Facebook is just another disinformation source

That Facebook is biased and reflects the views of its owners/managers is neither a surprise or anything wrong. What I find reprehensible is the lie promoted by Facebook that ist is objective and unbiased. After the Gizmodo story this week, Facebook denied that it was spinning the news. But the latest revelations show that the allegations were fundamentally true. The simple truth is that Facebook promotes certain news stories and suppresses others. They don’t manufacture news. But what they do is to spread a skewed version of what is news. And that is disinformation. Again, nothing wrong with that. It is what every newspaper or TV channel does. But the prejudices and biases of, say, the Washington Post are not hidden under a false cloak of objectivity.

facebook disinformation

facebook disinformation

The shattering of the cloak of objectivity around Facebook and its subjective choice of news stories to promote or to suppress can no longer be ignored by Zuckerberg and he has initiated an “investigation”. A biased platform with a hidden, skewed agenda is fundamentally incompatible with selling advertising where the advertisers need to know, objectively, how well their messages are targeted.

BBC:

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said the company is investigating claims it censored news reports with conservative viewpoints. It follows a week of allegations in the media and discussion in the US Senate.

The tech news website Gizmodo had said Facebook staff suppressed articles on conservative topics from the site’s “trending” news section and “injected” others, even if they were not trending. ….

….. Mr Zuckerberg said he was inviting leading conservatives to meet him to discuss their views.

…… Gizmodo’s original report alleged that staff tampered with trending topic stories and were told to include stories published by the BBC, CNN and other mainstream news organisations ahead of smaller news sites.

It said the trending topics section was run like a newsroom, with curators able to “blacklist” or “inject” topics.

The report was followed by a release of documents to The Guardian, which appeared to show editorial decision-making by Facebook staff, alongside the company’s algorithm, to determine what is trending.

The Guardian:

Leaked documents show how Facebook, now the biggest news distributor on the planet, relies on old-fashioned news values on top of its algorithms to determine what the hottest stories will be for the 1 billion people who visit the social network every day.

The documents, given to the Guardian, come amid growing concerns over how Facebook decides what is news for its users. This week the company was accused of an editorial bias against conservative news organizations, prompting calls for a congressional inquiry from the US Senate commerce committee chair, John Thune. ….

….. But the documents show that the company relies heavily on the intervention of a small editorial team to determine what makes its “trending module” headlines – the list of news topics that shows up on the side of the browser window on Facebook’s desktop version. The company backed away from a pure-algorithm approach in 2014 after criticism that it had not included enough coverage of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in users’ feeds.

The guidelines show human intervention – and therefore editorial decisions – at almost every stage of Facebook’s trending news operation, a team that at one time was as few as 12 people …… 

Facebook is in the business of skewed information dissemination and that skewing is effectively disinformation. Every entity involved in providing information must, by its selection of information to be distributed, also be involved in disinformation. But the additional problem for Facebook is that this disinformation and skewing of stories is not in the interests of the advertisers. Facebook is not just misleading its users, it is misleading its advertisers.


 

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