The problem of mis- and disinformation is far more complex than the current obsession with Russian troll factories. It’s the product of the platforms that distribute this information, the audiences that consume it, the journalist and fact-checkers that try to correct it – and even the researchers who study it.
In mid-December, First Draft, the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the Knight Foundation brought academics, journalists, fact-checkers, technologists and funders together in a two-day workshop to discuss the challenges produced by the current disinformation ecosystem. The convening was intended to highlight relevant research, share best-practices, identify key questions of scholarly and practical concern and outline a potential research agenda designed to answer these questions.
It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when some intelligent observers of social media believed that Twitter was a “truth machine”—a system whose capacity for rapidly debunking falsehoods outweighed its propensity for spreading them. Whatever may have remained of that comforting sentiment can probably now be safely laid to rest.
The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.
“It’s easier to be novel and surprising when you’re not bound by reality.” It’s not bots. It’s us. A paper published on Thursday in Science (it’s the cover story) by MIT’s Soroush Vosoughi, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral tracks the spread of fake and real news tweets and finds that fake news both reached more people than the truth and spread faster than the truth — BUT there are caveats about the “true” news here: Like, it was mostly news that had been fact-checked by outlets like Snopes and PolitiFact, not some of the legit-crazy real stuff that’s been in the headlines of the nation’s largest papers recently.
Like many of the most popular websites, Wikimedia — which oversees Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons among other sites and services — publishes a transparency report in which it details commercial and governmental requests for surveillance and content removal.
John Sulston has died at the age of 75; I worked with him through the Wellcome Sanger institute, where he undertook the Human Genome Project, where a fully sequenced human genome was decoded and published as open-access science that anyone could study and use.