The Trust Project, Fake News and a Partial Facebook Uninstall
The Trust Project is a well meaning but doomed attempt to deal with fake news.
Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter are all on board because it's important to be seen to be doing something about the problem. Sarah Perez at TechCrunch writes:
"Here’s how this will work in practice: starting today on Facebook, an icon will appear next to articles in the News Feed. When you click on this icon, you can read information the publisher has shared related to their organization’s “ethics and other standards, the journalists’ backgrounds, and how they do their work,” according to an announcement from The Trust Project."
Please take a minute to scroll through the Trust Protocol Phase I MVP. Yes, this is a minimal viable product where your most recent Diversity Staffing Report is required. I don't think they understand what an MVP is. Which would be fine if they understood how to fix the problem. They don't.
Back in January I wrote this about fake news on Facebook:
"The horrible danger is that if you don't fact check every stupid quote on image meme the power of repetition lodges them somewhere in your subconscious where they become that thing that you read somewhere. Which is OK if you only read quality news but deadly if you want to catch up on old friends quickly."
And back in 2010 on cable news and the Fairness Doctrine:
"24-hour news stations are especially bad because most days there just isn’t that much news. This leaves a choice between repeating the news that exists which is boring, or making stuff up which is a lot more fun. Unfortunately It’s also corrosive."
Yes, it would be nice to have a set of standards around more easily vetting the provenance of "news" that you find on the internet. But the problem is with people taking bullshit at face value (myself sometimes included). When you scroll by something that meets the loose standards of your confirmation bias the damage is done. You're not clicking any Trust Project icon and you're sure as fuck not upgrading Acrobat just to read the Breitbart Diversity Staffing Report.
The Trust Project isn't the answer. Facebook just pulled their disputed flag. The Fairness Doctrine isn't coming back. Is there a technology based fix that might work?
"That’s not going to happen, argues Data & Society founder and Microsoft researcher danah boyd. Google, Facebook, Twitter—none of these companies is sitting on a silver-bullet solution. As boyd wrote for us earlier this year, we have more than a technology problem: “[W]e have a cultural problem, one that is shaped by disconnects in values, relationships, and social fabric."
From The Fake News Culprit No One Wants to Identify: You on Backchannel recently. I see. It's up to me. I have to fix it.
I uninstalled Facebook and Twitter from my phone just over a week ago. I'm not abandoning social media entirely (although I toy with this regularly). Just pulling back a bit.
For the first few days I'd regularly find my finger headed to launch Facebook. Every time I had a minute to kill. Facebook has no end (usually) so it works even when my RSS feed is empty. I stocked Feedly up with more wholesome content (Trust Project approved no doubt). By the end of the first week I was sometimes even leaving my phone in my pocket.
Now I catch up on Facebook on my laptop every day or two. It's a much better experience - when you check 200 times a day the feed algorithm gets increasingly desperate to please you. It panics and serves up lame memes from someone who you think must have been a coworker at some point but don't really remember. I get through a few updates from friends that I'm actually interested in and bail before hitting the questionable stuff.
It's up to you too.
- I didn't think I'd ever fall for fake news on Facebook
- Doing news right with Feedly and Google News
- Pulling the plug on Facebook and Twitter, Tweet Archive