “Storyboard” (available on Android only), “Selfissimo!” (available on iOS and Android) and “Scrubbies” (available on iOS only).

The “Storyboard” app takes video clips and automatically pulls out six frames that it lays out in a comic book-style template.

“Selfissimo!” is an automated selfie photographer that snaps a black and white photograph each time the user poses.

“Scrubbies” lets the user easily manipulate the speed and direction of video playback to produce video loops that highlight actions, capture funny faces and replay moments.

The tech giant has also urged users to try out the new apps and provide feedback via the in-app feedback links. IANS

Next Story

Google gets the better of Facebook as top referral source for publishers

In 2016 Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prioritise posts from friends and family over publishers.

0
18
Google has beaten Facebook to become publishers' main source of external page views over the course of 2017
Google has beaten Facebook to become publishers' main source of external page views over the course of 2017. VOA
  • Google webpage traffic increases considerably
  • Facebook went down by 26% in January as compared to last year
  • Video publishing feature might has add up to the Facebook traffic

San Francisco, Dec 12,2017: Google has beaten Facebook to become publishers’ main source of external page views over the course of 2017, a new data showed.

Google used to be the main source of referral traffic for web publishers. Then Facebook eclipsed it, ReCode reported late on Monday.

According to digital analytics company Parse.ly, Google sent more traffic than Facebook to publishers — Facebook sent 25 per cent less traffic to publishers in 2017, while Google increased its traffic by 17 per cent.

In January, Facebook provided nearly 40 per cent of publishers’ external traffic which is now down to 26 per cent.

Google web traffic
Google AMP feature has helped it to add up to the web traffic

Google, which started the year at 34 per cent, generated 44 per cent of the total traffic.

Parse.ly pointed out a number of factors for this turnaround.

In 2016 Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prioritise posts from friends and family over publishers.

Also, Facebook’s “Instant Articles” feature, where the service hosted some publishers’ content directly but promised to send more readers to the original site as well, has declined in importance, the analytics company found.

Since users can now publish videos directly on Facebook, this might have affected how many links to web stories publishers put on their Facebook pages.

Google’s “accelerated mobile pages” (AMP) feature, which also hosts publishers’ content directly on Google’s servers, became more important over the year.

AMP stories – typically from news publishers – are surfaced at the top of mobile search results as “Top Stories,” which drives clicks. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook Introduces Digital Training and Start-up hubs in India to Promote Digital Economy

0
32
Facebook launched digital training in India
Facebook launched digital training in India.Pixaby.

New Delhi, Nov 23: Facebook on Wednesday introduced its digital training and start-up training hubs in India aimed at helping small businesses and people grow by giving them the digital skills they need to compete in today’s digital economy.

Facebook said it plans to train more than half a million people in the country by 2020 through these online training hubs, which are being rolled out first in India.

The learning curriculum which is personalised to the individual’s needs and available in English and Hindi on mobile, the social network, which is used by 217 million people in India, announced.

“We believe the best way to prepare India for a digital economy is by equipping people with the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to succeed,” said Ritesh Mehta, Head of Programmes, Facebook, India and South Asia.

To develop the learning curriculum, the social network worked with several organisations, including Digital Vidya, Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), DharmaLife and the government’s StartupIndia initiative.

The curriculum includes vital skills for digital skill seekers and tech entrepreneurs, including how to protect their ideas, how to hire, how to go about getting funding, what regulations and legal hurdles they need to consider, how to build an online reputation, and a host of other critical skills.

This could mean teaching a small business owner how to create an online presence; helping a non-profit reach new communities and potential donors; or it could mean helping a tech entrepreneur turn their product idea into a startup through practical business advice.

Facebook said its digital training hub would provide free social and content marketing training for anyone – from students to business owners – who is looking to develop their digital knowledge and skills.

According to new research by Morning Consult in partnership with Facebook, small businesses use of digital translates into new jobs and opportunities for communities across the country.

Since 2011 Facebook has invested more than $1 billion to support small businesses globally.

The “Boost Your Business” and “SheMeansBusiness” initiatives have trained more than 60,000 small businesses, including 12,000 women entrepreneurs, in India, Facebook said. (IANS)