The extraordinary phenomenon of fake news spread by Facebook and other social media during the 2016 presidential election has been largely portrayed as a lucky break for Donald Trump.
By that reckoning, entrepreneurial Macedonian teenagers, opportunists in Tbilisiand California millennials have exploited social media algorithms in order to make money — only incidentally leading to the viral proliferation of mostly anti-Clinton and anti-Obama hoaxes and conspiracy theories that thrilled many Trump supporters. The Washington Post published a shoddy report on Thursday alleging that Russian state-sponsored propagandists were seeking to promote Trump through fabricated stories for their own reasons, independent of the candidate himself.
Floyd Brown invented the Reagan-era Willie Horton lie, helped create the Citizens United group, and now owns Liftable Media, including sites like Conservative Tribune (50th most-trafficked site in the USA) and Western Journalism (81st), whence came fake news stories like the lie that Obama had altered the White House logo to include a white flag of surrender (the logo change came from GWB’s White House);
Gilad Lotan — our favorite fake-news sleuthing data-scientist — writes about the problem of not-quite-fake news, which is much more pernicious than mere lies: it’s news that uses attention-shaping, one-sided “news” accounts that divide their readers into their own “constructed realities.”
As rumblings of a fake news problem turned into chatter, and then a crescendo, Mark Zuckerberg backed away slowly, insisting the company he founded, Facebook, didn’t have a problem. Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other. He obviously has better, or smarter, friends than I do. As we continue…
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