Dean Pomerleau is Gathering Geeks to Crush Fake News

Dean Pomerleau (on twitter at @DeanPomerleau) has issued the #FakeNewsChallenge to bring together Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning expertise to solve or at least lessen the fake news problem.

You can sign up to join the fake news challenge at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfJAMXy_iOXnfh-m6jbsbRAm0xwFUlQRD5VWLyuExq2rD0GmQ/viewform.

You can see the Fake News Challenge website at: http://www.fakenewschallenge.org/

The National Review Opines Against Fake News — But Throws Hands Up

The National Review, the stalwart conservative periodical founded by William Buckley, has written a piece warning about the dangers of fake news.

I am relieved, I must say, to hear that folks on the right are just as alarmed. While the first screaming proselytizers came from the left, it is a hopeful sign that maybe we Americans can come together to make truth a virtue again.

Here’s a few quotes from the article by Jim Geraghty, National Review’s senior political correspondent:

Yes, the new rash of fabricated stories is awful, toxic to public discussion, and worthy of rebuke, just as the stories pushed by Rather and Williams and Rolling Stone were. But those now proclaiming a “fake-news crisis” are long on furious denunciation and short on anything resembling a plan or a proposal to deal with it.

No amount of effort to debunk fake stories is going to dissuade people with this mentality. Nor is an official disavowal. Reliable news organizations and political figures can denounce “fake news” until the cows come home, but it isn’t likely to change the thinking of those who consume it.

“Fake news” is terrible. But not everything in life that is terrible can or should be snuffed out. Sometimes, the proposed remedy is worse than the disease.
I guess the last sentence quoted gives me less hope, as Geraghty seems to maybe be playing a game with us — playing to mainstream Americans by saying that fake news is bad, while playing to the conservative base with a wink and a nod by saying that it’s okay that fake news proliferates. Have some guts Geraghty! Would you like to get rid of fake news or not?

Some Optimism Please!

While it’s true that fact checking failed totally in the election, and no amount of technological wizardry by social media companies will annihilate fake news; we shouldn’t be so simply-minded to think there are no long term solutions.
The new nonprofit organization I am working to give birth to, Truth For Democracy, will be designed from the ground up to fight this intractable problem. By working at the intersection of science, technology, education, and behavioral economics, Truth For Democracy will sponsor innovations and science to wage an all-out war against disinformation, while simultaneously working “to make truth a virtue again in our American public and political conversations.”

Pope Calls Fake News a Sin

The Pope has labeled fake news a sin, saying that spreading “disinformation is  probably the greatest damage that the media can do.”

Huffington Post headline: Pope Warns Media Over ‘Sin’ Of Spreading Fake News, Smearing Politician

 

The Label “Fake News” has been Unleashed and Will Reverberate for Years

John Herrman, writing in the New York Times, writes a rather meandering article about fake news — still worth reading — that basically makes the claim that the “fake news” genie is out of the bottle and now all news will be subject to being tainted by this moniker.

As Will Oremus, writing in Slate reported, already the right has copied the left in whining about fake news.

Also , writing in the Washington Post, wrote how the war on fake news has backfire.

It appears that fake news is now a thing.

 

 

 

Americans Believe 75% of the Fake News they Read

Buzzfeed conducted a survey and found that Americans believe 75% of the fake news they read.

THAT’S FREAKIN’ BIG NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Everybody should read this article by Craig Silverman and Jeremy Singer-Vine of Buzzfeed.

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One issue I have with the article is the implications hinted at based on the data that showed Trump voters were more susceptible to fake news than Clinton voters. The implication is that conservatives are more easily fooled. However, an equally-likely implication is that those on the winning side (the Trump side) were more likely to accept what is presented to them because they are happy with the long term result. The survey was conducted between November 28th and December 1st. At any rate, it’s impossible to tell just from the data points gathered.

Stop Calling Everything “Fake News”

Will Oremus, Slate’s Senior Technology editor, points out that some “fake news” is fake news, some “fake news” is something else entirely. His is a good reminder.

I wish, however, that there was a list of different types of misinformation.

Oremus also points out that while fake news was originally a rallying cry of the left, now it is being used by the right as well.

There is Some Research that Maybe Conservatives are Easier to Fool with Fake News

Interesting article in the Washington Post by

It points out that fake-news websites tend to target conservatives and there is some relatively new research — new enough that we should be somewhat skeptical of it — that conservatives may process information differently thant liberals.

Here’s some quotes from the article:

Numerous reports have highlighted how fake news creators began targeting conservative readers after finding them receptive to stories that reinforced their existing worldview. As one fake news creator told NPR, “We’ve tried to do [fake news with] liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.”

Still, while the apparent one-sidedness of the fake news ecosystem is striking, some researchers of partisan psychology say it’s not particularly surprising. A robust body of academic research has sprung up in the past decade or so, documenting the different ways conservatives and liberals process the world.

Lying with a Purpose. How Voter Fraud Complaints Will Lead to Voting Restrictions for Some.

A Power Bomb of an Article, showing another way that our American Democracy is being undercut with dishonesty.

When Trump Lies, How Journalists Should Handle the Lying?

Eric Umansky, editor at ProPublica, interviews Brendan Nyham on his worries that Trump is breaking the informal norms of democratic process — in a post entitled: How Journalists Need to Go Beyond Fact Checking Trump.

Brendan Nyham:

“The story here is that the president-elect of the United States has yet again made a baseless claim. That is the story. The story that the president-elect is more factually-irresponsible than any political leader in the United States in memory, that’s the story.”

Eric Umansky:

What I think you’re saying is that if you just sit there and do a fact-check and frame it around well this happens to be false, you’re doing a disservice to your listeners and  readers because you’re not giving the full picture and the full picture is something stronger … [a more accurate framing is that] in yet another part of a long pattern President-elect Trump has offered another unsupported claim…

Basically, Nyham is jumping up and down to tell journalists NOT to normalize Trump’s penchant for egregious and repetitive lying.

The podcast is 18 minutes, 22 seconds. There is also some written text as well at the link above.

 

Truth For Democracy — An Official Nonprofit

I am thrilled to announce that Truth For Democracy has been officially sanctioned as a nonprofit organization.

Our formal name is Truth For Democracy Nonprofit Incorporated. Here is an official certificate-of-existence provided on December 2, 2016.

I am still waiting on the federal government’s issuing of an EIN (Employer Identification Number), which will enable us to open up a bank account, which will enable us — when and if there is sufficient public interest — to crowdfund our start-up costs.

If you’d like to join us in our efforts, or even if you just want to be kept up-to-date on our progress, please go to our Sign-Up Page.